CCDES is a member of the Illinois Recycling Contamination Task Force, a group that addresses pressing recycling issues throughout the state. To answer specific recycling questions, the task force has launched the Dirty Dozen Campaign.

Tanglers are one of the most common types of non-recyclable “contaminants” faced by sorting facilities or Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs). But what is a tangler, and why do they cause problems?

What is a Tangler?

A tangler is any item that can become wrapped-up and/or tangled around components of the sorting machines. Examples of tanglers are plastic bags, garden hoses, extension cords, rope, Christmas lights, jumper cables, wire, metal coat hangers, chains and clothing/textiles.

What is the Problem?

Tanglers can cause many problems for the machines and workers at the MRF:

  • Down-time for the sorting line, as operators must cut, unwind or unwrap the non-recyclable items from the equipment.
  • Equipment damage resulting from undue stresses and binding of components within the sorting system.
  • Operator injury resulting from the activities that may be required to clean out the tangled material or repair components of the sorting equipment.
  • Lost material recovery as the sorting equipment performs less efficiently.

What can you do to dispose of tanglers properly (and keep tanglers out of the landfill)?

There are things you can do to keep many items out of the landfill, while still sticking to the guidelines of your municipal recycling program. To do this, it is very important to understand what your curbside program can and cannot take. Here are some ideas to help keep tanglers and other items not widely accepted in curbside programs out of the landfill:

  • Check with your municipality’s guidelines for specifics and here for general guidelines.
  • Donate clothes and other textiles to Goodwill, Salvation Army or your local thrift store.
  • Save and return single-use plastic bags to local retailers. Most national grocery stores and retail chains accept and recycle these items in bulk.
  • Find a scrap metal recycler, they are in most areas and will accept scrap metals of all kinds.
  • Check out this Illinois EPA map of recycling locations to find specialty recyclers in your area.

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