Stream contamination is when a recycling stream is compromised in some form. This can range from unemptied packaging to the entry of non-recyclable materials like plastic bags. It occurs most often in single-stream programs because all types of recyclable materials are collected together, meaning that broken glass or unclean aluminum can compromise the collected recyclables.
Contamination can be a major problem when it comes to recycling. Recycling reduces the need for raw materials by reusing the materials found in the used product. As the collected materials become contaminated, they can no longer be used by manufacturers in the production of goods. This leads to more resources being cut and mined to replenish supplies.
“Dirty Dozen Recycling Contaminants.” Eco-cycle. http://www.ecocycle.org/dirtydozen. Accessed May 16, 2016.