Mason City’s recycled glass, plastic has been going to dump

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(Associated Press) – For more than three months, all of the glass and plastic in Mason City’s curbside recycling bins hasn’t been recycled at all.

Instead, the city has been forced to dump glass and plastic recyclables at the Landfill of North Iowa because the Mason City Recycling Center no longer accepts glass or plastic.

“We’ve kept picking it up in hopes that we would be able to find an outlet for it,” City Administrator Aaron Burnett told the Mason City Globe Gazette. “Unfortunately, we do not have an outlet at this time. What we’ve been doing is talking to the landfill here about options we have there to potentially take materials like this and build a transfer station so we’re able to move them someplace else.”

Heather Eilering, office manager at MCRC, said the reason it stopped accepting glass and plastic was simple.

“We couldn’t even give it away,” she said of glass and plastic. “We also have no place to store it.”

Mason City Sanitation Supervisor Scott Brattrub said the change has not had a major affect on day-to-day operations, calling it “not too bad.”

“Unfortunately, we are still dumping the plastic and glass at the landfill,” he said. “We take the cardboard out to the recycling center and then drive the truck out to the landfill and dump the rest of the commodities.”

According to environmental organization Sierra Club, glass presents tough recycling problems — including lack of end markets, contamination, and transportation costs — partly because it weighs about 10 times as much as a similar volume of plastic or aluminum.

It also breaks up easily, which makes it hard on equipment and increases maintenance costs. Glass fragments easily mix with paper and cardboard in single-stream recycling, reducing the value of these products. That’s made the market for recycled glass limited or nonexistent in parts of the country.

Another factor in the market is China’s decision to stop taking much of the world’s waste in 2018. That caused the price to plummet domestically as supply skyrocketed.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw away about 28 billion bottles and jars every year.

Brattrub said he hasn’t figured out the exact tonnage being disposed of at the landfill each day, but knows the city is being charged the normal rate of $37 per ton.

Burnett and Brattrub each said they plan to continue to pick up recycling as usual for now, but Burnett said a short-term stoppage on glass and plastic is possible down the road. Brattrub said he doesn’t want people becoming confused about what they can or cannot put in their bins.

“I don’t want to get everybody to stop recycling,” he said. “We’re hoping this is a temporary situation. We don’t want to get everybody to stop recycling and then teach everybody all over again how to do it.”

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