A chain of sustainability

Recyclables have a variety of different uses

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Waste Connections has three transfer stations where people can take garbage, recycling and other materials they no longer need. There is also a free hazardous household waste drop-off offered at all locations.

West Van Materials Recovery Center

737-1727

6601 N.W. Old Lower River Road, Vancouver

Hours: Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 8 to 4 p.m.

Hazardous waste drop off: Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Central Transfer and Recycling Center

256-8482

11034 N.E. 117th Ave., Vancouver

Hours: Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Hazardous waste drop off: Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Washougal Transfer Station

835-2500

4020 S. Grant St., Washougal

Garbage: Wednesday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Recycling: Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Hazardous waste drop off: Every third Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information on what to recycle, email recyclehelp@wcnx.org or 892-5370, or visit www.recyclingA-Z.com.

Waste Connections has three transfer stations where people can take garbage, recycling and other materials they no longer need. There is also a free hazardous household waste drop-off offered at all locations.

West Van Materials Recovery Center

737-1727

6601 N.W. Old Lower River Road, Vancouver

Hours: Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 8 to 4 p.m.

Hazardous waste drop off: Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Central Transfer and Recycling Center

256-8482

11034 N.E. 117th Ave., Vancouver

Hours: Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Hazardous waste drop off: Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Washougal Transfer Station

835-2500

4020 S. Grant St., Washougal

Garbage: Wednesday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Recycling: Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Hazardous waste drop off: Every third Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information on what to recycle, email recyclehelp@wcnx.org or 892-5370, or visit www.recyclingA-Z.com.

Few people probably stop to consider what happens after they wrestle the blue recycling bin out to the curb every week.

However, that homework assignment or tin can could very well be on its way back to you at some point in the future.

Waste Connections, Inc., which provides recycling services in Clark County, has a number of industries to which it sells recycled materials. These include a glass company in Portland, metal recycling shops in the Midwest and paper exporters in China.

“The recycled commodities market is changing all of the time,” noted Derek Ranta, district manager for Waste Connections. “There is a lot of pricing pressure and lots of innovation.”

New on the market is eCullet, which describes itself as “a technology-based glass processing company.” It takes all of the glass bottles and sells a bulk of the material to Owens-Illinois, a glass manufacturing firm which is also located in Portland.

“They are a hero right now because before that, the big debate was what to do with all of the glass,” Ranta said.

Before eCullet came on the market in late 2013, Waste Connections staff at the Vancouver site would grind the glass into small chunks, with the intent to use it as materials for road repair. Some of it was used when the new Salmon Creek interchange was built on I-5 recently. However, there wasn’t an overly large customer base for that particular product.

“It is a business that is able to take the glass and truly recycle it,” Ranta said.

But before the glass makes its way to Portland or cardboard to the Georgia-Pacific paper mill in Camas, there’s a detailed process it must go through, with 20 tons per hour being processed in the Waste Connections recycling center.

The center is loud, with the sound of machines, forklifts and trucks reverberating through the facility. Visitors who receive a behind-the-scenes tour see a whirlwind of constant activity and noise from all directions. Underneath your feet, there is the crunching of glass and other materials. Paper floats through the air, along with a fine film of dust as the recycled materials are compacted.

Workers stand by on a sorting line. Each is responsible for a different commodity, such as paper, plastic, cardboard and metal.

From there, the different materials are compressed together into by a baler, then taken outside for shipping to various locations.

When curbside recycling was first offered in Clark County in the late 1990s, the three bin system was in effect. The single bin, which combines metal, plastic, cardboard and paper, was rolled out in 2009, to encourage people to recycle more by making it easier. Glass is still placed in a separate bin.

Although recycling percentages went up, the single bin system did pose some problems.

“Some people intermixed their garbage and recycling together,” said Josy Wright, waste reduction manager. “But the biggest and most troublesome thing is plastic film and plastic shopping bags. When that happens, we have to stop the line and remove them.”

One of the other big offenders is the “clamshell” containers from packaged salads or other prepared food.

“Most contamination is from people trying to do the right thing,” she said. “We have five waste auditors who all have different jobs to help reduce this problem.”

One of the most dangerous items placed in recycling bins are used hypodermic needles.

“These should go in a ‘Sharps’ container,” Wright said. “We don’t want our workers having to sort through those because it can be very dangerous.”

The easiest way for people to tell if a plastic item is recyclable is by looking for numbers one through seven on it. If it isn’t there, then it belongs in the trash.

Another area of recycling that is relatively new is food waste. Several schools and private businesses have it picked up. Waste Connections staff then combine it with yard debris and it is sold as composting.

“Personally, we feel that we are doing everything we can to ‘be green,'” noted Ranta.

Wright and her waste reduction team are launching a new project to help encourage customers to recycle properly. The effort will involve workers sifting through the carts for analysis, and educating customers about the proper things to recycle in the blue bins by putting a tag on the bin. Postcards will also be mailed to customers in the pilot project, which includes Camas. There is a five year rollout on the program.

“Along with the tag, we are developing an instructional video and customers who take it will be entered in to win prizes,” Wright said. “We are trying to make this into a positive thing, because most people want to do the right thing. With this project, we are reaching people at the point where they are putting stuff at the curb.”

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