Ahead of the two-year anniversary of Aiken’s bi-weekly, red-and-blue recycling program, the Energy and Environmental Committee wants to reiterate the importance of recycling – and doing it properly.
Ron Dellamora, the chairman of the committee, said recycling here comes down to two things: putting the “right stuff in the right container” and meeting pickup specifications.
City residents are issued two bins, one green, one blue. Trash goes in the green container. Recyclables go in the 90-gallon blue container.
But, according to Dellamora, that’s easier said than done: Certain plastics, like used plastic bags, can’t be recycled and shouldn’t be thrown into one’s blue bin.
If plastic bags do end up in the recycling, they have to be hand sorted and will end up in a landfill.
“Those are, essentially, not recyclable,” Dellamora said. “There’s a lot of education needed to make people put the right stuff in the right bin.”
Plastics are labelled and numbered. Those labels can help people determine what should be and what should not be recycled. Plastics 1 and 2 can be recycled, according to the City.
Aluminum and steel cans; newspapers; magazines; phone books; glass bottles and glass jars of any color; and cardboard also can be recycled.
Aerosol cans, light bulbs, styrofoam and ceramics cannot.
The Energy and Environmental Committee’s overall goal, which is in line with the City’s, is to increase recycling tonnage and the number of participating homes.
“That’s the driving objective,” Dellamora said.
The City of Aiken has been recycling for some 27 years now. Dellamora said Aiken was “a pioneer” on the recycling front and was the first municipality in the state to start a program.
Recycling is important, Dellamora said, because it saves resources and is ultimately “a better use of resources.”
Dellamora said reusing materials to make new things – turning cans into ingots and metal sheets to be used for license plates and foil, for example – requires less energy, and is less wasteful, than making those license plates from scratch.
Five plastic bottles, when recycled, can provide enough fiber for 1 square-foot of carpet or enough filling for a winter jacket, according to Recycle Across America. Recycling a 3-foot stack of newspapers saves one tree. And the energy saved by one instance of recycled glass, which can be done indefinitely, can power an 11-watt lightbulb for almost a full day.
On average, Americans recycle about half of their aluminum cans. More than 70 percent of steel cans are recycled, making them the country’s most recycled item, according to Waste Management, Inc.
On a more local scale, Dellamora said recycling keeps things out of landfills, which, in turn, keeps them from filling up. If a landfill maxes out, a municipality has to haul its trash elsewhere, a practice that proves prohibitively expensive, Dellamora said.
“Recycling extends their life,” he added.
Residents looking to get rid of their electronics can contact the City for a pickup. The service carries a $25 fee.
Dellamora said people also can bring their electronics to five collection centers in the county. Doing that, he said, is free, save for the cost of travel.
Large items also can be picked up by the City, but Dellamora suggests donating usable items to Habitat for Humanity or similar programs. Charity pickups are usually free.
Recycling and garbage bins should be placed on the curb by 7 a.m. on collection day, according to City guidelines. The handles should face the road.
A collection schedule can be found online.
The city is divided into two parts: red and blue. Where one lives dictates when recycling will be collected. A breakdown of red and blue zones can be found using a map the City put together.
Red and blue stickers were also issued by the City and are placed on one’s containers. That’s how Dellamora said he remembers.