SPOKANE, Wash. -- The SMaRT Center in Spokane is being bogged down by improperly recycled Christmas lights, employees there said.
Many Christmas lights are recyclable, but they are not able to be processed by the SMaRT Center and therefore should not be placed in the blue recycle bins. Lights, along with several other items that are often seen at the center, can end up causing a lot of damage to its machinery.
"Things like the wording of 'recyclable,' the triangle [symbols], the numbers on plastic, things like that, are not regulated at a local level," said Steven Gimpel, Recycling Education and Outreach Coordinator for Waste Management. "There's a difference [between] what our machines can separate and recycle versus other places throughout the country."
Gimpel said on a minutely basis, employees at the SMaRT Center find incorrectly recycled items (called 'contamination') and throw them in the garbage before they proceed through the labyrinth of conveyor belts and machinery. However, they aren not able to catch everything, and the items they fail to grab can go on to cause a lot of damage and wasted time.
"Our biggest issue is anything that wraps," Gimpel said. "We have spinning disks that help sort our two-dimensional and three-dimensional material, so anything that wraps - -cords, plastic bags, wires, Christmas lights this time of year--are the worst things for our single stream recycling system."
The SMaRT Center (Spokane recycling) says it is being bogged down by Christmas lights being placed in blue bins. Many X-mas lights ARE recyclable, but cannot be sent to SMaRT Center. They can cause a lot of damage to the machinery. Instead, they must be taken to special centers pic.twitter.com/btQAkLUHny— Rob Harris (@KREMRob) January 5, 2018
Even in the short time KREM 2's Rob Harris was at the facility, several strands of lights went across the conveyer belt. Some were able to be retrieved, while others were not.
Every time contaminated materials get trapped in the machine, the entire process has to be stopped for twenty minutes so crews can fish it out. That is the best case scenario. These items can break the equipment, shutting it down for days or weeks.
"We really say, 'When it doubt, throw it out.' That way, we don't contaminate further our single stream recylcing," said Gimpel.