Recycling of Plastics Successful, Profitable Newly Instituted Program Hits Only a Few Snags

Article excerpt

Belleville's recent launch of a plastics-recycling program is adding a lot of momentum - and volume - to the Metro East area's reuse of what otherwise would become trash.

On Feb. 3, Belleville joined a growing roster of area communities that have added certain types of plastic containers to their recycling repertoire - alongside paper, steel and aluminum cans and glass.

The city already is reaping a large harvest of old milk jugs, soda bottles and other plastic containers. But a few problems remain, such as getting otherwise well-intentioned residents to take those caps off plastic containers and throw them in the trash, and to please flatten the containers - to conserve space. Belleville's Health & Sanitation Department also found that it had to add an important revision to recycling information brochures distributed to residents: Don't try to recycle plastic bags or containers that held hazardous materials such as motor oil, antifreeze and the like. Despite the minor headaches, the city had collected an estimated 16 tons of recyclable plastics and compacted and shipped them out by the end of March, officials said. With the light weight of each plastic container, that's a lot of material that otherwise would be headed for shrinking landfill space. Belleville already has had curbside recycling collection of newspapers, metal cans and glass for several years. The plastics-recycling program was launched with a $50,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs. The money was used to buy two compactors, two 40-cubic-yard containers for storage and equipment for collection trucks. The grant was awarded in late 1995, but the program's start was delayed by changes in Health & Sanitation Department personnel and a few other problems. Belleville's recycling coordinator, Cheryl Black says she isn't hearing many complaints about the program. "I think it's making families happy to see this option," she said. "You know, they go through several milk jugs and maybe 20 soda bottles a week." Black volunteered to oversee recycling operations, in addition to her regular duties as the city's purchasing agent. Black says she's hearing such comments from friends and acquaintances as: "It's about time you're doing plastic. We don't see that many metal containers. Most things are put in plastic now." And Black cites a pragmatic inducement for recycling: Cost savings. "By diverting the recycled materials from being land-filled, we save $21 per ton," Black says. …

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