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Recycle! Recycling Information

Waste Reduction, Recycling, and Enforcement

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Recycling Articles

September 2011: Household Chemical Collection (HHW) Program
September 2011: What Happens to my Recyclables?
September 2011: Why Recycle?
September 2011: Recycling and the Economy

Household Chemical Collection (HHW) Program

Permanent Household Hazardous Waste Collection Update

The Saint Louis County Department of Health, in order to better serve the residents of the county, is developing a network of permanent household hazardous waste (HHW) drop-off locations that will be open on a routine schedule. Due to the many agencies and partners involved in this regional program, we have experienced some delays in starting construction of our first facility. By November 2011, we should be awarding the contract for constructing the facility which should take several months to complete. So, once we’ve determined the construction schedule, we’ll have a better estimate of the opening date.

Therefore, to conserve our limited funding, we are unable to offer collection events in Fall 2011.

To make the permanent program the most cost-effective, user-friendly, and convenient program possible, the new program has the following changes:

Solid Waste Management A reservation system to allow residents to schedule drop-off appointments to bring in materials to fit their busy schedules. This system will be accessed through a regional and educational website that is currently under development. Residents without computer access will be able to call to make a reservation.

Solid Waste Management Allowing up to 50 pounds (excluding latex paint) of hazardous material to be dropped off at no charge for each reservation. This helps ensure equitable service to our residents, improve program sustainability, and hopefully encourage residents to reduce the amount of HHW that they create!

Solid Waste Management Providing a low-cost recycling program for latex paint. Latex paint is not considered a hazardous material. There are multiple options for leftover paint-from reuse to drying the paint out for disposal in the regular trash. Residents who wish to recycle latex paint can continue to do so through the HHW program by covering the cost for recycling.

Don’t Make Waste in the First Place!


Since the inception of our HHW collection program, 9,498,085 pounds of HHW has been collected at an average cost of $52.00 per household participating. It doesn’t have to be this way. With proper planning, much of leftover HHW can be avoided by following these guidelines:

1. Buy only as much of a product as needed and use products up entirely when possible.

2. Store properly to maintain products in useable condition.

3. Share or swap leftovers with others who can use them.

4. Recycle whenever you can. Our document Management Options for Common Household Hazardous Wastes provides information on local recycling outlets for many of the materials frequently received at our one-day collection events.

Please visit this site for updates on the status of the permanent HHW program or call the Department of Health Information line at (314) 615-8989.

What Happens to my Recyclables?

Simply put, the items that you recycle get made into new goods. The expression ‘closing the loop’ refers to the acts of recycling goods and buying goods made with recycled content in them.

There are several steps involved in this process. Your hauler picks up the recyclables and takes them to a recycling processing center or recycling plant. Here, there is an assortment of automated sorting equipment, such as electrostatic separators, as well as manual hand sorters to help minimize trash and ensure efficiency. The single stream recyclables go through several sorting processes until they are sorted respectively into plastics, paper, cardboard, and aluminum. There are little recovery systems in place for glass.

After the items are sorted they are baled into piles that can be sold as scrap product. When paper is sorted and baled, it is sold to primarily Asian markets as “mixed paper” meaning there are various types of paper in that bale. Scrap prices differ depending on market fluctuations. Typically, scrap aluminum and metal is the most profitable for recycling centers.

After the bales are purchased, they are broken down and made into new products. Some products, like aluminum, can be recycled without original ore, however all products require chemical or material inputs to maintain product integrity. Aluminum, after being baled and chipped, will be melted into molten aluminum and sold as product again. Glass chips or ‘cullet’ often use small amounts of virgin sand, silica or limestone in the re-melting process. Most products need a combination of raw product and recycled product. Glass can be recycled forever, since the components of glass don’t readily break down. In fact, most glass bottles and jars contain at least 25% recycled glass. Paper can be recycled 15 times before the wood fibers lose functionality. Plastics, although they account for most of the United States recycling stream, are much more difficult to recycle due to the different molecular components. Almost always, the plastic that is recycled will be turned into a different type of plastic product in the end. Plastics are made from around 70% natural gas, so it is always more beneficial to recycle.

