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Holiday Recycling in T-Town

Twas the day after Christmas and all through the house, were gift bags, toy wrappers and tags from your new blouse.

The lights that were twinkling, have now blown a fuse and sitting in the kitchen is aunt Pam’s pie tin that you’ll never reuse.

Cartons emptied of their eggnog all stacked up in the sink. And that bottle of wine? We all know there’s none left to drink.

These batteries surely won’t last in that dang remote control and what about this Styrofoam packing from little Jimmy’s game console?

What ever will you do with all of this holiday waste!? Why take it to Tacoma Recovery & Transfer Center and they’ll process it with precision and haste!

John and I recently took a guided tour of Tacoma Recovery & Transfer Center, led by manager Mark Tveit. Tacoma is a national leader in recycling as they are one of the first cities in the country to offer curbside services and one of the only cities left to offer separated glass bins. That being said, we learned so much that this will have be a two-part blog. Since we’re in the thick of the holidays, we wanted to start with the do’s and don’ts of your holiday waste.

We asked Mark for his biggest recycling requests of the public and he was quick to say two things. The first being, “Please, clean and dry your items.” All of what comes to the transfer center is sent to various locations for processing. The largest being the material recovery facility (MRF), where all the mixed recycling from our blue bins is sorted by hand. So if you’re in Tacoma, please use that separate glass bin to avoid creating shards of glass and rinse out your containers to help avoid a whole different kind of Tacoma Aroma.

His second request, “Be a smart consumer.” Recovery staff often pull out packaging that contains multiple materials, like soup cups with plastic bowls, foam filler and a metal liner. Although marked “recyclable,” when combined as one product, they aren’t. “Unfortunately,” says Mark, “when in doubt… throw it out.”

Speaking of packaging, let’s talk about all the gift’s you will be wrapping this year. Most residents have heard that gift wrap and tissue paper are no longer recyclable. The truth is, they never were. When wrapping paper is processed, it breaks down into such small fibers that there is nothing left but a very fine and unusable material. This mixed with the various dyes and chemicals can cause mechanical complications and waste a lot of time. This year, try re-using last year’s bags, fabric scraps or even some old fashioned brown paper. The kids can decorate them before you ship off packages to grandpa and grandma!

While tissue paper and wrap can cause an issue, oddly enough that ol’ Styrofoam #6 can be recycled. Yep! The recovery center is home to the affectionately named “Chewbacca” who “chews” down all of the Styrofoam and processes it into cubes. It’s a difficult product to sell once processed, but the cubes are then used to fill things like picture frames and window frames for campers. Mark let us know that “there is no money in recycling” but he’s, “proud of Tacoma. We do this simply because it’s the right thing to do."

This time of year also leads to a lot of “out with the old and in with the new.” Old TVs, PCUs or laptops, (working or not) can be dropped off at the Good Will station in the recovery center. Batteries that didn’t make it through day-long use in your dancing Santa (sealed in a bag) as well as burnt out Christmas lights can be recycled as well. Did you use that Christmas cash to replace an old water heater, washer or dryer this year? Great! Feel free to drop off your old one before even heading to the dump scale. The recovery center will be take care of them for free! These items are sent to Tacoma Metals, another strong partner in doing the right thing in Tacoma.

Finally, what about that Ol’ Tannenbaum? Live trees can be dropped off at the center or cut to size and disposed of in your yard waste bin. If you have a fake tree that’s seen one too many Christmas’s, it’ll have to say farewell in the dump. Again, materials being used to construct fake trees recently aren’t able to be separated and the chemical composition of the plastics and other material are too unknown to effectively process. This is actually true for most plastics but we will save that for next time.

Now, go out there and enjoy your busy holiday time with friends and family. Just don’t forget about your friends at Tacoma Recovery and Transfer Center. They’ll be busy too, keeping as much waste out of the landfills as possible. Seems like a "Peace on (in the) Earth and goodwill to men" kind of situation to us.

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We are John and Catie Douville, real estate agents from the Tacoma area. We love exploring the South Sound and sharing our experiences through this blog. Sign up and never miss a post.

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