Lewes residents need to ramp up recycling efforts

Tolerance for contamination cut in half
September 19, 2020

Lewes residents will need to improve recycling habits in order to avoid costly bills for the city.

City Manager Ann Marie Townshend said she was recently notified by Republic Services, a waste disposal company that receives the city’s recycling, that 90 percent of material collected must be recyclable as of Sept. 14. The company previously accepted up to 20 percent of material that’s considered contaminates – trash or nonrecyclable items included with a load of recyclables.

If a load exceeds the new 10 percent contamination threshold, Townshend said, the entire load will be rejected and sent to the landfill. The city is also charged a $75-per-ton tipping fee for rejected loads; it is not charged tipping fees for loads within the contamination tolerance.

“In addition to recyclables going to the landfill, it also becomes a budget issue for us,” Townshend said.

The biggest problem continues to be plastic bags, she said. Recyclables must be placed loose in a bin; any recyclables in plastic trash bags will be removed and sent to the landfill. Other common problems are grocery store plastic bags, pizza boxes, shredded paper, frozen food boxes, and water or soda bottles with liquid inside.

Townshend said she believes Lewes residents do pretty well overall with recycling, but the lower tolerance for contaminates requires more awareness.

Mayor Ted Becker said the city’s streets department staff does a good job of monitoring recycling as it is picked up. If staff encounters a problem, he said, they often contact the resident or leave a slip of paper on the recycling bin to educate about recycling dos and don’ts. 

To learn more about recycling in Delaware, go to

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