What is Contamination?

The City of Phoenix has a high rate of contamination, meaning people are putting non-recyclables in their recycling container. One common practice is putting recyclables in plastic bags and trying to recycle the plastic bags along with the recyclables. In addition, people are throwing other non-recyclable items into their recycling containers, such as diapers and yard waste.

We're talking about the recycling stream. Here in Phoenix we have a very easy recycling process called single stream which means residents can put all recyclables in one container. You may have heard of other communities where they have to sort their recyclables: paper in one container, plastics in another, etc. but not us! In fact Phoenix was one of the first major cities to use a single stream recycling process beginning in 1989. Other cities have since followed our lead, including Los Angeles, Chicago and recently New York City.

Take advantage of the fact that recycling is easy in Phoenix. Everyone gets a large 95 gallon blue recycling container and collection is weekly. But don't throw non-recyclables into your container! When you do, it contaminates the whole recycling stream. This means it slows down the recycling process. At the recycling centers (materials recovery facilities or MRFs if you want to sound like an insider), workers even have to shut down the machines to remove unrecyclable materials, especially plastic bags. Contamination also impacts recyclable items, decreasing the quality and increasing the cost to recycle them. It wastes time and money. Lots of money. In 2009, contamination cost the city an estimated $722,000.

To address our contamination challenges, the City of Phoenix and Keep Phoenix Beautiful have launched a new campaign, Recycle Clean Phoenix that highlights what is recyclable, while also pointing out the things that are NOT recyclable. Please help us and avoid contamination!