With current restrictions in place that prevent certain items such as paper from being recycled, the city’s solid waste department is reminding residents what can and cannot be placed in recycling bins.

Solid Waste Superintendent Byron Roberts told The State Journal on Wednesday that medical waste and other non-recyclable items have been discovered in bins in recent weeks.

Medical waste is defined as anything that is contaminated by potentially infectious materials, blood or bodily fluids — including used needles, feminine products and diapers. Earlier this week, a solid waste crew found yards of medical tubing used for an IV or catheter buried inside a recycling bin.

Not only does medical waste put solid waste workers at risk, but it is also costly for the city because it contaminates the entire container. If the materials are dumped at the recycling facility the operation has to be delayed for several hours while the waste and everything it has touched — including the machines — are sanitized.

Time is money and the city is charged $300 to $500 per 7-ton load if the Lexington Recycle Center has to take a batch of non-recyclables or contaminated recyclables to the landfill.

But medical waste isn’t the only problem the solid waste department is running into. It is also seeing more non-recyclable items — such as garbage bags, garden hoses, clothing and Styrofoam — being tossed in the recycling bins.

Presently, acceptable recyclables include plastic bottles and jugs, cardboard and aluminum and steel cans. However, the city is planning on constructing paper recycling dropoff locations by the end of the month — a welcome addition for a community that has been sending too much paper to the landfill in recent months.

Roberts offers the following advice for those questioning whether an item is recyclable — “when in doubt, throw it out (in the trash).”

We urge both city and county residents to be more attentive when it comes to placing items in recycling bins. To quote Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard, “There is no such thing as ‘away.’ When we throw anything away it must go somewhere.”

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