If you're like most people living in our area you probably made at least one trip out to the garbage can to get rid of Christmas boxes and wrapping paper, so it should be no surprise the holiday season is the busiest time of the year for solid waste workers.
It's been more than year now since Spokane went to it's single stream recycling. By filling up our blue bins we've cut the amount of garbage burning up in the incinerator by 25-percent, but there are definitely some do and don'ts when it comes to what we throw away.
Heavy equipment helps move 200 tons of material into Waste Management's smart plant every daym but once it's on a series of conveyor belts, processing recycled material becomes a labor intensive process mostly because we're throwing the wrong stuff away.
"You know most people try to do the right thing and a lot of the prohibitives or non-accepted materials, in people's minds they think that is acceptable," Ken Gimpel with Spokane Regional Solid Waste System said.
For example while the smart plant takes plastic bottles, it does not take plastic bags of any kind. Waste Management wants your wrapping paper but nothing like ribbons or packing peanuts.
"We can recycle all paper, pure paper, not multi-layered materials, not foil embedded or plastic embossed, but just any kind of pure wrapping paper is good to recycle," Gimpel explained.
This is the busiest time of the year for recycling. Between our gift boxes and containers full of holiday cheer the smart plant will take in 6,000 tons of debris before December is over. But if you're not careful about what you recycle, you can literally throw a wrench into the operation.
"Running through a sophisticated plant like that it's really a challenge, things like lawn and garden tools, tire chains, the garden hose, plastic bags are problematic with all the moving parts as well," Gimpel said.
That's why sorters, who work at break-neck speeds, have to pick through our recycled materials to make sure only pure plastic, paper and metal makes their way to the mills that turn them into new products. So try to recycle responsibly and not gum up the works with something that really belongs in the trash.
"We want to keep that stuff out. I always say when in doubt, just throw it out," Gimpel said.
On Thursday the city also started picking up Christmas trees, though if they're taller than six feet they need to be cut in half...Also make sure there's at least three feet between your trash bins so the garbage truck can reach in and empty them.