It is recycled!
That is the simple fact of what happens to your bottles, cans, newspapers and other recyclables.They are picked up from your location, transferred to a facility where they can be cleaned, sorted and packaged, and then they are sold to companies that re-process the items into raw materials that can be used by manufacturers.
Let's separate myth from fact.
- Your recyclables are picked up separately from other types of waste.
- Clean recyclables are NOT mixed back in with garbage at any time in the process.
- Clean recyclables are NOT sent to the landfill.
- Our community is not over capacity for processing recyclables.
How does it work?
Browse through our slide show of photos taken at the Sun Bergeron facility where Fort Lauderdale's recyclables are processed, and then read more about it below.
When the recycling truck arrives at the processing facility, the truck is weighed to get an assessment of how much is being brought in. This is important because recyclables are valuable and communities are paid for them. Next, an assessment is made regarding whether the load is clean enough to proceed through the process. Loads which are too contaminated, such as those coated with food, can be rejected, but this is rare. All the contents of the truck are "tipped" and the recyclables stay there until they are funneled inside the facility.
The recyclables are placed on a conveyor system and run through a sorting process that is a combination of automation and human intervention. Plastic is bounced to one area, glass is shaken and falls to another, metal is grabbed by magnets, and paper and cardboard remain. Along the way, workers redirect items that get auto-sorted improperly, but most importantly look for items that cannot be recycled, such as plastic bags which can get stuck in the conveyor system and stop the whole line.
All glass, metal and plastic go through a rinsing process. They are also sorted by type. For example, plastic drink bottles will be grouped together and separately from plastic laundry tubs and similar containers. Once sorted, each group of items is packaged into uniformly sized bales. They are weighed and tagged and ready for sale.
Recyclables are treated as commodities. Market prices vary depending upon demand for the materials that can be produced from the recyclables. Manufacturers which specialize in that material production buy the baled items. For example, plastic drink bottles could be purchased by a manufacturer that recycles them into fiber and fabric. Those products are then sold to end good manufacturers who turn those fibers and fabrics into everything from t-shirts to carpet and awnings. You purchase these products, and the cycle begins again.
The Story of Stuff is a worldwide movement that began in 2007 with a simple movie about consumerism posted on the internet. Visit their website and find out what happens to your things when you recycle them and throw them away. The organization that grew out of the movie works to educate people about the consequences of waste and what we can do about it. There are resources on the site for use in the classroom, within religious organizations, and in businesses.
How Stuff Works explores the science, mechanics and development behind inventions old and new. Follow this link to watch their video of a MRF in action, and link to related articles about how recycling is accomplished.