County Update: We need to do a better job of sorting our trash, says Commissioner Allen

District 2 Commissioner Jim Allen.

Each week we provide a member of the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners the opportunity to share an update on what issues are catching their attention. This week, we have a column from District 2 Commissioner Jim Allen, whose district includes Lake Quivira, much of Shawnee and part of Lenexa.

Not all plastics can be recycled — and too many non-recyclable items are making it into the bin.

Johnson County residents need to do a better job of sorting their trash.

As I found out, along with other members of the Board of County Commissioners, during a recent tour of the Johnson County Landfill in Shawnee, too many residents are putting too much plastic materials which are not recyclable in their recycling carts. That includes grocery, sandwich and freezer bags along with plastic and bubble wraps. None of these plastics can be recycled. Plastic bags and wraps can slow, even shut, down the recycling operations or even ruin the load of materials received at the landfill, owned and operated by Waste Management of Kansas.

Clean and dried plastic bottles and containers, however, are recyclable.

Waste Management knows the importance of environmental protection and green initiatives to collect, reuse and recycle materials whenever possible, but Johnson County residents play an important role in terms of what is being sent in their recycling carts to the landfill.

The good news is that Waste Management recycled enough material last year to fill 168,819 Boeing 737 planes.

The bad news is 69 percent of plastic bottles and 45 percent of aluminum cans are not being recycled.

Approximately 25 percent of items placed in a recycling cart can’t be recycled at the landfill, either because they are too dirty or aren’t recyclable in the current system. Examples would include things like Styrofoam, plastic bags and receipt paper. More information is available by visiting Waste Management’s Recycle Often, Recycle Right at

Another resource for recycling information is the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment by reviewing “Recycling 101” on the county’s website. The site offers guidelines and a list of household recyclable materials.

Since 1993, the department has also operated the Household Hazardous Waste collection facility in Mission where old paint, yard chemicals and household cleaners are safely collected, reused and recycled. Residents can make an appointment to drop off their unwanted items free of charge, keeping them out of the landfill and giving them a second life.

Keeping certain plastics out of recycling carts and knowing what/how to recycle is important. Green initiatives require a community response by not ignoring or contributing to the landfill’s recycling problem. These initiatives require learning more about recycling guidelines/advice provided by Waste Management, local trash collecting businesses and the Department of Health and Environment.
It’s up to each of us to become part of the recycling solution in Johnson County.