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Why did the city take your Toter?
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You set your brown and blue Toters out in the morning before you leave for work.  You come home later that day and…oops the blue one seems to be missing.  Maybe your neighbor took it by mistake.  Maybe a homeless person took it to collect cans.  Maybe the garbage man accidently dropped it in his truck.  These are all good scenarios.  You call the Solid Waste Division at 209-456-8440.  They tell you that your Blue Toter was taken, by them, on purpose.  It is no longer available to you.  It was taken because for the past few months it has been contaminated with garbage. 

The City of Manteca sends recycling to a facility in Milpitas.  Materials are put on sorting lines.  They are separated out by commodity.  The paper is pulled out and baled.  Aluminum is pulled out and baled.  Plastic is pulled out and baled.  Each commodity is then sold to a manufacturing plant.  That plant then uses the materials to make a new product.  A problem arises, however, when the recycling facility receives “garbage” instead of recycling; or garbage mixed in with the recycling.  It makes it difficult to sort out the good stuff from the bad. 

On a recent visit to the Milpitas plant I was able to see exactly what was coming in from Manteca.  Although there was some good recycling coming in from our Blue Toters and bins; there was also a lot of “garbage”.  Some things are understandable; people would think they are recyclable but in certain cases they are not.  For example:  a newspaper is recyclable.  However, a newspaper still wrapped in a plastic bag is not.  Why not?  Paper and plastic are both recyclable as long as they are separated; put them together and they are not.  Sorting facilities are not able to pull the newspaper out of the plastic bags to make them recyclable; so they become “garbage”.  Milk and juice cartons look like they should be recyclable but they are not.  They are lined with a wax coating, making them unrecyclable.  Dog and cat food bags have a similar problem.  They are two different types of materials meshed together; the outside of the bag is one type of paper and the inside is another.  This makes the bag unrecyclable. 

Plastic is another problem.  There are many different types of plastic.  The general rule of them when it comes to recycling plastic is this:  if it was once a container, it can probably be recycled.  Using that theory, hoses are not recyclable.  Plastic chairs, toys and swimming pools are not recyclable. 

Clothing, boots, shoes and textiles, although re-usable, are not recyclable.  They may be recyclable in some processes but not currently in the one we are using in Milpitas.  Old clothing and shoes should be donated to Goodwill and other such non-profit second-hand operations. 

Electronics, such as batteries, computers, TVs, radios, cables and wires are recyclable but not in your blue Toters or bins.  They can be taken to the Solid Waste Division anytime Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Fluorescent tubes and light bulbs do not belong in the recycling either.  They need to be taken to the San Joaquin County Household Hazardous Waste Facility in Stockton. 

There were two other items in Manteca’s recycling that were very prevalent.  Diapers, in no way, shape or form belong in our blue recycling Toters or bins.  They belong in the trash.  There was talk years ago of trying to recycle diapers but we do not have that program here in Manteca.  Styrofoam is the other problem.  Although some cities do have a recycling program for Styrofoam, Manteca does not.  It is a very difficult material to recycle so currently it belongs in the trash. 

We are having the same problem with our green waste Toters.  The only thing that belongs in them is:  green waste (leaves, grass cuttings, prunings, small branches etc.). These materials are taken to Valley Organics where they are chipped and put into windrows and allowed to sit and “bake” for weeks.  Eventually the material turns into very rich compost.  This compost cannot be made if the green waste is contaminated with diapers or plastic or light bulbs.

Please help Manteca keep our recycling rate up around 50% and our contamination level down below 10%.  Currently our contamination has been inching up closer to 15%.  Recycling and green waste are transported to different facilities.  Garbage at these facilities is landfilled at a much higher cost; and we have to pay for it.  In order to keep our costs down; we are pulling Toters that are contaminated with garbage on a regular basis. 

So, if you come home and find either your blue or green Toter missing ask yourself this question: “Did I throw garbage in it?”  If the answer is yes…then your Toter has probably been taken away by the Solid Waste Division; give them a call at 209-456-8440 to find out the details.