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Joe Breazeale carries his bag of plastic bags back to his car after finding out he can't drop them off at the Ashland Recycling Center anymore. [Photo by John Darling]

Ashland Recycling Center cans bag drop-off

ASHLAND — Dismayed resident toted their loads of plastic bags back home — to go into the trash — after the Ashland Recycling Center on Water Street told them such stuff is no longer accepted.

Plastic bags have been “the nuNo. 1 offender” in curbside recycling bins for a long time because they jam sorting machines, but the recycling center has been able to ship them off for melting down and turning into sellable pellets, says Jamie Rosenthal, Waste Zero Specialist with Recology Ashland. No longer.

In early December, because of “heightened recycling restrictions (and) our finding out that the company that accepts our soft plastic film no longer had anywhere for it to go to be recycled,” the center stopped accepting plastic bags.

However, the center will still take "hard plastic" bottles and tubs, such as yogurt containers, said center manager Tim Church, adding that plastic recycling is “in a downward spiral.”

Hauling his large sack of plastic bags away after his hopes to drop them off were dashed, Joe Breazeale said, “China and India just aren’t taking it anymore, and we’re just using too much of it. It’s everywhere, like for packing rolls of toilet paper, bird seed, everything. They need to come up with biodegradable wrapping. I have no choice but to put this stuff in the trash now.”

Contractor Ian Wessler, who was bringing masses of plastic from a building site, said, “I’m totally bummed. I really work hard to wash plastic and recycle everything. Now it’s going in the trash.”

In the big picture, if it’s not recycled, Wessler adds, “the big concern is it ends up in the oceans. If you snorkel, you descend into this massive cloud of plastic and it’s heartbreaking, soul-rending, also scary.”

As for how to address the need of filmy produce bags, Wessler said he is putting veggies in his cloth market bag at the store, then popping them into used produce bags at home.

“You can clean and re-use them 10 times before tossing them,” he notes. Much plastic, styrofoam and other packaging is avoided, he said, by shopping locally instead of online. “It starts with consumers. Dollars talk.”

Putting plastic bags back in her car at the recycling center, Tilly Gibbs said, “It’s a shame so much food comes in plastic. It hurts me to have been collecting it to recycle, and now there’s no place for it. Manufacturers should make some effort not to package in plastic. It’s all going out in the middle of the ocean. I would be willing to pay extra for something nonplastic.”

All is not lost, however, says Rosenthal. “If the idea of tossing soft plastic into the trash is too troubling for residents to bear,” they can still recycle plastic bags at Albertsons Market in the Tolam Creek Shopping Centerand, in Talent at Ray’s Food Place.

Electronics can no longer be accepted at Ashland Goodwill, but are welcome at other Goodwill stores in the region, as well as at the Valley View Transfer Station, Rosenthal added.

— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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