If your New Year’s resolution is to lose some weight, you’re in good company. Salt Lake City has its own weight reduction—or rather, waste reduction—goal for 2014, which is deleting 11,000 tons of recyclable waste from going to the landfill. By 2015, the city’s Zero Waste Resolution aims to increase residential recycling from the current rate of 38 percent to 50 percent.
The Sustainable Salt Lake Plan calls for eliminating all waste by 2040. To achieve that goal, the SLC’s Office of Sustainability is recommending new recycling requirements for businesses and 15+ unit apartment complexes that produce more than four cubic yards of waste per week. At present, the recycling rate for the city’s commercial sector is only 10 percent, but the plan would increase that rate to 25 percent.
But diets, exercise programs and recycling do not work well unless they are done right. Larry Gibbons, Director for Business Development at Rocky Mountain Recycling, says the contamination rate for recyclables in Sugar House is about nine percent.
The worst problem is food waste – leftover soda in plastic bottles, and chicken bones in takeout boxes. One does not need to rinse out containers; greasy pizza boxes, bottle caps, and labels on cans are all fine. But containers should be completely empty.
The holidays are hard on the waist line, and they’re hard on the landfill and recyclers as well. Non-metallic wrapping paper is recyclable, but ribbons and bows can get tangled in the sorting equipment and should be re-used, not recycled. Loose styrofoam peanuts and shredded paper fall through the machinery and are thrown away, along with bits of broken glass and dirt.
Packing materials should be bagged so workers can pick the bags off the sorting line and make sure the contents get recycled. Empty plastic bags and natural cork bottle stoppers can be recycled at participating stores.
So if you’re thinking about changing lifestyle habits in 2014, “Reduce, Re-use and Recycle” is still good advice for a healthy new year.