Refuse. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Rot
Firstly, I think it’s important to note that we should strive to reduce consumption and reuse things we already have. But there is a time and a place for recycling. I decided to take a tour of my town’s recycling facility this past week to get a clearer idea of what recycling is all about.
The tour of the recycling center was very interesting and informative. It was exciting to see the process in real time. The basic functioning of the facility goes something like this:
- Truck full of recyclables comes to the center and they weighed it.
- The truck then dumps the recyclables on the floor of the building and a skid-steer loads the items onto a conveyor belt.
- Several employees manually sift through the conveyor belt items and remove contaminants such as plastic bags, styrofoam, and dirty recyclables.
- Then, they sort the items into cages: aluminum, cardboard, high quality office paper, glass, plastic #1, plastic #2, plastics #3-7.
- Each sorted group is then sent to the baler to be compacted into a single bale.
- Other trucks arrive to purchase the bales and deliver them to other facilities that do the actual upcycling/recycling of the goods.
Here are the most important tips we came away with from our trip to the recycling facility, that I think will be useful for in home recycling.
- No Plastic Bags! It’s really important that we don’t put plastic bags in our recycling bins. These can jam up the machinery and cause time consuming repairs at the facility. Basically, the recycling center does not allow any film plastic, such as plastic shopping bags or toilet tissue plastic packaging. However, you can drop off these thin film plastics at your local grocery store, they usually have a container to collect these types of plastics.
- C.H.A.R.M. – Athens has a great facility called CHARM where you can drop off all of your hard to recycle items, such as electronics, bicycles, batteries, etc.
- Yes to Aluminum – If you have the choice to sip from aluminum rather than glass, do it. Aluminum is a very efficient recyclable and really one of the only materials that can be recycled 100%. The recycling process for aluminum is a lot quicker than other materials and it also makes a beautifully compacted, shiny bale 🙂
- No Contamination – It’s very important that you clean out and remove any food particles from your recyclables. Usually pizza boxes should not be placed in recycling because they are often covered in grease and cheese. Don’t leave peanut butter residue in the jar, because employees will remove it from the line and send it straight to the landfill.
- To Go Paper Cups – Those coffee shop disposable single use coffee cups are NOT recyclable. Although they appear to be made of paper, there is a thin plastic lining inside of the cup. This seems to be an especially big problem on college campuses. So students, please choose to bring your own reusable travel mug instead!
- Solo Cups – Surprise surprise, those red solo cups actually ARE recyclable.
- No Household Glass – There was a weird misunderstanding a few months back about glass recycling in Athens but I’ve learned straight from the horse’s mouth that yes, Athens is still currently accepting glass. However, that is single use glass recyclables, not household glass. Meaning do not throw your broken wine glasses into the recycling bin. Instead take the to the CHARM facility.