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story.lead_photo.caption Photo by Waste Management

TEXARKANA, Texas — Two weeks into the resumption of the city's single-stream curbside recycling program, Waste Management is seeing high levels of contamination — the wrong materials — in residents' bins.

More education is needed about what can and cannot be recycled, and in the meantime, WM staff are placing tags on yellow-top recycling bins to inform people that they contain inappropriate materials, local WM representative Doug Sims said. The company is also in the process of replacing information labels on bins.

"I think because people have not recycled in a while, they've kind of forgotten how to recycle right," he said.

WM's goal is zero contamination, but up to 10% is workable. Since the city's curbside recycling program restarted July 1, the contamination rate has been closer to 20%, Sims said.

Highly contaminated loads of recyclables have less or no market value and may even have to be dumped in a landfill.

Accepted materials include clean plastic bottles and containers, clean food and beverage cans, paper, and flattened cardboard and paperboard.

Items that cannot be recycled include foods; liquids; foam cups and containers; loose plastic bags, bagged recyclables or plastic film; green waste such as tree limbs and grass clippings; clothing, furniture and carpet; batteries; and glass.

Acceptable plastics include any with a recycling number on them, except Styrofoam, which is prohibited altogether.

The biggest problem lately in Texarkana is plastic bags, which are prohibited from recycling bins even if they are made of recycled material.

"First, we don't know what's in there. It may be just household trash. And second, trash bags themselves, when they run it through the automated processing system, those bags will wrap around the rollers," Sims said.

Aside from the contamination issue, WM's recycling operations are running smoothly, Sims said. Recyclables are collected locally and then transported to a WM processing plant in Arlington, Texas.

The program was on hold from last year — when the processing facility in Shreveport, Louisiana, that WM was using stopped accepting recyclables — until July 1.

After the City Council approved a new plan, WM had to upgrade a local facility and acquire new permits and licenses before being ready to again begin collecting certain recyclable waste.

In February, the Council passed a resolution updating the city's contract with WM to account for an increase in the residential garbage collection rate. The increase is needed to pay for WM's collection of mixed recyclables and their transportation.

The rate will go up in two equal phases, increasing by $1.71 per month this summer and by that amount again in October 2022.

The contract changes also include reducing the city's number of free waste bin removals — used for projects such as demolition and neighborhood cleanups — from 250 to 100 to offset some of the cost of recycling.

(For more information on Waste Management curbside recycling, visit wm.com/us/en/recycle-right.)

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