To residents recycling plastic bags: You’re doing it wrong

Photo: CCRI Plastic bags stuffed with plastic bags have been appearing in curbside recycling bins, which are not acceptable items for the curbside recycling program.

HOUGHTON — Plastic bags continue to be a problem at the Waste Management Transfer Station, according to Susan Burack of the Copper Country Recycling Initiative (CCRI).

While plastic bags, such as those used at grocery and retail stores, are rated as a number 2 plastic, they are not acceptable in curbside recycling programs. One of the problems is Waste Management has apparently not let the public know that.

“I have talked to the people in the (Waste Management) office several times about signs for the bins that say no plastic bags,” said Ruth Gleckler of the CCRI, “but I keep getting the answer that they are waiting for a ‘bulk’ order for all of the WM places.”

Meanwhile, there are a lot of plastic bags ending up in recycling bins, she said.

Dave Hall, another CCRI member, said if Waste Management or Eagle Waste has been complaining of the quality of raw recycling materials they receive, it is their responsibility, as well as the cities’, to give some sort of public notice.

“Both (Houghton and Hancock) are very capable of sending utility bills every month,” Hall said, “and tax bills twice a year, too, so they could inform the entire region about recycling if they cared to do so.”

Krissy Sundstrom of the CCRI said based on her experience, most people who recycle want to do what is right, but that can be difficult at times.

“They don’t have time to study the acceptable/non-acceptable list, and for those with city pick-up,” Sundstrom said, “I have heard that if they don’t know if something is acceptable, they will put it in, and if Waste Management takes their recycling, then it is assumed that means it was acceptable.”

Sundstrom said this is an incorrect assumption, because the pick-up service does not seem to be studied locally like it is in the larger cities.

Hall said another source of confusion could stem from the city of Hancock, which has used a plastic bag system for years, and many residents still continue to do so.

“I see them out on the curbs everywhere on pick-up day,” Hall said. “The city of Hancock seems to not care to change the system they have always had, and to fight them is an uphill struggle.”