To help you with spring cleaning, here's a dip into our mailbag. Someone recently asked us:
May I recycle sticker backings?
We checked with our paper recycler, who said... yes! In fact, if you have stickers or labels which you are not able to use or reuse, we can accept those as well.
And, of course, when a sticker or label is stuck to paper, cardboard or envelopes which you're recycling, you may leave it stuck right where it is -- you do not need to remove it. (However, you might like to remove labels with your name or address to help prevent identity theft.)
Our trash day is Monday, and our trash and recycling have been sitting outside since early Monday morning just waiting for some to come pick it up... When is it being picked up?? No one has bothered to tell us anything. This is ridiculous.
The recent record snowfall in Montgomery County presented significant challenges in providing refuse collection services. To protect the safety of the public and our workers, County-provided collection services were cancelled last Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Yard trim collection remained cancelled this week, but both recycling and refuse collection services were provided on a normal schedule.
The writer did not provide us with an address, so we cannot determine if he/she lives in the County or in one of the municipalities, nor can we investigate this complaint. Please call us at 240-777-6410, and we will be happy to look into it.
The challenges we faced in providing collection this week were numerous. In addition to the obvious difficulty in traversing county roads after the enormous snowfall, and with many single lane paths on two way streets, the volume of trash and recycling was nearly twice the norm. Snow banks created by plows blocked the view of many cans and bins from our collectors. Commonly used white trash bags were difficult to see, and no doubt we missed a few.
The residents of Montgomery County understood the extreme circumstances we faced. We have received numerous calls and emails thanking us for our outstanding work. In return, we would like to extend our thanks to you residents for your patience and understanding, and to the hundreds of our contractors’ employees who braved the freezing temperatures, driving and walking through miles of deep snow to collect our trash. And to our customers, please accept our sincere apology if your trash or recycling was missed.
As of the week of February 22, 2010, all collections, including yard trim will be back to normal. We will still be dealing with the after-effects of the snow for quite some time, and as a result running a bit late each day. But, we will be there on your scheduled day. Please help us by placing your refuse and recyclables near the curb in a visible, safe location by 7 a.m. on your normal collection day.
Thank you for your continued patience. If you have any questions, please call us at 240-777-6410.
-- posted by Robin Ennis, Chief, Collections Section, Division of Solid Waste Services
Can we recycle salted nut canisters (cylindrical paper with metal bottom and metal top rim)?
Thanks for your question, D. Another resident asked us a very similar question a short while later. And, it's one we faced in my own household last month with a coffee can of similar construction -- we stood there in the kitchen, debating the pros and cons of the various disposal and recycling options... So, the topic is ripe for a blog entry!
Our recycling program cannot accept containers made of more than one type of material; so the nut (and coffee and similar) canisters would be a "no" since the metal rim and foil paper would be a contaminant of the mixed paper recycling process.
This post generated several reader responses – thanks!
You asked whether we still accept milk and juice cartons - which may have plastic spouts and lids - or juice and drink boxes. Yes, we do! Please continue to add these to your paper recycling.
The beverage cartons and boxes are recycled using a process called hydropulping. This process is able to separate plastics, such as the plastic spout or lid, from the coated paper fibers. On the other hand, the paper-type canisters can have layers of wrapping and metal which is difficult for paper recyclers to remove. While these containers may look similar, the processes for handling them do vary. Therefore, the canisters are not recyclable in our program.
Some of you suggested creative ways to make the most of your canisters:
“I often have containers that have metal tops and bottoms and a cardboard body. I tend to take pliers to them and rip off the top and bottom and put them in our "metal" bin which we occasionally take to the Transfer Station metal area.” – submitted by M.
“We use these nut containers to pour grease into, then let it harden or refrigerate it and put it into the trash. Keep grease from going down your drain.” – submitted by B.
Does the County pick up yard waste year round or does it stop during the winter? We still have branches and sticks that we would like to put out with our recycle but want to know if the County will pick it up.
Yesterday, I had an email exchange with a County resident interested in participating in this Sunday's Household Hazardous Waste collection event in Silver Spring. He lives in Rockville, and wanted driving directions.
I thought they only take hazmats on days they announce.
Not anymore! Thanks for the opportunity to clarify this information. We are pleased to have a permanent Hazardous Waste facility at the Transfer Station, making drop-off convenient any day of the week. And, there's an added bonus to using the Transfer Station drop-off: if you have any paint needs, take a few minutes to "shop" in the "Paint Store" we have there. The selection changes all the time, but the "price" does not! Choose from primers, interior paint, exterior paint and related products in a range of colors and finishes, all available at no charge to you.
