LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Within the last month, the City of Lufkin's recycling program was on the chopping block, but the city voted unanimously to keep the program and raise the solid waste fee by $1. The city will vote one more time to decide if the program is permanently here to stay, but there are improvements needed to ensure the public is recycling right.
"If someone were to come through here and see some of the things that come across the line," said Eddie Pepper, the director of Recycle Center. "It wouldn't take them long to figure out that there are a lot of people that aren't quite doing it the way they should."
According to a recent EPA report, on average, Americans produces 254 million tons of trash in one year, and recycled 87 tons of this material. With the Lufkin program at risk of contributing less to that material, the recycle center said they have taken steps to prevent people from improperly using the recycle bin.
"We really will have to buckle down harder on that zero-tolerance policy to get people to understand that we can't have this; it costs money. It could be unhealthy. It could cause a lot of problems," Pepper said.
The zero-tolerance policy means taking away bins when people misuse them, which means this takes away their ability to recycle at all.
The center collects the waste in a pile that is sent through a conveyor belt, and many people may think that machines are used to sift through and separate the recycled materials from the trash. However, it's people sorting through bit by bit.
"Those guys up there, they have a pair of gloves on, but they aren't protected any further," Pepper said. "They find needles. We have a big problem with knives, broken glass, and those kind of things can become a problem."
If you own your own blue recycle bin and ever debate whether something is meant to go inside there is a sticker on the top of every lid to inform users of the guidelines.
"Anything that is not on that list should not be placed in that container, and it sounds simple, but for some reason a lot of people struggle with placing the correct thing in their bins," Pepper said.
Workers have come across many dirty diapers, old lunch meat, and even tricycles and they said those are some of the easier ones to deal with. Knives and other safety hazards constantly keep them on high alert.
"I just want the public to know that when they do this improperly, it affects more than they believe," Pepper said.
The things that are accepted include cardboard, newspaper, magazines, aluminum cans, steel cans, plastic water bottles, and jugs, but for a full list of the city's recycling guidelines, you can visit their website here.