Important information about Single-Stream recycling in Connecticut, and how to recycle Electronic waste and thin-film plastics

Single Stream recycling

Sustainable Essex toured the new Materials Recovery Facility in Berlin. This facility sorts single-stream recycling into pure materials that are then baled and sold for production into new materials. They sort over 50 tons of material per hour.

Video showing the new facility and a customer

Please see for the most comprehensive list of things that should and shouldn’t go into single stream recycling. We have a summary below. From a personal level, we were shocked at the number of diapers, thin-film plastics, and VCR tapes there were. The VCR tape gets stuck in the machinery. The diapers were the only thing that smelled in the whole facility. Thin-film plastic can be recycled as in the section below. There were two things the facility asked us to educate in our communities.

  1. Anything bagged is immediately thrown away. DO NOT BAG YOUR RECYCLABLES. If you bag them in the house or at a party, dump out the bag into your recycling bin. The few employees that actually hand-sort are instructed not to open any bags for their safety, and since a plastic bag is a contaminant in the waste stream, it goes in the trash, full or empty.
  2. Any batteries are a contaminant in the waste stream, and are dangerous for the workers at the facility. They can catch on fire due to the processing of the materials. It is one of the first things the hand-sort employees are looking for, in addition to other contaminants. In Essex, alkaline batteries can be recycled at Town Hall or at the Transfer Station. All other electronic waste can be recycled at the Transfer Station

Thin-Film Plastics

Thin-film plastics, such as what plastic grocery bags are made of, can be recycled. However, they DO NOT GO IN YOUR SINGLE-STREAM RECYCLING. They get tangled in the machinery that you can see in the MRF video above.

You, dear Essex resident, can recycle your thin film plastic in two ways. First, you can take your plastic to any grocery store with a redeemable bottle/can site and deposit your plastic in the clearly-marked bin for plastic bags. Adams in Deep River, Big Y in Old Saybrook, and S&S in Old Saybrook all have such bins. Alternatively, we have tried to make it as easy as possible for you to recycle plastic by putting bins at the Essex and Ivoryton Libraries. Volunteers then pick up the bulk plastic and take it to a grocery store.

Please see the below resource for what can and cannot be recycled.

Here is a website with the complete list.

Sustainable Essex, Deep River, and Chester members toured the Berlin MRF and are pictured here in front of bales of sorted recyclable materials.

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