Local recycling foiled by silvery bags, foam cups

I have two questions about recycling. The first one is about potato chip bags, which are shiny inside like aluminum foil. Can these go into the single-stream bin? Second, can we recycle Styrofoam drink cups from Sonic Drive-In? On the bottom of the cup, there’s a triangle with a number, which means it’s recyclable, right? But the city says they are not accepted and contaminate the container. I’m stumped. – Blue Bin Deb

Recycling is certainly a key way to help the environment. So let’s start with one’s personal environment.

A diet of chips and soft drinks is less than ideal. Rather than figure a way to recycle junk-food packaging, why not reduce the consumption of heavily salted snack items and beverages spiked with high-fructose corn syrup?

Sadly, this makes Action Line look like a do-gooder buttinsky control freak.

So munch and slurp away in a celebration of liquid liberty and deep-fried freedom.

You know that at some point, our City Council will take a cue from New York City and attempt to restrict junk-food options and regulate beverage portions.

As for the silvery sacks containing crispy thin slices of tubers, you have to let the chips fall where they may.

Despite their looks, the bags are unrecyclable plastic, according to the city’s garbage collection and recycling department. “It’s not foil, so we can’t take them,” a representative said.

And that chalice of chilled libation? Your cup doesn’t runneth over.

Sure, the foam receptacle features a numeral – the number 6 – ringed by a recycling symbol, but that doesn’t mean the city will accept it.

In fact, very few municipalities accept Styrofoam, which is a trademark for polystyrene.

The very traits that make polystyrene such a good container for hot or cold food make it extremely difficult to repurpose.

Polystyrene is mostly air, thus it takes up a lot of space. Recyclers are paid by the pound, so no one is going to collect and process it. There’s no money to be made.

There is a limited option for some types of packaging foam. The EPS Industry Alliance has a program in which consumers can mail back EPS or expanded polystyrene.

EPS is the white stuff used to protect electronics during shipment. Cheap foam picnic coolers are also made of EPS.

There are some strict guidelines, and you have to pay for postage. Go to www.epspackaging.org and click “Recycling Resources for Consumers” tab.

But be forewarned, the mail program accepts only very clean EPS and expressly forbids egg cartons, clam-shell restaurant containers or “disposable food service items.”

In other words, your plea to recycle Sonic cups will fall on deaf ears.

Bottom line, there are just no good options locally other than not to use polystyrene in the first place.

Obviously, polystyrene causes many environmental folks to foam at the mouth.

durango colorado

Speaking of no good options, Action Line must admit a really stupid mistake in this latest edition of the Mea Culpa Mailbag.

Last week’s column on parks and ranches referred to our good friend Steve Parker as a long-time director of the Colorado Department of Tourism. Yikes.

We all know Steve is a steady hand at the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Just what caused Action Line to write Tourism instead of Transportation is befuddling if not bemusing.

Maybe it was the fact that the interview took place on an airplane. Or maybe that most tourists use CDOT’s highways to get here. Maybe it was the heat.

Regardless, apologies to Steve and the many alert readers who noted the trippy typo.

Email questions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if you knew that Americans eat 1.2 billion pounds of potato chips each year, spending $6 billion annually on the snack item.