Sorting Recycleable Material

Sorting of recyclables

Melting Plastic

Recycled plastic being
melted for manufacture

Products made from metal are almost always used from recycled metals since the cost to extract and make new product is very high. In fact, you can make approximately 20 recycled aluminum cans with the energy it takes to make one new can from bauxite ore.

Plastics can be made back into things like plastic lumber, carpet, fleece, or bottles again. It is extremely energy efficient to manufacture aluminum products from recycled goods but extremely energy intensive to recycle glass. The different values and costs associated with remaking products from recycled goods account for the steady costs of recycling to residents and those costs associated with transportation.

Why Recycle?

It’s easy!

With single stream recycling now a part of your routine trash service, it’s never been simpler and more convenient. Paper goods, plastics #’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, &7 and aluminum and steel products can all be easily recycled in one cart.

Saves our natural resources!

By reusing our goods, we lessen our environmental impact on our natural resources. By recycling ‘1 ton of steel, you conserve 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone.’i In fact, by purchasing goods made from recycled materials you can save on oil consumption. A car made from recycled aluminum is lighter than raw steel and therefore uses less gasoline to power and emits less pollution.

Saves landfill space!

By recycling the goods that you would traditionally toss, you are diverting waste away from landfills and preventing the need for landfill expansions. By recycling ‘1 ton of paper, you are saving 3.2 cubic yards of landfill space’.ii Products like glass that never wear out and can be recycled over and over again can ‘take over 1 million years to decompose in our landfills.’iii

Saves money!

Increasing recycling can help save your community the costs associated with landfills. The recycling rates for paper, plastics and aluminum are small, ‘only 9% for plastics’iv compared to the costs of sending recyclables to landfills.

Creates jobs!

Recycling of consumer goods and materials recovery recycling is responsible for a hike in job opportunities. Recycling creates more jobs than landfills do. ‘On a per-ton basis, sorting and processing recyclables alone sustain 10 times more jobs than landfilling or incineration’.v In fact, locally, the recycling and reuse industry employees nearly 16,000 people in the Saint Louis

Saves energy!

The recycling and reusing of products is much less energy intensive than creating goods from virgin materials. In fact, ‘recycling aluminum saves 90-95% of the energy used to make aluminum from bauxite ore.’vii Items like plastics and glass save anywhere from 40-70% more energy.

Creates less pollution!

Recycling generates less air and water pollution than making products from raw materials. ‘Making paper from recycled materials results in 74% less air pollution and 35% less water pollution’ to our environment.viii In addition, 86 % of non-compliant landfills are currently leaking toxic materials into lakes, streams and aquifers.ix

iSteel Recycling Institute, 2003 from (Eco-Facts 2004)

iiTrash to Cash from (Recycling and Environmental Facts)

iiiCalifornia Department of Conservation. (Eco-Facts 2004)

ivEnvironmental Protection Agency, 2000 (Eco-Facts 2004)

vWaste to Wealth.

viSTLOUISCO Recycling Newsletter

viiWindstar Institute. (Eco-Facts 2004)


ixEPA, 2003. (Eco-Facts 2004)

Recycling and the Economy


Many people know that recycling saves natural resources, energy, and landfill space. But not as many realize that recycling is good for our local economy. Recycling helps the economy by extending the life of resources in the local area. Instead of having resources go straight to landfills where they are buried, recycling allows them to take on a second life as a new product. Jobs are created to sort, remanufacture, and sell the recycled materials. If we send 1,000 tons of resources to the landfill, we create 2.5 jobs. That same 1,000 tons recycled creates 5 jobs.i


Almost 16,000 people are employed in 1,500 local recycling businesses throughout the Saint Louis Metropolitan area. These diverse businesses are all involved in the collection and processing of recycled materials, their salvage and reuse, or manufacturing new products from recycled materialsii. Examples include material recovery facilities, salvage and resale shops, educational organizations, compost facilities, and recycling drop-off centers. This recycling industry is a major contributor to the Saint Louis metropolitan area’s economy. As recycling grows in popularity and this industry expands, new jobs and opportunities will also arise. For more information, you can view a study on the local recycling industry conducted by University of Missouri for the St. Louis Jefferson Solid Waste Management District at: