Local hauler highlights recycling do's and don'ts

Jill Meier, Journal editor

Items pictured are among items that should not be tossed into recyclable bins. Submitted photo


Items pictured are among items that may be tossed into recyclable bins. Submitted photo

Jill Meier

Journal editor


When it comes to local recycling efforts, Tom Wilford gives Brandon and Valley Springs residents a high mark.

“An A minus,” says Wilford, manager/partner of Marv’s Sanitary Service in Brandon. “I feel really good about it, and that’s not just trying to puff up our people. I really feel like our customers are tuned in and by and large are doing really good. We do have a few customers who don’t recycle anything, and they don’t even try to hide the fact that they don’t. But on the whole, Brandon does a really good job, and Valley Springs, I’m going to say, does pretty good also.”

Earlier this month, Wilford teamed up with the Brandon Community Library and Millennium Recycling on the topic, “Recycling Right.” The seminar was staged to do just that. 

“It was done to clarify what they can put in their single stream recycling,” Wilford said.

While Wilford was pleased with the turnout, he said, “Ideally, you want the people who aren’t recycling right to show up, but that’s not who comes. It’s the people who are already doing a fantastic job and thinking that they should do better.” 

He said the seminar was inspired after a ban was put in place to eliminate plastic bags from recycling bins.

“For the purpose of a simple message to communicate, they just refer to grocery store bags, no plastic grocery store bags in the recycling anymore because the market for those has absolutely 100 percent disappeared,” Wilford explained.

Plastic bags, he added, also cause tremendous problems to the equipment at the recycling facility. 

“They (Millennium Recycling) can only run their equipment four days a week and every Friday they have to shut the whole line down and go through and clean out all those plastic bags, all the garden hoses, the wire coat hangers, the VHS tapes, all that stringy stuff that gets wound around because there’s rotating shafts everywhere through the whole facility,” he said.


The importance of recycling

Before folks toss an empty soda can or a plastic milk jug into the recycling container, they should know why it’s important to recycle. It’s not just to save the environment, Wilford says.

“That’s a common thing to say, ’Save the environment,’ but we can it bring a lot closer than just ‘saving the environment.’ The most immediate concern is prolonging the life of the landfill and decreasing costs at the landfill,” he said.

Brandon-based Marv’s Sanitary hauls to the Sioux Falls Sanitary Landfill, which Wilford says is projected to last into the next century. But as the area grows, the landfill’s life expectancy lessens.

“The less material we put in the landfill, the longer it’s going to last,” he informs.

Because of the landfill’s proximity to Brandon, Wilford said residents should feel “blessed.”

“There’s a lot of communities that have to drive an hour or more to a landfill,” he said. 

“If the processors don’t have to spend as much money to make the stuff usable, then they’re not going to charge as much for the stuff coming in. Millennium then doesn’t have to charge us as much to dump it, which means we don’t have to charge the consumer as much,” Wilford said.

The last rate increase for Marv’s Sanitary customers, Wilford explained, was due to the cost of dumping recycling because recyclable processing costs continue to rise.

“It costs us now more to dump a load of recycling per ton than it costs to dump trash. But just because there’s so many challenges with recycling, please don’t think that recycling is going away or that it’s something that we should draw back on. We still need to push it because we need to preserve the life of the landfill and the processing people say it is cheaper to process recyclables than it is to process raw material into different types of plastic resin and paper and so on.”

Paper, for instance, can easily be recycled back into newsprint or insulation and crushed glass is being turned into countertops.

“It actually has a very unique and appealing look,” Wilford said.

Wilford says no other landfill is better than the Sioux Falls site.

“What I see in the trade magazines, there’s not a landfill that’s run better than ours. It has to meet all these EPA guidelines, but they go beyond that,” he said. “They’re harvesting landfill gas, methane from rotting garbage and piping that out over to POET, and POET burns a lot of that. It’s a state-of-the-art landfill and very well run.”

He also advises consumers that are not willing to educate themselves on recycling protocols, to simply throw the item in the trash. 

“If you’re in doubt, throw it out,” he said.


What CAN be recycled?

Items such as paper and cardboard, plastic tubs, jugs and bottles, metal cans, glass jars and bottles are all recyclable. They must be empty and rinsed, if possible.

In the case of plastic and glass, Wilford said the caps should be left on, as the cap itself is also recycled. Plastic caps on glass bottles, however, should be thrown away.

Rinsing glass and plastic bottles and jars isn’t required, but it is helpful. 

“Things get so specific and it’s hard to communicate all that because people’s eyes just glaze over when you say it must be empty, rinsed, if possible,” he said. “If you have a jar of peanut butter, the goal is to take that plastic jar and turn it into more plastic. But you can’t turn peanut butter into plastic, so somehow that contamination has to be removed or you’ve got garbage.”

