Getting Familiar with CHaRMs

By Karlee Siepierski

As we look ahead in anticipation of the warmer months, I am thinking about a good spring cleaning and decluttering of everything in my home that has been put into the “I’ll deal with it later” category over winter and the busy holiday season. This includes everything from items that can’t be recycled, but I feel too guilty to throw away (hello plastic packaging), to things I have been saving for the URA’s next CHaRMs event. 

With our first CHaRMs collection right around the corner, I wanted to take this opportunity to deep dive into some of the plastic materials we do collect, and others we simply cannot accept. At all of our CHaRMs, our ultimate goal is to educate the public on the waste they can’t throw in their curbside recycling bins. We encourage all who are dropping off bags of material to stay and sort if you are able, and to engage with URA staff and volunteers. We are all on the journey to zero waste together, and there is a lot we can learn from our fellow community members.

ACCEPTED Plastic packaging

Plastic bags & films brought to a URA CHaRM
  1. Plastic grocery bags and stretchy films: what constitutes a stretchy film? If you can pick it up and stretch it out in your hand, we can accept it! We know that not all plastics are made equal, and you still may have some questions on different materials. The most common stretchy plastics include:
  • Plastic grocery bags
  • Bread bags
  • Ziploc bags (clean and free of contamination, food, or liquid)
  • Newspaper bags
  • Produce bags
  • Bubble wrap
  • Dry cleaning bags
  • Toilet paper and paper towel packaging (outer wraps that these bulk items come in)
  • Bottled water or bulk drink packaging (outer wraps that these bulk items come in)
  • Air cushions for packaging
  • Plastic cereal bags and cereal bag liners
  • Shrink wrap/cellophane
  • Those blue & white Amazon envelope mailers, or similar

Our CHaRMs volunteers take these materials to WinCo foods, where they are ultimately recycled into pellets that can make new bags, crates, containers, and even composite lumber for decks, benches, and playgrounds.

  1. Cosmetics and personal care packaging: It is often hard to avoid buying personal care items that come in mixed plastic packaging. Through our partners at the Unitarian Church, we are able to accept the below items, separated by category, and send them to be recycled with TerraCycle:
  • Clean cosmetics containers and packaging (must be clean and free of product)
  • Contact lenses and packaging
  • Hair care products and packaging (all clean bottles, caps, tubes, pumps)
  • Razors and packaging
  • Toothpaste and oral care products and packaging (tubes, toothbrushes, floss containers, packaging)

NOT ACCEPTED Plastic packaging

  1. Contaminated items: this includes any food, liquid, or foreign material. All plastics must be free of contamination! Even the smallest amount of food or liquid will cause an entire load of material to be deemed unrecyclable. If you are unsure about the quality of your material, please keep it separate from your other recyclables and ask a CHaRMs volunteer!
  1. Rigid plastics: We see a lot of small, rigid plastics that make their way to our plastics sorting tent at CHaRMs events. Please don’t bring these materials to our CHaRMs. Below is a comprehensive list of items that we have had to landfill following past CHaRMs events:
  • Food packaging such as berry containers, to-go cartons, and plastic cutlery
  • Medical and personal care waste 
  • Crinkly plastics such as chip bags, pet food bags, wet wipe bags, and string cheese wrappers (if it makes a crinkly noise when you crush it in your hand, we cannot accept it)
  • Mylar or foil balloons
  • Condiment wrappers
  • Label backing or receipts
  • Plastic items with paper stickers or tape
  1. Food and candy wrappers: Items such as power bars, candy, and anything with a foil liner inside are not accepted.

If you are still unsure about a material that you have been stockpiling or saving, reach out to us! Email us with any and all recycling questions you may have.