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Curiosity is the beginning of wisdom. Some say that a sense of it is nature’s original school of education! What better way to follow up on this saying than knowing what’s going on inside of one of nature's best friends? Yes, the real MVPs, the Recycling Plants.
So, have you ever wondered what happens after the recyclables are picked up at your curb? Let’s find out!
Daily curbside collection is, by far, the most commonly known. Gladly, this method has been growing exponentially worldwide, by the hand of local authorities or waste management contractors. There are three ways in which your recyclables can be collected: mixed wastes, mixed recyclables, and source-separated recyclables. Other procedures include Drop-off recycling centers, retail locations, and collection events you might have in your local area!
This is where the magic begins. After being picked up by waste haulers, all your recyclables are sent to a Material Recovery Facility. Here, the techniques and technologies used in practice vary by facility, but we will try to provide a general read of the process!
At these facilities, all your recyclables get loaded onto a conveyor belt, used to maintain the constant flow of waste passing through, where workers separate every material into their raw categories and manually remove contamination (something we’ve talked about in the previous post, check it out). As mentioned, this step is incredibly important due to the possibility of these items causing severe damage to the sorting equipment!
After the separating process is complete, the materials are sent to Recycling Plants where they are further processed, in a series of stages, to become suitable for use in manufacturing. Fortunately, even though we produce tons of waste daily, nowadays we have automated processes that enable us to accelerate the sorting and get the job done much faster!
A few different methods are used, according to each type of material. In short:
Paper: made from cellulose (wood) fibers and water, is broken down to a pulp through hot water where they separate the ink from it so it can be used to create new paper products!
Glass: made of silica, limestone, and sodium carbonate, is shattered into pieces of a certain size and melted at a low temperature in order to be poured or molded into new glass items!
Plastic: the trickiest one. It comes in several types depending on the resin used to create it. Most of this material is melted down, the rest has to be converted into a powder due to the released toxins when melted. Unfortunately, not all plastic goes through and some amounts of certain types have to be discarded because the transformation changes its structure. From this point forward, we can recycle our plastic into new items like clothing, carpet fibers, water bottles, soda bottles, you name it.
To get more information regarding your local recycling center, pay them a visit, you won't regret it!
Naturally, there’s a lot more to look into when talking about these procedures, each material has its path, down the line (+ of production), over this incredible cycle.