Six months in, no rejected trucks, just recyclers

By Adam Strunk

NEWTON—The good news, since a city optional recycling program took effect in February, the city has not been fined for a single load of contaminated recycling by Waste Connections.

The bad news, it took kicking out about 12 percent of the 2,632  who signed up for the program to achieve that goal.
“It’s somewhere between 340 and 350 people that are no longer in the program,” City engineer Suzanne Loomis said. She updated the total a day later at 373.

She explained that the city employee who was hired to inspect loads continues to do so and issues warnings and leaves notes when the recycling has contaminants. Residents who continue to have problems eventually get suspended from the program for a year. The inspections are meant to avoid rejected city loads of recycling, which result in a $300 fine for the city and their truck being banned from the transfer station for a month. Outside of one early bad load that resulted in a warning. After that it’s been smooth sailing.

“We have not had any bad loads at all,” Loomis said. “If we didn’t have someone inspecting everything, we would.”

Loomis explained the most common issue doesn’t have to do with people being lazy, but trying too hard.

“I feel bad for the people because they want to do the right thing,” she said. “In reality, people are wanting to recycle things, but they’re not all recyclable.”

Loomis explained that just because an item has a recycle symbol on it, doesn’t mean Waste Connections, which handles the city’s recycling, will take it.
“That makes people really upset if they have a plastic toy that has a recycle symbol and they can’t recycle it,” she said.

Loomis recommended that people continue to look at the list of accepted recycling items put out by the city and fill up their recycle bins based on the list, not the item’s label.
“We have new people in the community or new recyclers. You always have new people and it’s a constant education process,” she said.

It also helps to read the notes left by the city employee looking through the recycling.
“The best education is that one on one,” Loomis said.