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Recycling Changes in Ada County


January 9, 2018

Contact: Kate McGwire
Public Information Officer


Changes to Ada County Recycling

The US is the largest exporter of waste and scrap. Roughly 30% of recyclables in the US are exported overseas due to insufficient domestic demand. Last year the US exported to China over 13 million tons of scrap paper and almost 1 1/2 million tons of scrap plastic. As of January 1, 2018 China began a ban on certain recycled materials including various plastics and unsorted mixed papers. This ban will be felt worldwide, including right here in Ada County. Recommendations from the Ada County Solid Waste Advisory Committee and Republic Services, about the recycling program in Ada County will take effect immediately. The information below gives more details to the changes and will help you determine what you can recycle and what should be thrown away. 

Why are these changes happening?

Recycling is an international issue – and new policies being deployed by China to ban plastics (called the National Sword program) and the problem of contamination of recyclables are affecting people across the globe, especially here in the U.S.  The results of these issues means there’s simply no place that will take and process some of the plastic recyclables—namely the lower-grade plastics.

Who is impacted by these changes?

Changes in municipal programs are happening across the state, country, and world. In Idaho, all of Ada County will be impacted in one form or another as Republic Services is Ada County’s service provider for recyclables and waste, as well as several others in southwest Idaho.

Why do you have to start this new program so quickly?

The Ada County Solid Waste Advisory Committee has recommended the program begin as soon as possible in order to ensure we are able to recycle as much quality plastic as possible. The changes in the program need to be implemented or else it is likely good recyclable materials will end up at the landfill. It’s understandable that it will take some time to get accustomed to new guidelines, so the next three months the focus will be on education to improve the overall quality of recyclables and limit those plastic products that have been problematic.

What will happen if I recycle all plastics?

If all plastics are recycled – there is a greater likelihood that all recyclables (not just plastics) will end up in the landfill.

What can I recycle?

Plastics numbered 1 and 2 (numbers can be found on the bottom of the items) are recyclable and generally are empty, clean and dry bottles and jugs of the following variety: milk jugs, pop/soda bottles, fruit juice bottles and jugs, and detergent jugs.  All recyclables should be left loose in our cart (no bags of any type are allowed in the cart).

Aside from plastics you can recycle paper (newspaper, envelopes, junk mail, phone books, brochures, magazines), cardboard (ream wrappers, file folders, poster board, clean cardboard boxes,) and aluminum/tin(clean beverage cans, food cans).

Again when recycling, please ensure that your recyclables are EMPTY, CLEAN and DRY.

What should I do if I don’t know if something is recyclable or not?

In order to reduce the risk of contamination, when in doubt, throw it out. By recycling one wrong item, it could lead to several items being disposed of in the landfill.

What should I put in the trash?

Residents can no longer recycle plastics numbered 3 through 7 (numbers can be found on the bottom of the items), which includes items like milk cartons , frozen food boxes,  dairy tubs (yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream), clamshell containers (often used for berries and restaurant take-out food) condiments, hair care bottles, and more. Non-numbered items such as lightweight water bottles, filmy plastics and plastic bags should also be disposed of, as these are the primary culprit in the contamination of recyclables. Such materials include dry cleaning bags, grocery bags, bubble wrap, newspaper sleeves, and shrink-wrap packaging.

Boise is waiting until April – why can’t Ada County?

Ada County is following the recommendation of the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, asking residents to change recycling habits now, in order to maximize our recycling efforts and avoid co-mingled items with the wrong plastics ending up in the landfill. Western Recycling (the recycling facility for the valley) has no buyers for plastics 3-7 and there is no market for those materials as a result of the National Sword program.

View the billing insert that was sent to unincorporated Ada County customers. If you live within city limits, you should be receiving information for your city or Republic Services.

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