The reason that rinsing is no longer required is because the plastic processors have developed methods to deal with a certain amount of contamination. 

“If the people do their best to scrape the bottles and jars and stuff clean, then they can deal with a little residual contamination,” he explained. “I’ve seen a peanut butter jar where somebody put the spoon in it once, took out a big hunk, put the lid on it and threw it in the recycling. It’s literally 95 percent full of peanut butter and it’s in recycling.”

While glass is recyclable, it wasn’t always. Wilford said that was the result of a consistent market for glass.

“Part of it before was that glass gets broken because every garbage hauler, every recycling hauler has to compact the recyclables to make it efficient to make that transportation process efficient. A certain percentage of that glass – maybe 30 to 40 percent – of the glass gets broken when it’s compacted, so then you have broken glass spreading through all the material, which was one of the things China was complaining about having dirty commodities,” he said.

Cardboard, which is recyclable, should be broken down flat, Wilford advises. If not, 90 percent of the time, Wilford said, there will be garbage in the box.


What CAN’T be recycled?

Wilford warns just because a product has a recycling triangle on it, it may not actually be recyclable. The triangle, he adds, was never meant for public consumption or public use.

“Manufacturers wanted to create an image that they’re environmentally friendly,” he said. “But the recycling symbol does not make it recyclable. Actually, the purpose of the recycling symbol is to say, ‘This item belongs in the general category of recyclable material.’ Recycling companies, like Millennium, would say, ‘Look for this little recycling triangle.’ And if it has this number, it goes in this bin, so they created their own problem, but yet things have changed tremendously since then.”

Some of the more notable items that should not be recycled include Styrofoam, plastic bags, banding, batteries, hoses and tanglers, fabric, diapers and medical waste, plastic or wire hangers, metal car parts, plant and food waste, plastic toys and VHS tapes.

“Plastic hangers are garbage, Wilford said, “and wire coat hangers don’t belong in your recycling at home. Nothing wire belongs in there because of all the issues it causes at the recycling plant, plus that’s just not what they’re set up to recycle. Of course, wire is metal so it can be recycled, so if a homeowner wants to recycle, they need to save it have enough to bother messing with and then take it to a scrap yard scrap yard like TJN down the street.”

Seasonal items aren’t always recyclable either, Wilford warned. For instance, plastic pots in which spring flowers are purchased in, are not recyclable. 

“They are always dirty and are of a poor type of plastic,” he explained. “Re-use is the only option other than throwing them away.”

As for metal soup, vegetable, etc. cans, Wilford suggests not cutting the lid all of the way.

“Of course, there’s a safety issue with that, but the best thing to do is not to totally cut it off,” he said.

It is, however, acceptable to put the lid inside the can. “It needs to be with the can because if it’s just in the recycle bin loose, there’s a good chance that it’s going to fall through and end up where it shouldn’t be in the machinery,” he said. 

“It would be nice if people took a few minutes to educate themselves in order to recycle right, and it’s important to recycle right because the market and the industry is under so much pressure right now and has been since 2015 when China started putting a kabosh on taking recyclables,” Wilford informs.


More garbage than recyclables

Wilford said his company picks up way more trash than recyclables. His staff, he said, does not sort through recyclables before hauling them to Millennium.

“We are a collection and transportation service,” he explained. “In this area, none of the haulers have a sorting facility. … Haulers don’t go through anything with the exception if we see garbage in it, we’re going to pull it out if we can. We’ll reach in, grab it and throw it either back into people’s garbage can. It’s just incredible how many bags of dog poop and bags of diapers or single diapers you see in the recycling, but I’ll still say Brandon does a really good job, but there are some frustrations, and that’s one.”


Single family homes vs. multi-family housing

Wilford is quick to say that recycling efforts are far better in in single family homes than multi-family housing his company services. He does, however, say that the bulk of multi-family housing they service do “a real good job.”

“Typically, though, multi-family housing is terrible for recycling and it’s probably because there’s no accountability. In some of the buildings in town, there’s somebody in the one of the buildings that is passionate about it, so they take it upon themselves to sort of police it, and they’ll put up flyers around or if they see somebody putting something in the recycling they shouldn’t, they’ll talk to them and educate them. So multi-family is way better in Brandon than it used to be and much better than what a lot of haulers are dealing with in other communities,” he said.

One of the attendees at the seminar, Wilford said, is an apartment tenant, came because they’re frustrated with seeing trash in the recycling bins at their building.

“They wanted to educate themselves and see if they were on the right track,” he said. “So, they took home some materials to post around the building to try to get other people on track. The fine points of recycling are just mind numbing. There’s so many details to it and our challenge is to get people to recycle right without overloading them with information.”



The Brandon Valley Journal


The Brandon Valley Journal
1404 E. Cedar St.
Brandon, SD 57005
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