Quality control employees sort through refuse on the mixed paper conveyor belt at the Resource Recovery and Recycling Authority of Southwest Oakland County in Southfield, looking for nonrecyclable materials.

Quality control employees sort through refuse on the mixed paper conveyor belt at the Resource Recovery and Recycling Authority of Southwest Oakland County in Southfield, looking for nonrecyclable materials.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Recycling authority enables Alexa recycling directory skill

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published July 1, 2019

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SOUTHFIELD — “Alexa, can I recycle plastic bags?”

The Resource Recovery and Recycling Authority of Southwest Oakland County recently released a new way to make recycling easier through an Alexa skill.

According to RRRASOC General Manager Mike Csapo, residents who have an Amazon Alexa-enabled voice control device can use the skill.

Residents can access the skill by saying “Alexa, enable recycling directory.”

“Once you enable the skill, you can ask, ‘What do I do with newspaper or cardboard?’ — or whatever item it is you’re looking to properly recycle or dispose of,” Csapo said. “It accesses the same database that we have for our online directory or mobile app. Instead of giving you the information in print or text form, Alexa tells you what the answer is.”

Csapo said the tool comes at a time when it’s getting harder to discern what can be recycled, and recycling contamination is an ongoing problem.

Some of the more common things that cannot be recycled are plastic bags and Styrofoam. Materials that cannot be recycled oftentimes clog up the machines and cause issues, Csapo said.

Sometimes, Csapo said, product packaging indicates that the material can be recycled, but the product is not accepted by the resident’s recycling facility.

“In our communities, it’s better than most communities, but it’s still an uphill battle,” he said. “The challenge that homeowners or residents have is that the labeling on products and product packaging is often misleading or inaccurate. Just because the wrapper says to recycle, it doesn’t mean we actually have the capability to recycle it. It’s important for homeowners to have access to what we can and cannot accept.”

RRRASOC Recycling Coordinator Tracy Purrenhage said she hopes the Alexa skill will help residents prevent contamination.

“There’s a lot of questions right now in the industry about what’s acceptable and what’s not, and we really kind of need to get a handle on contamination that comes into recycling facilities,” Purrenhage said. “It’s really important residents have as many tools as they can to find out what they can and cannot recycle.”

“That’s why we like things like the mobile app and the Alexa directory,” Csapo said. “If you get some packaging, you can go ahead and ask if it’s really recyclable. If I have to go look it up, I’m probably less likely to recycle it properly, so it makes everything a lot easier.”

To search the recycling directory online or for more information, go to rrrasoc.org.

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