Flower Mound has a better grasp on how to properly recycle than other North Texas communities.

That's according to a recycling audit spearheaded last year by Republic Services.

Jeri Harwell, municipal services manager for Republic Services, recently updated the Flower Mound Town Council on the audit, which she said is an important step in educating residents about the importance of proper recycling.

Republic Services and trash/recycling companies are encouraging residents to make sure items they recycle are empty, clean and dry. This comes as China, which at one point imported 40 percent of the world's recycling products, decreased the amount of contamination levels it would accept from 3 percent to 0.5 percent.

For one week in July and another week in August, a third-party company hired by Republic Services conducted an audit of how residents are doing with its recycling.

Brand ambassadors examined recycle carts located along 10 routes in Flower Mound and left “oops” tags on carts that had contaminated items and “thank you” tags on those that were in compliance. The “oops” tag included a list of items that should not be in the cart.

Harwell said 61 percent of residents received an “oops” tag in wave 1, and 50 percent received one in the second wave.

“We call that an 11-percent improvement, which is a good thing,” Harwell said.

In addition, Harwell said of the 10 routes that were audited there was a decrease in contamination from 20 percent to 15 percent.

“I'm glad to report that Flower Mound's 20 percent was way below average,” Harwell said. “The average is 35 percent. So I'm glad to see that Flower Mound started out a little cleaner than some of the communities around us.”

The audit provided a metric for the effort.

“Yard waste and pizza boxes seem to be our biggest issues,” Harwell said.

Harwell said while grocery store plastic bags are accepted, she said there is not a market for them. So those get taken out of the recycle stream and are donated to nonprofits.

Harwell said the audit revealed some of the misconceptions about recycling, such as not knowing the importance of keeping contaminated items out of the carts.

“One wrong thing going into the truck and contaminate the entire load,” Harwell said.

Harwell presented data on the recycling habits of those in the audit routes. Generally the younger the residents the more they recycled, Harwell said.

Going forward, Harwell said Republic Services plans to improve on its communication about recycling efforts and audits.

Harwell said the recycling climate continues to decline and that it's important to watch the recycle market to stay on top of possible changes.

“The mixed paper, which is your mail and office paper, three months ago it was $20 per ton, and last month it was $5,” Harwell said. “And we're going to continue to see that.”

She said for now Republic Services is still accepting glass items, even though some companies have taken those out of their recycling streams.

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