Getting Answers About Recycling
Friday, January 27, 2017 9:40 AM

Eureka Recycling’s Terese Hill answers a question.
District 10 residents Betti Iwanski and Kevin Alexander go over some of the finer points of recycling.

Nearly 40 District 10 residents turned out Jan. 25 for an energetic give-and-take with Eureka Recycling about Saint Paul’s new recycling system.
The nonprofit has handled more than 2,000 calls from residents citywide since the new cart collection system began Jan. 16, says Eureka’s Terese Hill. One frequent topic: where to place the blue cart.
Eureka’s Chris Goodwin says that, during routes this week, crews plan to return the cart to where they think it will work best. But if residents have a better idea, they should email Eureka with a photo and details of their suggestion. “We are confident that we can find a solution that will work,” Goodwin says.
If you have other specific questions about your situation, call Eureka at 651-222-7678.

  • Use that same email or phone number if your recycling has not been picked up on schedule. Give your precise location -- not just address, but the street or alley that is not being serviced, and the nearby cross streets.

Working out the bugs
Eureka crews clearly did not reach all homes during the first week of the new cart system. As a result, Goodwin says, trucks will have extra staff this week to speed things up. In addition, for pickups this week only, Eureka will take items that are bagged and placed next to the cart. (That’s Friday Jan. 27 in District 10.)
“Recycling crews are running new routes with new equipment, navigating new obstacles, and all of us are getting acquainted with new rules,” says Kris Hageman, manager of the city’s solid waste and recycling program. “This is creating delays in collection. We are asking you to hang with us while we transition into this new program.”

As crews continue to work out bugs, Goodwin all but guaranteed that drivers will get better and faster as they gain experience. As crews work through alleys – in winter – they are recommending that some pickups be moved curbside. Residents will be notified if they have to switch, he says.

Making things go smoothly
In addition, drivers are using new trucks, which have a retractable “claw” on the side to automatically grab and empty carts. (See a video on how the claw works.)
That automated process is one reason Eureka is asking residents to follow these steps to make things go more smoothly:

  • Place your cart at the alley line or curb line.
  • Make sure the handle faces away from the alley or street.
  • The lid must be closed, or mostly closed. That’s the only way to make gravity and physics work so your recycled contents stay in the cart long enough to empty into the truck, not all over the ground. At the same time, don’t pack the cart so tightly that the materials don’t fall out when the cart tips upside down.
  • Leave about 2 feet on each side of the cart so the truck’s grabber arms have room to operate. That means the cart can’t be too close to a garage, vehicle, trash container, or other obstacle.
  • Don’t leave your cart on a snowbank, behind a snowbank, behind a fence, or someplace else where the retractable claw can’t reach it.
  • Yes, you can still put paper grocery bags in your cart – with or without other recyclable materials in them.

Eurkea’s website has a FAQ sheet on other common questions and issues with the new cart system.

What about those chips?
District 10’s Environment Committee sponsored Eureka’s presentation. The event at the Como Park Streetcar Station allowed residents to share thanks, advice, complaints, and questions.
Goodwin said the RFID chips that have generated controversy and raised privacy questions are a standard technology that manufacturers have placed in carts for years. He says Eureka does not scan the chips, but uses their GPS capacity to track where carts are and if drivers have emptied them. And, yes, he says, the trucks do have cameras. But drivers use the camera feed only to make sure the cart has tipped, not to videotape the contents of the cart. Actually, he says, drivers had more access to contents when they picked up bins by hand.
In addition, Aubrey Fonfara, from Saint Paul’s Public Works department, says the city is not using the chip technology to track who does or does not recycle. “Is there any plan to enforce recycling? No,” she says.

Why things are the way they are
Residents also learned ins and outs about what happens to the stuff we throw into those carts, and why the recycling program is set up the way it is. (Here’s a slightly outdated video that gives you a behind-the-scenes look.) Some of the things you may not know:

  • Plastic caps on plastic bottles can be recycled. Plastic caps on other containers cannot.
  • #3 and #6 plastics cannot be recycled. That includes the iconic Solo cup.
  • Plastic cutlery cannot be recycled. (However, plant-based cutlery is now available that can be composted.)
  • Plastic bags can be recycled – but not through Saint Paul’s home collection system. The reason: They get tangled in Eureka’s machinery. You can recycle plastic bags by taking them to a retailer with a dedicated collection bin.
  • Black plastic food containers – regardless of what number they are – cannot be recycled.
  • Aluminum foil and foil lids (from yogurt containers, for example) can be recycled, but they must be wadded up so they are three-dimensional, not flat. Ideally, Goodwin says, save these foil wads until they are about the size of a baseball.
Mike Stoick asks a question about the new recycling system.

District 10 Como Community Council | 1224 Lexington Pkwy N, Saint Paul, MN 55103 | 651.644.3889 | district10 [at]

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