Metro and local recycling agencies are asking people to throw away plastic bags because they jam sorting machines and delay work at recycling centers.

Hillsboro Far West Recycling center pulls out about 40 tons of plastic bags and plastic wrap from its sorting machines every month, causing several delays throughout the day.

One of the Hillsboro Far West Recycling centers sorting machines had been shut down after being jammed with plastic bags and wraps. The center blocks out at least 90 minutes a day to clear out the machines. 

One of the Hillsboro Far West Recycling centers sorting machines had been shut down after being jammed with plastic bags and wraps. The center blocks out at least 90 minutes a day to clear out the machines. 

Monica Samayoa/OPB

The company’s Outreach manager Vinod Singh said his crew blocks out at least 90 minutes a day to clear out the machines.

“Even with people pulling that off, it still hides in the materials. A plastic bag can hide under paper, then it gets in our screens, binds the system up and makes them less efficient to sort the material,” Singh said.

Singh said there isn’t a market in the Pacific Northwest for recycling these plastics. The closest facility is in Nevada.

“If we had a home, we would try to feed that home, but we don’t even have a home for it. So we’re just pulling it off and it’s ending up in the landfill,” Singh said. “That’s the worst way to throw it away, is to put it in the recycle bin.”

Apart from not having a local facility that accept these plastics, they also have to be dry and clean.

“By clean, I mean both free of contaminants such as food, dirt and labels and not mixed with materials like cellophane and Mylar, which people often think are the same thing but are actually very different materials,” Metro’s recycling specialist Patrick Morgan said. “You can imagine how difficult it is to obtain a good clean, dry stream of plastic bags in uncontrolled circumstances.”

As a result, to help inform the community Metro has launched a website called Recycle or Not.

It’s designed to educate the community about the best recycling practices, so recycling centers can operate more efficiently.

Morgan said people tend to recycle items based on their looks without knowing what exactly they are made of.

“There’s a lot more to recycling than just the number. How that plastic is formed, what additives are put into it that can also influence it. So, we try to create good clean messaging to saying yes or no, this can be put in your bins,” Morgan said.

He hopes the website and their Instagram page will help clear up the confusion and help reduce the amount of plastic bags and wraps sent to recycling agencies.