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Des Moines Adds Carton Recycling

News & Events

Recycling Facility Now Able to Take Milk Cartons

By:James Heggen
Des Moines Register
June 24, 2012

The Metro Waste Authority is going to milk all it can out of its Curb It recycling program starting next week.

Beginning July 1, it will begin accepting milk cartons (the paper kind with a slick coating).

Curb It, which has been around since 1994, is a single-stream system, which means the recyclable materials turned in are sent to a facility and sorted there, said Reo Menning, public affairs director of Metro Waste Authority, which serves numerous central Iowa communities.

The facility, Greenstar Recycling, has installed a new machine that will be able to sort out the material that milk cartons are made of. Using infrared technology, the machine will detect the cartons, and separate them from the rest of the recyclables, said Kelley McReynolds, general manager of the Des Moines facility.

From there, they’ll be sold to a local company called ReWall, which will make the cartons into building materials.

Officials said being able to accept the cartons in the recycling program is a culmination of two things: market demand (from ReWall) and technology (Greenstar’s sorter).

“What’s finally happened is those two things have come about,” Menning said.

It’s hard to say how many cartons will be recycled at first, but McReynolds is expecting two to three tons each month.

According to Menning, about 375 tons of residential waste annually for the Metro Waste Authority is milk and juice boxes.

“I think we’ll see a lot more schools recycling because of it,” Menning said.

Phil Roeder, spokesman for Des Moines public schools, said the district goes through 20,000 milk cartons each day.

He said the district is interested in expanding its recycling efforts.

“It’s something we’d really welcome the opportunity to look at participating,” he said.

Participation from school districts could help with a shortfall in recycling: Metro Waste Authority expects to collect 1,000 fewer tons this year.

There are a number of factors for the downturn, which is mirrored throughout the country, Menning said.

It could be partly that there’s just less packaging, because landfill weight is also down. Still, Menning said, more can be recycled.

Menning cited a report saying recyclable paper was still being thrown in the landfill to the tune of more than 15,000 tons a year.

Recycling is good for landfills and the environment and saves on raw materials for products, she said: “It keeps it in the system.”

McReynolds said people should still keep plastic bags, porcelain and ceramic glass out of their recycle bins.

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