Do not like that the can tops are "stuffed" inside -- but I guess that takes less time that putting them back on. Perhaps the crews should just leave the tops flat on the ground rather than stuffing them inside.
After collection, crews are not supposed to jam lids down into your containers. They are, however, supposed to place the lids back upside down.
Why upside down?
When crews replace the lids upside down, this signals their supervisors that the containers have been emptied. This way, the supervisors don't need to stop at a container, lift the lid, and check inside, which would be very inefficient, given that daily routes cover several hundred addresses, and many more containers.
Similarly, emptied wheeled paper carts are replaced with their handles facing the street, and recycling bins are replaced upside down after being serviced.
And regarding that badly cracked recycling bin in the photo and what to do about it, that's the topic of my next post!
How do we dispose of spray paint - latex & oil based?
Thanks for asking, B. We have information for oil-based paint and latex- or water-based paint on our website. But, that applies for products applied with brushes or rollers. For advice specific to spray paint cans, I put your question to our Hazardous Waste program manager.
Here is what I learned:
Use up the spray paint product. Make sure the can no longer has pressure in it by holding down the valve until it is empty. Then, put the empty can in the trash.
In addition to this advice... if there's an appreciable amount of product left in the can, and you no longer have a use for it, consider offering the can to your neighbors through your local Freecycle Network group.
Are the 1/2 gallon rectangular shaped cartons that milk and orange juice come in recyclable? I just want to do the correct thing.
Thanks for your question, R.! Sorry, our recycling program does not accept milk and juice cartons because they are coated with a thin plastic film. In order to recover the paper fibers, they would need to be separated from this film layer. That's a step most paper recycling processes are not set up to handle. So, please put these cartons into the trash.
What kinds of wrapping paper are recyclable? I specifically wonder about the shiny, metallic paper that my wife likes.
Thanks for your timely question, M.! Metallic and foil papers do create a fine-looking gift presentation! But, as much as I hate to introduce any domestic discontent, please tell your wife (gently!) that we cannot accept foil- or plastic-coated papers for recycling. We accept all other types of gift wrap paper (minus the bows and ribbons!).
In a related question, B. asked:
Can you tell me what can be done with tissue paper?
A note about the photo: that roll of gift wrap is labeled "polywrap". It looks like foil paper but... it's actually a thin plastic film. If you have or receive any of this type of wrap, please dispose of it as trash once you are finished using (and reusing) it; we cannot accept plastic films in our recycling program.
You should never throw your cfl bulbs in the regular trash because it contains mercury. It takes just one teaspoon of mercury to contaminate a 20 acre lake forever. It is also illegal to throw them into the trash in many states.
We have identified eight local retail stores which accept residents' CFLs for recycling. That's in addition to the Hazardous Waste drop-off at our Solid Waste Transfer Station and our community Household Hazardous Waste collection events. (Our community events have ended for 2008; we'll post our 2009 schedule as soon as it's announced in the Spring.)
After finding our blog in a webseach, and reading theseposts about pillow disposal, a blog reader sent me this note:
When I contacted my local animal shelters about old pillows, they told me they cannot take them, as the animals shred them and can accidentally ingest the filling.
Thank you for the opportunity to do a little more research. I contacted two shelters local to our office.
One shelter responded with:
We do accept pillows. We also accept blankets (no wool), comforters, bathroom rugs, towels, beach towels, carpet squares, and mattress pads (no electric blankets).
The other wrote back, noting:
I am not a fan of pillows because the stuffing is usually not good for animals and is hard to clean because of its thickness. We desperately need blankets, towels, and sheets.
So, as is the case with many donation opportunities, check with your prospective recipients to confirm that they are able to use what you wish to give them. Our Use It Again Guide is one resource to help you direct your donations, and we're happy to receive your donations of tips to help us expand the Guide even further.
You stated in your answer that berry containers can't be recycled because they are polystyrene (#6). However, some, including one I planned to recycle, are PETE (#1). Can these #1 clamshell containers be recycled?
Thanks, S., for the opportunity to clarify this topic further. Sorry, we cannot accept the #1 clamshell containers either. So, in summary: no clamshell containers in your blue bins, please.
On Saturday morning, my family and I went blueberry picking. I noticed that one of the fellow berry-pickers near us was carefully depositing his harvest into... a large, clear clamshell container. There were still lots of blueberries ripening on the bushes, with blackberries available, too, and the promise of raspberries to come! So, there is time yet to refill your own berry containers with some tasty summer goodness before retiring them to the trash.
