What numbered plastics can you recycle? How do you properly dispose of batteries? How about fluorescent lights? What about Styrofoam?
You might think you know the answers to these and other recycling related questions, but Brita Sailer, Cass County recycling education coordinator, said recycling standards are changing, and you might benefit from a refresher course on the three R’s.
“You really do have to adapt to make sure you are up to speed,” Sailer said.
Sailer will offer just such a course at the seventh annual Back to Basics Sustainability Fair, which will run from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, at the Pine River-Backus School. Sailer’s workshop, “Recycle That, Too!” is meant to educate people about the changes happening in the world of recyclables.
“We used to tell them just 1 and 2 (plastics). Well, that’s not true anymore. We can throw everything in, but plastics have different recipes,” Sailer said. “Think of it like making cookies. There are lots of white powders that go into making cookies ... but you can’t interchange them.”
Sailer, a former Minnesota House of Representatives member, owns Sailer Environmental Consulting, contracts with Cass County and was an essential part in making Minnesota the first state with legislation to handle disposal of electronic waste. Her business experience, as well as her legislative experience, has made her an expert on recycling.
Sailer’s workshop will educate people on why batteries are now more disposable than ever, how to dispose of electronic devices once they fail, and what happens to your soda bottles once the soda is gone. She will do this by showing examples of recyclable products in most stages of recycling, from the sorting stage, to the packaging stage, to the breaking down stage, and finally in the repurposing stage.
The workshop will mostly be dedicated to explaining what should be recycled and how, as well as why. Sailer will even inform audiences how your neighbor’s unused paint, cleaning supplies and other approved products can translate into free products for you.
Sailer will discuss not only what has changed, but also what is going to change in the future. Landfills are one of the least favored disposal methods, but Sailer said traditional opinions of landfills are changing as it is discovered that they can be dug up for the resources disposed of in the past.
“We are going to be digging up our landfills, probably in the not-too-distant future because landfills are full of copper and all sorts of valuable materials. Even aluminum,” she said. “Making aluminum uses so much energy.”
So, if you didn’t know that alkaline batteries can now be disposed of in a traditional waste basket, that Styrofoam is actually recyclable but is still not accepted at your local recycling plant, that there are some things that can be recycled but shouldn’t be, and that landfills are actually full of buried treasure, then chances are you could benefit from Sailer’s workshop.