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Awards Submission: The Big Blue Bin

Following the Path of Cape Cod's Recycling

Disruptions to international recycling markets have been widely reported, leading many to wonder how well our local recycling is working. 

Our series examines the four major household recycling streams – cans, glass, paper, and plastic – to discover how much of what we toss into the big blue bin is really being recycled, and at what cost.  

In addition to the four series stories, the audio above includes an excerpt from our hour-long call-in program, as we discuss the series and take listeners' calls and emails with comments and questions.

WCAI also produced this original video to accompany the series: 9 Tips for Improving Your Recycling Habits.


The series aired in the week of May 13, 2019. The original series page can be found here. Below are links to the four series stories included in the submission.

Soda Can, Soup Can, Tuna Tin... That Metal Is Valuable to Recyclers.

Credit Hayley Fager / WCAI
Bales of steel food cans at a processing facility in Massachusetts. These cans have been compacted and are ready to be shipped to recyclers.

By Hayley Fager

Changes in overseas markets have impacted what gets recycled and how. But when you put a drink can or a metal food container into your blue bin here on Cape Cod, there’s a good chance that it will be recycled into another metal product.

Your Glass Bottle Could End Up in a Cape Cod Road - and That's a Good Thing.

Credit Kathryn Eident / WCAI-FM


By Kathryn Eident

Ever take a close look inside your fridge? That might be a scary prospect. But, what’s in there? A half-empty pickle jar? A few bottles of beer? Until last year, that glass inside your fridge was destined to come back as another container—as long as you recycled or redeemed it.


Once a Source of Income for Towns, Recycling Paper Becomes a Costly Proposition

Credit Sam Houghton / WCAI
At Chatham Transfer Station paper for recycling is separated into 3 bins: newspaper, cardboard, and mixed paper. Newspaper and cardboard have value to the town, as mills will pay for these. But mixed paper costs the town to send for recycling, and the price per ton is rising.


By Sam Houghton

When it comes to recycling, all paper is not created equal. Some types of paper are more in demand by recyclers than others. In part, this is due to a recent policy shift by China.  And the local result is a change in the way many Cape Cod towns now recycle paper.  



New Rules Mean 'Less Room for Error' in Plastics Recycling. By Sarah Mizes-Tan

Credit Sarah Mizes-Tan / WCAI
Employees at the E.L. Harvey recycling facility sort different kinds of plastics into different bins.


By Sarah Mizes-Tan

When you throw a plastic bottle in a recycling bin on Cape Cod, there's a good chance it will head to a municipal recycling facility called E.L. Harvey, in Westborough, Massachusetts. Where it goes from there depends a lot on what kind of plastic it is.