San Antonio issues thousands of warnings for recycling contamination

Dive Brief:

  • San Antonio's Solid Waste Management Department has issued about 2,400 warnings for residential recycling contamination since July, as reported by KSAT.
  • Residents receive two warnings — one on their carts and one in the mail — before the city issues a $25 fine on their monthly energy bill. So far 84 residents have been fined.
  • City officials take pictures of the cart's serial number, the home and the contaminating items in order to ensure no one is improperly fined for their neighbor's waste.

Dive Insight:

The department's public relations manager told KSAT that the city doesn't make any money from these fines. The funds are used to send out a special collection truck for the waste and tip it at a landfill. San Antonio's main goal is to encourage better sorting behavior and reach its 60% residential diversion rate goal.

The city's diversion rate for the 2015 fiscal year was approximately 30% due in part to these contamination issues. Local public awareness campaigns around keeping dirty diapers and garden hoses out of recycling bins have been tried before, but the problem persists. 

Recycling contamination has recently been an issue around the globe, from Florida to England. While residents may think they're doing the right thing by recycling, some items can send entire loads to a landfill and undermine these good intentions. Public education is a continuing challenge the industry has to deal with and some haulers have even started going door-to-door to get their message across.

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