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Earth Day 2021: Proper recycling can help the city avoid getting burned

Twice this month, fires have started in the back of Corpus Christi recycling trucks.
Earth Day 2021: How to recycle without causing problems like fires
Posted at 7:35 PM, Apr 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-22 23:15:36-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — For Guadalupe and Robert Garza, a father and son duo who recycle in Corpus Christi, their biggest recycling-related question is: Whose responsibility is it to roll the recycling cart out to the curb and back?

“I don’t think it’s any problem," the elder Garza said after handling cart-duties Thursday.

“Once in awhile, I do it," his son said.

But otherwise, they said, they're aware of the rules.

Others in the city aren't as knowledgeable, leading to fires having started in the back of Corpus Christi recycling trucks twice this month.

As we celebrate Earth Day 2021, the city of Corpus Christi Solid Waste Department explains how to recycle properly in order to avoid problems such as fires.

It starts with not putting items in your recycling container that could be potential ignition sources.

“Most of the time when you have fire in a recycling program, it’s the result of lithium-ion batteries causing trouble," department director David Lehfeldt said. "There’s other things that could cause it -- plastic buckets of pool chemicals mixing with something else. So we’re not sure what caused (the truck fires)."

No matter the cause, Lehfeldt credits his alert drivers for realizing they had a fire on board, finding a safe place to dump the burning load, and saving the trucks, which cost around $350,000.

"We really have to appreciate the great job that they did," he said.

Not following the rules leads to extra expenses for the city, which Lehfeldt reminds you, is spending your tax dollars.

"We really want people to recycle properly," he said. "It’s important to recycle, but if we’re going to do it, we need to do it right."

While lithium-ion batteries and pool chemicals definitely don't belong in your recycle bin, it can be tough to know what does. Lehfeldt said a smartphone app such as Recycle Coach can answer questions such as which kinds of plastics are recyclable, and whether or not you should put tin cans in your cart. Once downloaded, all you have to do is enter your address, and the app will allow you to see which items can go in your recycle cart, and which ones need special treatment.