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Rogue Disposal offers plastics policy reminder

While reduced pollution levels have been touted as an unintended side-effect of COVID-19 closures, Rogue Disposal officials say an expansion to curbside recycling options last spring might have gone unnoticed.

The regional sanitation company celebrated Earth Day by expanding the types of plastic it will accept in curbside bins, but some people haven’t noticed and are still driving to the transfer station on Table Rock Road to drop off plastic.

“We were following through with what we promised back in December of 2017, when we first announced that changes would need to be made to our recycling program in order to respond proactively to the global recycling market crisis,” said Denise Barnes, recycling and community outreach coordinator for Rogue Disposal.

“At that time, we committed to adding materials back into the curbside recycling mix if stable domestic markets were demonstrated to exist, and once we had test-collected the material at our public recycling depot.”

So, on Earth Day in April, some plastics were added back to commingled bins. But the world was a bit distracted.

“We were hit with COVID-19, and our announcement was not the most important news people were focused on. It would seem that not a lot of folks got the memo,” Barnes said, noting that Rogue Disposal updated its website and sent out mailers to try and spread the word.

“So many people have been thrown out of their normal routines, and there have been so many crazy world events and so much civic unrest. It’s been the weirdest year, so we get it,” she added.

“We’re trying to put the word out to let everyone know they don’t have to drive it in. They can just toss it right into the red bin again.”

Back in March 2018, Rogue Disposal clamped down on items that could be put in those red, curbside recycle bins, limited it to cardboard, newsprint, metal cans and milk jugs, all easy materials to market for reuse.

“We knew they wouldn’t end up overseas, getting burned or put into landfills. We knew those materials would be used in other markets,” said Barnes.

Cameras installed on trucks showed people started doing a better job of following the rules and not tossing trash into the bins. Levels of so-called “contamination” dropped from 25 percent to 7 percent, she said.

“Between our devoted drivers and customer service reps helping to educate the public, we really got that number down,” Barnes said. “We still see some random garbage mixed in, but that was a phenomenal decrease, so that allowed us to start allowing plastic bottles Nos. 1 and 2.”

To confirm that correct plastic types are added into recycle bins, be sure to check for the number 1 or 2 inside the triangular recycle symbol. The neck of plastic bottles must be smaller than the body. Bottles must also be rinsed out and without lids.

For a detailed list of permitted items, and to see examples, see roguedisposal.com/.

Glass bottles, which once were allowed in commingled recycling, have not been added back to curbside pickup, but Rogue Disposal installed glass-recycling receptacles at several locations around the Rogue Valley.

Glass is accepted at the Recycling Depot at the Rogue Disposal transfer station, 8001 Table Rock Road. Other retail partner locations include Ray’s Food Place in Phoenix, Central Point and Jacksonville, and Sherm’s Thunderbird and Food4Less in Medford.

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.