Recycling News

Dallas removes recycling bins that have been contaminated beyond all hope

Dallas removes recycling bins that have been contaminated beyond hope

Dumpster art
The city's recycling efforts included commissioning artists to paint the bins. Photo courtesy of Diane Kurzyna aka Ruby Reusable

The good news about recycling in Dallas is that by January 1, 2020, apartment complexes with 8 or more units will have mandatory recycling containers.

The not-so-good news is that, in the interim, some recycling bins have been removed, including prominent ones near downtown Dallas — an area with a lot of apartment complexes.

In times like these when people are more conscious about the environmental repercussions of their spendy consumer habits, removing recycling bins like a step in the wrong direction.

But according to those who maintain the program, the bins have two big problems:

  1. Maintenance is costly.
  2. The bins are getting screwed up by people who use them incorrectly.

For the program to work successfully, users must put in only what is officially recyclable. That includes the following:

  • Plastics levels 1-7
  • Aluminum, steel, and tin cans
  • Milk and juice cartons
  • Mixed paper (IE, magazines, newspaper, office paper, phone books)
  • Corrugated cardboard and boxboard (IE, flattened boxes and food boxes)
  • Glass jars and bottles

This seems easy enough, but unfortunately, users seem to throw in just about everything-but, making their payload impossible to recycle.

There are two ways things go bad, says Danielle McClelland, division manager at the city of Dallas Sanitation Department:

Illegal dumping, when people don't want to make the trip to the dump and use the recycling bins as dumpsters for big items like old tires, TVs, used carpet, broken furniture, lumber, and so on.

Contamination, when people do want to recycle but don't understand the parameters, and add nonrecyclable items like black bags, styrofoam, food waste, and plastic film.

"Some bins have severe levels of contamination and many are used for illegal dumping," McClelland says.

Once a bin is more than 20 percent "contaminated," it's past the point of return.

Educating users is one of the most challenging aspects of a program like this, and the city has done its share of attempts, including Art For Dumpsters, a program it launched in 2016 to help prettify the dumpsters and enlighten the masses.

For now, the city is removing bins at about two dozen locations experiencing the worst contamination and dumping, including Wagging Tail Dog Park on Keller Springs Road; North Oak Cliff at the library at 302 W. 10th St.; St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church at 3204 Skillman St.; Skivvies at 4001 Cedar Springs Rd.; and Deep Ellum at 100 S. Good Latimer Expy.

Some bins lend themselves to worse abuse than others. For example, those located in obscure spots are common receptacles for illegal dumping. The one in Deep Ellum is so centrally located that it becomes a drop-off point for questionable materials not only for businesses in the area but also for passersby.

For dedicated recycling souls, dozens of bins remain. The city has a list of dropoff locations here, or in pretty map form here.

"The city placed drop off containers as a courtesy to help provide recycling access to those without the service," McClelland says. "Initially, and for the most part, the drop off locations were intended to be used by people in condos and apartments where recycling wasn't offered."

"In recent years we've seen an abuse of the containers by people and some businesses dumping garbage and bulk trash into them - hence the removals from some locations," she says.

She also notes that locations are subject to change and removal. Once the new apartment ordinance kicks in, it's anticipated that most of the remaining bins will be removed.

"With the implementation of the recycling ordinance, there won't be a need for them," McClelland says. "Residents will be able to recycle where they live!"