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Recycling efforts are a work in progress

Ever since the recycling/transfer station on Table Rock switched to commingled bins (as opposed to separate ones for plastics, metals and paper), we've been increasingly dismayed at the messes we view each time we deliver our items. In spite of posted signs designating which items are acceptable, we see items that would qualify only for special recycling events, plus items that are definitely garbage.

My suspicion is that the efforts of sincere recyclers are literally going to waste — that once the bins are contaminated, they're simply hauled to the landfill. Could someone find out whether the Rogue Disposal and Recycling folks really take the time to sort out the recyclables from all the messy garbage we see in the bins?

— Ginny S., Central Point

Excuse us while we bang the cliche gong here, but we admit it's not easy being green.

We got in touch with Garry Penning, director of marketing at Rogue Disposal, and he assured us that your best efforts aren't going to solid waste.

"No, they are not hauled to the landfill," Penning said.

He clarified that even with some contamination, the commingled recyclables are still sent to a processor.

"Those contaminants are taken out from the recyclable materials," he said.

Penning explained that although the majority of the process is automated, there are workers who manually remove contaminants. After commingled recyclables hit the bin, Penning told us, they're bundled into 2,000-pound bales and sent to facilities in Portland and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Although they are able to salvage the recyclables when people don't follow the guidelines, trash in a commingled bin does have negative consequences for everyone. For starters, some of those big bundles get graded at the facilities for percentages of different materials — including trash.

"So if people continue to throw garbage, that devalues the quality of our product, and the pricing is affected," he said. "That affects the price we charge at the curb."

Penning said there are video cameras throughout the transfer station, and that getting recyclers to abide by the rules through education and enforcement is a priority.

"If we find, say, a lot of contaminants, or someone doing something illegally, we'll go back to the video," he said. "It's a continuous effort for us."

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com.