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Recycling: Keep it Clean Grays Harbor

Have you ever wondered why we recycle what we do in Grays Harbor? Or perhaps, you are wondering if you are doing it right?

“While contamination is always an issue, actually our recycling isn’t too bad here,” said Mark Cox, who is Grays Harbor County’s director of utilities, facilities and community development.

“I think that’s because we’ve always collected the same core materials and haven’t really changed for years,” he said.

Cox said that some other municipalities that have tried including different recyclables in their programs but then had to take them out later, have struggled more with contamination.

And “contamination” – things in the recycling that don’t belong – is a big deal for those receiving the recycled goods.

“If we get a certain amount of contamination, the processors won’t buy it,” Cox explained.

Glass is a particularly bad problem. While some garbage utilities in other counties or cities do pick up glass, it hasn’t been safe or cost effective to do so in Grays Harbor’s commingled program, he said.

“Breakage during collection leaves glass shards in the paper that damage processing equipment and pose a danger to sorting crews,” Cox explained. “This reduces the recyclability of recycled paper and increases processing and disposal costs.”

However, glass can be brought to the county transfer station and recycled for free there. In addition, many cities have conveniently located glass drop off locations as follows:

  • Aberdeen: Swanson’s, corner of Curtis & Boone

  • Hoquiam -- Police Station, corner of 10th & Simpson

  • Cosmopolis: City Shop, 1800 1st St.

  • Ocean Shores: Animal Impound Facility, 675 Minard Ave. NW

  • Pacific Beach: Sewage Treatment Plant, 3194 Ocean Beach Rd.

  • Westport: City Street Shop, Corner of 1st & Sprague

  • Montesano: Park & Ride, Behind Thriftway

  • Elma: LeMay Recycle Center, 41 Marion Rd.

  • McCleary: Park and Ride, by City Hall

  • Oakville: City Barn, corner of Alan & Pine

Recyclables have fluctuating markets

Like other products – think cotton, sugar, oil or cattle – recyclables are a commodity and as such have fluctuating prices dealing with supply and demand.

Sometimes people wonder why other things that have the recycling label – think Styrofoam, or certain other plastics aren’t recycled here, Cox said.

The answer is that some items may technically be recyclable, but factories aren’t finding it cost-effective to recycle them, so there isn’t a market for them.

Or with some items – for instance yard waste and food waste – the infrastructure in Grays Harbor County isn’t in place to recycle them.

“Sometimes we get calls from someone who has moved to the Harbor from King County and they are wondering why we don’t pick up certain things,” Cox said.

“We are probably 20 years behind the larger solid waste utilities in the state,” he said. “Eventually we will get to those things.”

“Collecting organics is the next big one,” he said, “In addition to food scraps, that will probably include a yard waste program.”

In fact, the State Legislature recently passed House Bill 1799, which deals with the required collection of organic material.

Unfortunately, Cox noted, the mandate does not come with funds. And the actual implementation of the law is still being sorted out.

“That’s still a few years down the road. Right now, the specifics of the law aren’t clear and it will take at least a few years to get the trucks and the build the compost facility,” he said. “There is a lot of stuff up in the air.”

“There are great new green ideas, but it’s unclear yet how it will impact the local municipalities,” Cox said.

Back to the basics

In the meantime, Grays Harbor citizens recycling properly helps the county and the environment. So, let’s go over some of the basics of just what is recyclable in Grays Harbor.

What goes in?

You can recycle cardboard including items such as corrugated boxes, and paper towel tubes. Both steel cans and aluminum cans – rinsed out – can be recycled.

For plastic, what is included are water, juice and milk jugs – without their caps. Also, #1Pet and #2 HDPE plastic bottles that are used for soda, water, milk and juice. In addition, plastic containers that held detergent, soap and shampoo can be included.

For paper, all newspapers, including adds and inserts, direct mail, cereal, cracker and shoe boxes, as well as magazines, phone books, brochures and catalogs. Office paper such as copy paper, printer paper, file folders, computer paper and notebook paper are all included.

What stays out?

Again, no glass of any kind, no food or other organic waste, or anything that has been contaminated by food such as a pizza box, aluminum foil, paper plates, paper towels, or TV dinner trays.

Also, do not include any kind of scrap metal, plastic lids, plastic bags or soiled or wet newspaper, rubber bands or string.

For some people the plastics get tricky, but Cox said one key is that the top must be smaller than the bottom of the container because of the different sort of material used in different containers. That means margarine, cottage cheese and yogurt tubs, stay out of your recycling.

Also, no plastic bags, plastic trays, plastic toys or any automotive product containers, poison or pesticide bottles belong.

No lawn clippings, branches or garden waste – and of course – no common trash.

To be even more specific LeMay Grays Harbor lists a few more things that sometimes show up in the recycling bins, but do not belong.They include no shredded paper, hard cover books, Styrofoam, paper milk and juice cartons, pill bottles or vitamin containers. Also, no flower pots, fabric of any type, aerosol cans, wire, rope, chains garden hoses or Christmas lights.


If in doubt, leave it out!

Well-meaning people often will put things in, thinking they are helpful. For instance, even if a pizza box doesn’t appear to have any traces of food in it, the oils seep into the cardboard and it then helps contaminate the recyclables, Cox explained.

So, if in doubt, leave it out. Or, call the folks at LeMay Grays Harbor at (360) 533-1251.

LeMay Grays Harbor, provides the garbage service for most of Grays Harbor, while pickup from Hoquiam is provided by Hometown Sanitation (360) 533-7319.

Recycling Center at the transfer station

Remember, you can also dispose of many of your recyclables -- including glass – for free at the Recycling Center inside the LeMay Transfer Station, 29 Gavett Lane North, just west of Montesano

Items accepted include glass bottles (no plate glass windows, etc.), tin, aluminum

(No scrap metal or paint cans) flattened cardboard, milk jugs, newspapers and mixed paper.

In addition, the Moderate Risk Waste Site, located as you come into the LeMay Transfer Station is free to use but has very limited hours. It is open the first Saturday of the month and every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. That is where you should bring things like pesticide and herbicide containers, household cleaners and painting supplies.

The E-cycle area is also free to use. It is where you can take your computer, monitors, screens, towers, televisions, etc. It is available at all times the transfer station is open. However, if you require assistance, come between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays.


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