By Aspen Kvicala
An article recently appeared in NPR news that detailed a report published by Greenpeace. The report claims that most of the plastic in the United States does not get recycled because plastic is “practically impossible” to recycle.
It’s easy to get shocked and outraged whenever a piece like this comes up in a trusted news source, especially when your community recycling center keeps assuring you that recycling is still a part of the solution.
Let us reiterate, recycling extends the life of the natural resources that we use to make everyday things, from computers to soda bottles. Recycling is still and will always be a part of the solution, but it was never meant to be the solution. When you hear news like this, it’s a good idea to check what’s happening in your region.
At Methow Recycles, we work closely with our buyers and downstream processors to ensure your recyclables get recycled. Our plastics buyer in Spokane assured us that plastics from the Methow Valley are 100% recycled, not thrown away or incinerated.
Recycling is place-based. Similar to economic fluctuations, there are trends in the national and global recycling industries that can trickle-down to regional and local markets. But not always. There are Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) like Methow Recycles and sorting facilities and processors that continue to stay in business and recycle material because there are local markets for certain items. As is the case with plastics in our region. After our plastics from the Methow Valley are sorted in Spokane, there is a recycler in Vancouver, B.C., that receives our plastics and recycles them into plastic pellets that will then be used to make all kinds of plastic products.
We are incredibly fortunate to be in a rural community that is situated close to regional recyclers. Our paper recycler is located in Wenatchee; our glass recycler in Seattle; aluminum, tin and scrap metal are sorted and processed in Wenatchee; plastics are sorted in Spokane and recycled in Vancouver, B.C. When you read an article that makes national claims about recycling, it may only be telling a portion of the story. It’s always best to check with your local recycler and find out what is happening in your community.
Recycling may not be perfect. We need to create less waste, that is the starting point. But, with the stuff we already have on our hands, it is crucial to recycle and reuse what we can before we relegate something as useless in the landfill. We can assure you that the materials we say we recycle do get recycled.
The extra steps that our community takes to make sure that recycling is empty, clean and dry makes an incredible difference. It is truly a success story how our rural mountain community remains so committed to values of conserving resources and diverting as much waste as possible. We should be patting ourselves on the back for taking the time to do our part and believing that it makes a difference because, in fact, it does.
Our buyers have been dedicated to us, even as the global recycling industry has fluctuated over the last two decades, because our recycling is such high quality and that is entirely thanks to our community. We are here and continue to be here as a trusted recycler because our community wants us to be. It makes all the difference.
Aspen Kvicala is the Communications and Outreach Manager for Methow Recycles.