Cambrian: Opinion

Blue or gray? Recycle or waste — or 'hazmat'?

A bit ago, I posted on a popular social media site a link to an article about the fate of our recycling efforts. I contacted our local company, Mission Country Disposal, to follow up. The original piece I’d read stated that much of what some of us so painstakingly separate and save is discarded. Here’s what I found out about San Luis Obispo County’s service.

I spoke with the very friendly and helpful, Patty Toews, of Integrated Waste Management Authority. After informing her of my online readings and my anal nature for patrolling everyone’s bins when I do janitorial services, she basically told me, “It changes all the time!”

“Recyclables are a commodity, meaning they will be sorted or used only depending on what the market will bear. It may be different in different parts of the country or some countries may want a material or not we just never really know from one month to the next!”

That said, she explained how in this county our blue bin materials go to Cold Canyon Landfill Recovery Center. “You can take a tour and see for yourself how it works!” she offered. I remember my boys took field trips there in grammar school. Brilliant idea. “There, they do hand sorting as well as use blowers, magnets and electronic eyes to complete the separation of materials. They are then bailed and shipped off for reuse.”

Use your blue bins for the following: Paper, metal, plastic containers and glass.

What NOT to put in? “While we say to just put in as much as possible, we do ask to refrain from anything with food all over it (like goopy paper plates or sticky plastic wrap), diapers or liquids. Dry stuff is okay, goopy stuff is not.” Add to that list: broken mirrors, tiles, broken glass or light bulbs and, obviously, hazardous waste LIKE light bulbs, paints and oil.

Ms. Toews reminded me that stores that sell hazardous materials such as batteries and fluorescent tubes will take them back for recycling. The county then comes around and picks them to send in the proper direction. “Some paints can be collected and used in anti-graffiti efforts and other such projects. If it’s clean enough it can also be given to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity.”

Medications may be taken to the sheriff’s station (didn’t know that! Our closest station is the Coast Station at 2099 10th St. in Los Osos; call 528-6083 for details) and there are various electronics pick-up spots around the area, such as Cambria’s Computer Club, which collects at the Cambria Farmers Market the last Friday of each month. At the Morro Bay Wastewater Plant there is a hazardous waste collection site that takes anything of that nature every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is free, up to a limit (15 gallons or 125 pounds).

Check out the Integrated Wasted Management Authority website at for a complete listing of recycling guidelines and venues.

Worthy mantra: reuse. Even better: REDUCE!

Remember, because of that “commodity” factor, certain materials may be more valuable some times than at other times, so may or may not be recycled or reused. So, let’s keep it out of the system all together!