The down and dirty
Forget everything you know about recycling. In fact, pause now and Google "Recycling in America." Or really recycling anything. Pick an article. Any article. Or watch this video giving a brief overview of what we are facing not only as a city, but as a country. It's time to re-brand those thoughts of saving the world one plastic water bottle at a time. It's time to face reality and the reality is that those items you've responsibly placed in the recycling bin are more than likely making their way to the landfill. And you may have joined the growing culture of Aspirational Recyclers
So, let's Rewind (in case you skipped the really awesome yet disheartening video we linked above). Problem #1: National Sword aka China Sword. No, we didn't go Samurai on you. It industry lingo for China basically cutting the world off from bringing in foreign recycles. Why are we talking about China? To understand the current issues we are facing as a city, it's important to understand the dirty details of where the recyclable materials were going. And the answer was China.  But as of  July 2017,  China notified the World Trade Organization  that as part of their antipollution campaign they would no longer be accepting "foreign garbage" starting January 1, 2018. These items included all plastics among other materials. What did that mean on a global perspective? That the US and other countries could no longer ship their recyclables to be processed.  Materials are beginning to pile up all across the world as processors are still accepting plastics and glass with nowhere to put them.  As they have quickly run out of space to stockpile what was once recyclable, they will have to start adding them to landfills.  

Sounds bad, right? It is. But at the end of the day, "recyclables" are only recyclable if they are viewed as a commodity and are actually useful to someone. And if you don't have a market for the material, its trash. No matter what it's made of. Sometimes one man's trash really is just trash. Many of you have reached out saying we need to change haulers, and some have had not nice things to say about our current hauler.  If you don't get anything else from this Rewind, here's what you need to understand:
  1. Our hauler (aka. Signature Waste) does not dictate what is recyclable. 
  2. Our hauler has not, and is not, charging us for recycle collection even though they are now being charged by the recycling processor.
  3. Corrugated cardboard, newspaper, junk mail, paperboard (like cereal boxes) are the only items accepted in your recycle bin.
  4. Get educated on the global issue. Contamination is ruining recycling everywhere. 
  5. If our contamination is not significantly reduced, we will have to increase the rates or suspend the service. Remember, not everyone has the capability to take items to a convenience center, so suspension of service isn't as easy of a decision as some may believe.  
Let's get local
Councilmember Heather Overman briefly touched on the issues we are facing as a City in a Facebook post. Beginning January 1, 2019, plastics and aluminum will no longer be accepted in your recycling bins. We will repeat, NO plastics or aluminum will be allowed in your recycling bins as of January 1 (including #1 and # 2 plastics). We don't like it either. And we understand how frustrating it is to you. We live here, too. The struggle is real.  


Give us some good news, please

While the good news on the recycling topic is few and far between, there is a way to keep what recycling program we have left. The key to making this happen is reducing contamination significantly and reducing it as quickly as possible. Cities everywhere are on the edge of eliminating their recycling programs. Just last month, Lancaster decided to cut ties with their recycling program citing it too expensive to continue. Several other cities have suspended their recycling programs for many of the same reasons. If we can't get contamination down and only have these items in our recycling bins, we may be joining that list as well. 


So, what can you actually recycle now in your Signature Waste bin? Mixed paper, paperboard and corrugated cardboard. That's it. Need a visual, click here.


Why is my neighbor up the road still able to recycle plastics and glass? Why is my trash fee not being decreased? We have heard it all and we have done our best to answer your questions in this video. So, grab some popcorn and get informed.    
Where do we go from here?
While all of this seems like a lot to take in, it is the reality that we are facing not just in Tega Cay, but globally. We implore you to take a minute and research this issue. As we have stated above, there are more than a dozen articles on recycling. It truly is a much bigger issue than Tega Cay.  

For the time being, expect ramped-up communication from the City on recycling. Such as: what is recyclable, what steps we are taking to keep our recycling program going, and updates from Signature Waste. 

We like options
Before you go dumping plastics, glass, and aluminum in the trash, know there are options. You can still take these sorted items to the County at Baxter's Recycling Center. There are also other options  for aluminum cans here, too. You can take them to Fire Station 2 where the proceeds from the cans benefit the  South Carolina Burned Children's Fund . You also can donate cans to the FMHS Band .  

While most of us are familiar with the three R's, reduce, reuse, and recycle.  Our new mantra is to include a fourth R; reduce, reuse, recycle, and REFUSE. Just refuse to use materials that cannot be recycled or reused. This can be something as simple as taking your reusable grocery bags in the store (not just taking them for a ride in the trunk). While it may seem like a small gesture, if enough communities join in, we might be able to make a difference in this global conundrum. Stay tuned.   

Garbage and Recycling Communication
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