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Why tub lids can’t go into the curbside recycling

April 3rd, 2014 · 2 Comments · Plastics Recycling, Recycling

In my last post, I gave the example of TUB LIDS and promised you answers. I know you’ve been wondering this for your whole recycling life: If tubs YES, why lids NO?

The first thing that happens to all the collected stuff, as soon as it is entered into the mechanized sorting system of the Materials Recovery Facility (affectionately called a “merf”), is that a mini-hurricane is applied to it. In duller terms, it is blown with strong jets of air. This is to lift out all the paper, thus separating it from the other materials. The tub lids are light enough that they get swooped up in the air with the paper. Worse, wherever paper gets carried along on a conveyor belt, it meets up with slots along the way where it drops down into waiting receptacles. The slot says “flat things go here.” The lids, of course, are flat — unlike the tubs. The result is that the paper supply gets contaminated with a bunch of pesky plastic lids. In short, because the lids are both flat and light, the machinery thinks they’re paper. So the solution is to keep the lids out of the co-mingled curbside recycling altogether.

The good news is that the ever-popular grocery store chain New Seasons Markets will take your lids! Unfortunately, they only exist here in Portland, Oregon, so if you’re not HERE, I guess that’s not very helpful. But don’t give up. Ask around. Now at least you know that lids are indeed recyclable by somebody, and it’s a matter of finding out who and where that somebody is. I hope you find a place in your town.

Got enough of these damn things stacked up in the garage to pave the whole yard. (I think I'll stick with what we've got, though..)

Got enough of these damn things bagged up in the garage to pave the whole yard. (I think I’ll stick with the pavers we’ve got, though.. as an Oregonian, I’m partial to moss.)

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Jeff Stookey

    Thanks for this lid discussion. I’ve always wondered about it. Now I’ll start saving lids and taking them over to New Seasons.

    • Kate Gawf

      yay, Jeff! I’ll sleep better tonight knowing I helped one household-worth of lids find the path to reincarnation.

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