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Can you recycle black plastic? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Can you recycle black plastic?

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WILLISTON Vt. -

We've all been guilty of it -- accidentally tossing plastic bags, styrofoam or other items that can't be broken down. Now recycling experts say there's a new source of contamination clogging up at the plant. 

The next time you pick up your favorite craft beer or cider, check out what's holding the cans together. "They are a lot sturdier. You don't generally see beers slip out of them like the clear plastic does. They're great for stacking," said Tyler Green, the Beer Manager at Natural Provisions in Williston. He sees lots of advantages to the newer black holsters. "They're recycled plastic which is nice."

They even say so -- "96-percent recycled content." But there's a catch. "The commodities market does not want black plastic," said Clare Innes with the Chittenden Solid Waste District. "You can't unblack, black plastic. It can only be made into something that's black as well."

So what does that mean for consumers? "If you do have a black plastic item, put it in the trash because we simply cannot recycle it," Innes said.

The CSWD is no longer accepting black plastic, and beer rings aren't the only culprits. Other non-recyclable items include things like flower pots, to-go containers, and coffee cup lids.

It boils down to finances. CSWD sells its bales of recyclables -- including plastics -- on the global commodities market. The profits keep the recycling program afloat. This plant processes 400 tons of mixed plastic a year. It's typically paid about $300 per ton. But when black plastic is added to the mix the bale becomes worthless. CSWD went 13 months without being able to sell a single bale. They finally gave it away. The solid waste district says it can't afford to take the hit. "People really want to recycle, and we really want people to recycle, and it's frustrating for us as well that we cannot recycle this effectively, efficiently and economically," Innes said.

To give you a sense of just how busy it is here, the recycling plant actually processes one and-a-half of these recycling bins every second. That's why CSWD says when customers put in non-recyclables like this black plastic it really slows down efficiency.

"And we have to pay for landfilling that material, and that's an expense that takes away money from our whole recycling program," Innes said. She says although black plastic only accounts for a half a percent of the recycling stream, picking it out by hand is not a practical solution, and saving it up to sell separately would take too long. Instead, she's asking customers to look for alternatives.
  
"The Summer Shandy and Burlington Beer has always used white," Tyler Green said.

Back in the craft brew aisle, there are options.

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