Pictured above are the bins with their new signage. (Putnam Sentinel/Alex Woodring)
Pictured above are the bins with their new signage. (Putnam Sentinel/Alex Woodring)
By Alex Woodring
Staff Writer
awoodring@putnamsentinel.com

OTTAWA - The recycling bins in Putnam County have undergone changes in order to maintain free recycling rather than a "pay as you throw" program. The free recycling is dependant on the changes and county residents' compliance to those changes.

The Putnam County Commissioners were told in December they were going to have to take the glass out of the co-mingle bin that had been available. The co-mingle bin accepted both glass, plastic and metals all in one. At that time they were told that this would be one of many changes the recycling industry will face in the future.

"Recyclers are getting more picky about how they receive materials and are starting to reject loads that will not be profitable for them to process," said Community Recycling Coordinator Ashley Siefker. "The County Recycling Program is trying to be proactive and get our residents used to separating their recyclables further than they had been for this reason."

According to Siefker, if bins become too contaminated with mixed materials, recycling centers will not take the materials which will force them to be taken to a landfill which requires a fee.

"We are trying to move the county forward and grow the program while trying to keep the program free to our residents," said Siefker, speaking for herself and the commissioners. "Having just got a new baler, we're able to eventually bale most, if not all, of what is recycled in our county. This will increase revenue to go back into the program for operation and will keep disposal costs down making for a successful program that can remain free to residents." The updated bins are as follows:

-Food containers - plastic only

-Food containers - metal only

-Clear colored glass only

-Green colored glass only

-Brown, black, yellow and blue glass only

-Paper only Broken down cardboard only

With the new bins, cost of recycling will stay low and be easier for recycling centers to accept the recyclables. A big change to the sign is a list of what cannot go into bins whereas the old signs listed only what could go into signs.

"We wanted to make it as clear as possible for people," said Siefker.

Another change is that glass will only be able to be recycled at Walmart and no longer available with mobile sites. Plastic, metal, cardboard and paper will still be available.

Siefker was quick to stress the importance on residents' compliance.

"This all depends on the residents of our county and them put ting their recyclables correctly into the bins," said Siefker. "They determine whether our pins are accepted. I just hope that people will please read the new and colorful signs that are on the front of all of the bins which indicate what can and what cannot be put in specific bins."

Though recyclables were disposed of improperly in the past, Siefker is hopeful the new signs will go a long way in reversing the trend.

"We know we will never get 100 percent but we hope now we get close," said Siefker. "People may not realize it, but when they dispose improperly, it is their tax dollars that will pay for it.

Siefker's hope with these changes is to have a purer product and to put the new baler to good use.

According to Siefker and the commissioners, if the rules and changes are not complied with, they may be forced to take drastic measures and possibly go to a 'Pay as you Throw' program where residents will be charged a fee to properly dispose of their recyclables during restricted times. This would be so the bins can be monitored and money exchanged.

"While this is not the wish of the commissioners, it may be a reality if the abuse of the free program continues," said Siefker.

In order to help with confusion, the angle of the bins will be changed.

"With how they are now, people cannot see the signs when they pull in," said Siefker. "We will turn them so the signs are visible when pulling in."

The commissioners and Siefker also want to encourage anyone with questions to please call their office before they dispose of their recyclables.

"Asking beforehand makes for a smoother process," said Siefker. "We also have a website, www.putnamcountyrecycles.com, that can answer questions you may have.

"We also encourage residents to report illegal dumping to our office any time by calling 419-523-3656. If the office is closed then a message can be left. Please leave the day, time, location, make, model, license plate and what was dumped in your message and we will do our best to report this to the necessary authorities."