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Egremont Green News: Attentive recycling really pays off

Instead of thinking of your recyclables as trash, try thinking of them as something that has value--a precious commodity.

Egremont — We all know that recycling is good. It’s good for the environment because when doing so, we manufacture less new product (saving energy) and produce less trash (saving landfill space). It’s good because when we produce less trash, our town saves money on disposal and hauling costs. It’s the long list of recycling rules that sure can be a bummer!

Recycling our glass, plastic and metal containers as well as paper products takes a certain amount of effort, thought and time. Not a lot, mind you, but enough to keep busy people from paying enough attention to those rules. And when we don’t follow them, those dumpsters containing our bottles, cans and papers can be turned away at the processing facility because they contain the wrong material. China, which received most our country’s recycling for years, started refusing delivery of our recyclables primarily because of the contamination problem, causing an upheaval in the industry heard round the world. That upheaval is now being felt in even the smallest of communities here in Berkshire County with added costs being borne by taxpayers.

The sorting sign at Egremont’s transfer station. Image courtesy Egremont Green Committee

How could dirty, discarded recyclables be considered contaminated? After all, this is trash we are talking about, right? Instead of thinking of your recyclables as trash, try thinking of them as something that has value—a precious commodity. As with all commodities, the purer the product, the higher its value. Too much of the wrong items in our recycling basically turns that load back into trash.

And this is the part where the rules of recycling matter and really deserve attention. As the sustainability coordinator for the Town of Egremont, I spend a fair amount of time picking through the recycling dumpsters and removing the contamination. I jokingly refer to the stuff I pull out as my “bin of shame” and have found things like shoes; blow dryers; pots; pans; strings of lights; plastic hangers; light bulbs; Styrofoam; and the Public Enemy No. 1 of Contamination: plastic bags.

So, kind reader, continue to recycle, but recycle right. Get yourself some easy-to-use containers to separate your recyclables (one for bottles, cans and containers; and one for paper) and educate yourself and your family about what is a recyclable product and what isn’t. Read the signs at your transfer station or ask the attendant. (Hint: The recycling triangle on the bottom of a plastic item does not mean it is recyclable.) Here are some helpful links to guide you on what is trash and what is recyclable:

A recent post card from Egremont to town residents. Image courtesy Egremont Green Committee

Springfield, MA Recycling Facility

Recycle Smart

Egremont Green News: Watch Out for Wishful Recycling

Image courtesy Egremont Green Committee

The little bit of effort and thought you put into your recycling matters and does make a difference. Recycle right. Recycle smart. Take the time to be a recycling champion and make the world a cleaner and better place.

The Egremont Green Committee can be reached at


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