Due to the city facing issues with recycling materials being rejected at the recycling center due to a high contamination rate, Denison is looking for ways to improve its recycling program and ensure more loads are not sent to the landfill instead of the recycle center.

Denison Assistant Public Works Director Carrie Jones said though the city has been seeing about a 50 percent participation in the program, there is a high rate of contamination.

“We received information from the recycling vendor there were two routes this week completely contaminated,” Jones said. “(They) had to be taken to the landfill. We are helping educate customers what the consequences of doing it wrong are. We are really trying to get the information out there.”

The city partners with Waste Connections Texoma to provide the service and the company provides a 50 gallon cart for every resident in the city along side the trash can. The company picks the items up every other week and then takes it to the recycle center in McKinney.

Waste Connections Texoma Site Manager Hilmar Bobadilla said the biggest problem with a contaminated load is it makes the whole process more costly for the company. He said recycling used to be a profitable venture and now, with the state of the market and the increasing number of people putting garbage in their loads, the prospect is operating as a loss for most cities, including Denison.

Bobadilla said the load becomes contaminated when items that do not belong are found in the cart. He said the carts are taken to a sorting facility but there are some things which can’t be sorted easily or efficently.

The main items to avoid are aluminum foil, batteries, household hazardous waste, milk cartons, Styrofoam, tissue paper, wax paper and any regular garbage.

“When you have a high level of contamination it creates more cost and effort to clean the recyclables,” Bobadilla said. “The only issue we are having right now is being more costly. Keeping unacceptable items out of the bin will help. We are appealing to the residents. If they can help us it would be better for everyone. To eliminate contamination would benefit the public at large.”

Jones said the city provides the service to every resident as long as they have trash and water service, they are provided the recycling service.

“Since the program started we have not seen the participation we hoped for,” Jones said. “We are trying to educate customers how to recycle properly.”

Recently Sherman began making changes to its program in an effort to ensure the city was sending cleaner loads with less contamination to the center.

Sherman Community and Support Services Director Nate Strauch said the Sherman program is handled entirely by the city. He said the city picks up the carts and sends the loads to the recycling center itself.

Jones said Denison doesn’t have the same issues Sherman had because hey use a private firm who’s business hasn’t been as affected by the market changes. She said the primary concern with the city is if the contamination issue keeps up the city runs the risk of losing the contract.

Denison Director of Community Engagement Sunny Mackey heads up Keep Denison Beautiful, a partner organization in Keep Texas Beautiful. She said the only way the city can improve the problem is through educating citizens and encourage more sustainable participation.

“We want people to know it is a mandatory program but there are many benefits to it,” Mackey said. “It can be overwhelming. We are here to be a resource to help people. There are easy ways to start. Just doing newspaper or cardboard to start out. If people would five it a try they could see the decrease in contamination and the amount of trash they are sending to the landfill.”

Mackey said if people want to recycle properly the city is there to provide information to help them out.

“We are looking for ways to improve,” Mackey said. “It is a big job. Different cities are doing different strategies.”

Mackey said the most common items the city finds that can contaminate the load are cardboard pizza boxes and take-out food containers, number six plastics and plastic grocery bags.

What do you think of the Denison recycling program? Let Herald Democrat Denison Area Report Richard A. Todd know by emailing rtodd@heralddemocrat.com