JEFFERSON — There are many ways people can honor Earth Day — today and every day — according to Jefferson County Solid Waste/Clean Sweep Coordinator Caitlin McAleavey.
"A simple one is recycling properly," McAleavey said.
McAleavey urged people to contact their waste and recycling haulers to get a full list of what can and cannot be recycled.
"Each waste hauler or transfer station accepts different materials, which can sometimes make recycling confusing," she said. "But there are a few things everyone can do to make sure materials that go into the recycling bin actually get recycled."
She said these include always keeping recyclable materials loose in the home bin.
"Never bag them up," she said. "And always give glass jars, metal cans, plastic containers and cartons a quick rinse before putting them into the bin. They do not have to be spotless, but minimize as much food residue as possible."
McAleavey advised that people should never put electronics, medications, sharps/needles, appliances, batteries, or hazardous household waste into their recycling bin.
"For these items, contact your waste hauler or the Jefferson County Solid Waste Department for information on how to safely dispose of them," she said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has everyone getting more items delivered to their homes than ever before and McAleavey provided tips on where to dispose of the extra waste home deliveries often bring.
"Always flatten cardboard boxes before putting them into the bin and keep the lid closed on the bin to make sure the cardboard doesn't get wet," she said. "Sealed, plastic air-pillow packaging should be placed in the trash, along with any plastic grocery and shopping bags. They get tangled in the recycling sorting equipment, causing damage and forcing the entire line to shut down to remove them. Consider taking them to the grocery store, or big box store, that has specially designed bins for recycling plastic film."
Plastic take-out containers can only be recycled if they are completely free of food waste and residue.
"If people are able to get them clean, recycle them," McAleavey said. "If not, then throw them in the trash."
She said pizza boxes should be thrown away automatically, because food residue contaminates otherwise clean recyclables and styrofoam inserts in packages or styrofoam take-out containers should be thrown away in the trash.
McAleavey said COVID-19 has more people tackling home improvement and cleaning projects this year. Jefferson County Solid Waste has electronics and hazardous household waste "take back" events for all Jefferson County residents, farms and businesses.
"If someone has electronics, appliances or lawn equipment to dispose of, they should call their waste hauler to arrange a special pick-up, or mark their calendars for our upcoming fall events," McAleavey said.
These events include: Sept. 2 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Jefferson County Fair Park for electronics, appliances, lawn equipment recycling; Sept. 17 from 3 to 5:30 p.m., with another to follow there on Sept. 18 from 8 to 10 a.m. and Oct. 1 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Whitewater Public Works Complex.
All Hazardous Household Waste Clean Sweeps require pre-registration and have a $10 fee, per car. Call 920-674-7430 to register, or go to the Jefferson County website for more information.
McAleavey said members of the public should call Jefferson County Solid Waste at 920-674-7430 to get answers to any questions on what can or cannot be recycled or if they have a specialty item to dispose of.
"We're here to help," she said.
In Watertown, Stacy Winkelman, office manager at the city's streets and solid waste department, said people should remember to recycle all paper products, including paper plates, even if they are soiled. She said that, in Watertown, all glass products are recyclable, no matter the color or thickness, as are plastic materials numbered 1-7.
"People should remember to recycle all electronic items, no matter how small they are," she said.
In 2020, the City of Watertown recycled 3,010 ton of mixed recyclable material that was picked up at curbside and 76,760 pounds of electronics. It also recycled 780 large appliances. These included air conditioning units, dehumidifiers, dishwashers, dryers, freezers, microwaves, refrigerators, stoves, washers, water coolers and water heaters.
Watertown Wastewater Treatment Plant Manager Pete Hartz said that his staff treats every day like Earth Day.
"It's our duty to protect the waters we use for drinking and everyday living, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day," he said.
Hartz's colleagues at the water department added that, for Earth Day this year, they are promoting a "Drink From the Tap" campaign.
"It's cheaper, safe and locally sourced," they said.