Jim Andrews plans to call a motor oil company or two.
Andrews, owner of AAA Fence and Landscape in Lawrence, says his family of two had its weekly garbage down to half a trash bag. They recycle the rest.
But when he took a load of 18 oil containers to a recycling center, he found out the plastic bottles could not be recycled. His trash volume doubled instantly.
"It seems really almost hypocritical that the manufacturer of containers will put the recycling symbol on there, knowing full well that there's not a nationwide program that can recycle them," he said.
Recycling experts say that Andrews has learned one of the hard lessons of recycling: A recycling symbol does not ensure that a container can be recycled.
Oil bottles are an example. The residue inside becomes a contaminant in the recycling process, local recyclers say.
Brent Powell, senior account representative for Smurfit Recycling Co., Kansas City, Mo., said that markets for plastic, which is a generic term for several substances, have been the slowest to develop. Smurfit handles most of the material that passes through the Lawrence Wal-Mart's recycling center.
He said Wal-Mart subsidizes shipment of some plastics that can't be recycled in this region, including polypropylene, for example.
"People are like, 'I want to recycle everything today,'" he said. "People don't realize that it takes awhile for markets to develop."
Consumers can help by calling manufacturers and requesting they use recycled materials and package the products in material that is easily recycled. The almighty dollar still talks.
"Public sentiment can drive economics. It always will," Joan Vibert, a recycling coordinator for six Kansas counties, said.
The lesson has given Andrews an idea. He plans to urge motor oil companies to send large drums of oil to local outlets so that consumers can use and reuse their own containers, buying only the oil they need. He said any consumers who want to help him pursue the idea should call him.