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Can you put plastic bags in the recycling bin? The do's and don'ts of recycling

Posted at 9:16 PM, Nov 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-30 00:28:21-05

For hours and hours every day, workers sift and sort through tons of trash at a north Phoenix recycling facility.

"We see a lot of water hoses, wires, big pieces of metals," Operations Supervisor Susana Olasio explained. "We also see medical waste and a lot of diapers."

The amount of contamination Olasio sees on a daily basis is staggering. This is why the city wants you to think before you throw random items into your blue bin.

"We're paying all that additional money to sort it, process it, just to take it to the trash," Lucas Mariacher said, the Zero Waste Coordinator for Phoenix.

Mariacher said many people make the mistake of bagging their recyclable items.

Keeping your recycling loose in its bin is key. Plastic bags are one of the biggest problems for workers. 

"That material will actually get wrapped up around our machines and cause the facility to shut down," he said. "It costs the city time and money, and it's dangerous for the workers."

Phoenix spends more than $1 million a year to sort through the contamination.

The top 10 recyclable items are: cardboard, paper, food boxes, mail, beverage cans, food cans, glass bottles, jars, jugs and plastic bottles with caps on.