Too bad the recycling center can't accept them. Why not have an additional bin for them? Although stores like Whole Food are terminating them from their stores, unfortunately, those plastic bags are still a significant part of our surrounding.
We are constantly evaluating the range of materials we are able to accept in the recycling drop-off area at our Solid Waste Transfer Station. Just last month, we expanded our electronics recycling program to accept small electronics, in addition to the computers and televisions we were already taking.
At this time, we are unable to dedicate a collection container to plastic bags at the Transfer Station. Instead, we recommend that you take your plastic bags to recycling bins at your local grocery stores. Hopefully, having drop-off options close to home will make it even more convenient than bringing bags to us.
And, we encourage using reusable cloth bags whenever possible, which helps you avoid having plastic bags to recycle.
The bottles and cans are sent to intermediate processors where the materials are cleaned and items such as napkins that may have accompanied the material are removed. This process is similar to removing the paper labels from the containers at these intermediate processing facilities.
So, keep giving us those cans and bottles, even if they have extra items tucked inside! Each can and bottle makes a positive difference towards meeting our County recycling goals.
"I also had a little luck on Craigslist and a surprising result when I put "donate used vegetable oil" into my search engine: the solid waste department for Montgomery County, Md., has an entire veggie oil exchange listing on their website. Zounds."
Thanks for finding us, Umbra, and for sharing the word about our Vegetable Oil Exchange with your readers!
Our colleagues in Highway Operations are posting leaf collection updates to their website to keep residents up-to-date about crews' progress.
In neighborhoods receiving leaf vacuuming, crews post signs a few days in advance of each leaf collection. Crews do their best to meet their planned schedules. However, Mother Nature can and does pose challenges to them. For example, yesterday's snow meant that some of the leafing equipment was put on "snow duty." And, when that snow melts, the wet leaves will be more difficult to vacuum than dry leaves.
We checked with our Transfer Station colleagues to see whether it would be accepted there for recycling. And, the answer is... yes, console televisions are accepted for recycling in our new television recycling program.
If you cannot transport the console television to the Transfer Station, and if you receive Montgomery County-provided trash service, then you may request a curbside bulk trash collection for this item. The tradeoff is that while the television would be collected at your curb, it would not be recycled.
Thanks for asking! Confirming the answer gave our Call Center staff and me the opportunity to expand our own knowledge. And, as a result of your question, I have updated our television page to include console televisions. So, dear readers, keep your questions coming!
Earlier this month, I wrote about pillow disposal. Today, I received this note from C., one of our readers:
I suspect that the person's local veterinarian or animal shelter might be glad to get the pillows to use as bedding for needy or sick animals. Go ahead and ask--they might be delighted.
Thanks, C., for this tip! In the solid waste management hierarchy, reuse ranks higher than recycling. And, of course, the possibility of giving old pillows a new lease on life is preferable to throwing them into the trash.
I have a bunch of bed pillows that have seen better days. I don't want to Freecycle, but was wondering where to recycle them. They are not terrible but, not hygienic enough to pass along
Thanks for your question, P.!
I put the question to the manager of our clothing and textile recycling program. We are able to accept only pillows which are new, and in a bag. So, please dispose of your used pillows in your household trash.
May I suggest that one of the blogs address new recycling bins and whom to contact when a new one is needed? I know I am in need of one and would appreciate that information. Thanks very much!
You may request a new recycling bin through our "web store", which is open for your orders 24 hours a day. Our "store" also offers yard trim decals and many other items, including downloadable versions of our brochures, handbooks, and other publications.
If you prefer to place your order by phone, call our Customer Service staff at 240-777-6410.
Thanks for writing in, A. Enjoy your new recycling bin!
My neighbor has a label that he pasted on a big waste bin where he puts his garden waste. I use the disposable paper bags which rot out on the bottom if rained on. Where can I get a label such as the ones my neighbor has?
Your new yard trim decals are only a few clicks away; we offer them to you at no charge through our website. Then, watch for the envelope in your mail.
You may also order decals by phone from our Customer Service staff: 240-777-6410.
To dispose of incandescent ("regular") light bulbs, please wrap them in paper, and place them into your regular household trash. (Why put otherwise recyclable paper into the trash? Recycling as much as possible is important, but your safety and the collection crew's safety is even more important. Wrapping the bulb in paper helps prevent injury by containing the glass shards if the bulb breaks.)
To dispose of your compact fluorescent light bulbs, please take them to our Household Hazardous Waste drop-off sites, if this is practical for you. (They contain a small amount of mercury.) If it is not practical, please wrap and put the compact fluorescent bulb into your regular household trash, as you would an incandescent bulb.