One of our biggest challenges and most important roles has always been educating consumers about how to recycle.

Recycling programs world-wide are in the process of adjusting to the effects China’s stricter regulations for recycled materials has had on global markets. Because contamination is a cost centre for programs already under pressure from current market conditions, we are asking consumers to be more particular about what they put into their blue box and how they prepare it for collection.

Quite recently I became aware of a municipality that removed cartons from the materials accepted in their Blue Box program. They had been instructed to do so by their processor, who thought it was necessary for these common containers to be rinsed by consumers in order to find a recycling home for them. Not so, I explained to both the municipality and their processor. Cartons just need to be emptied before they are collected. With the facts in hand, this municipality will consider including cartons in their program again.

The belief cartons must be rinsed – not just emptied – often comes up in discussions with industry stakeholders. While rinsed cartons make for a more pleasant recycling experience at home and in recycling facilities, it is left-over product that jeopardizes the recyclability of cartons and other containers. The distinction between empty and rinsed and the need to ensure there is no residual product remaining (as opposed to the requirement to rinse the carton) is important to communicate, especially in schools, where rinsing containers is logistically challenging.

Keeping consumers informed of adjustments to local recycling programs is time-consuming and costly. So, it’s important to ensure we share correct information when we communicate with them. Staying in touch with materials brokers and industry associations is one way of ensuring your community and your program are in line with market conditions and that you can achieve the highest value for your efforts.

Has your recycling program changed as a result of China’s National Sword?
We are interested in knowing how you are coping with changes to global recycling markets and the actions you are taking to keep consumers informed. If you’re open to sharing, please complete the very short (two minutes, tops) SurveyMonkey survey here. I’ll share the results in our fall newsletter.