Check out our frequently asked question section below
When you recycle, your used items get a new life. Some materials can travel through the recycling process and be back on store shelves in as little as 30 days! Your aluminum cans, cartons, paper, plastic water bottles and cereal boxes can become many different things.
Additionally, recycling conserves land and natural resources. When you recycle, you keep materials out of landfills where they do not decompose. Instead, you are sending them to a recycling facility to be turned into something useful. Products made with recyclable material use fewer natural resources and energy, making recycling a sustainable activity that also supports local jobs. Recycling is good for the earth and the people who live here now and in the future!
Everything cannot be recycled, so you should always consider reducing and reusing first. If you don’t generate the waste to begin with, you don’t have to decide how to dispose of it.
Recycling is an industry fueled by environmental responsibility but all driven by economics. Recycling rules change over time because recyclables are commodities that are sold and traded throughout the world and subject to market fluctuations.
The economics of recycling are rarely discussed but are at the center of the issue of recyclability. Currently, supply exceeds demand mainly because of recent restrictions China has placed on the materials they will import. China is tired of being the world’s dumping ground and now demands cleaner, sorted recyclables which they use to produce the goods we buy here at home.
Our single stream containers are dumped daily. They are then transported to a Material Recovery Facility(MRF). The MRF accepts, sorts and processes tons of recyclables every day. All of these facilities accept metal cans, cartons, mixed paper and cardboard along with plastic bottles and jugs.
A MRF is a large sorting facility with many conveyor belts and machinery. Here, recycling trucks are weighed before tipping their loads on the building floor. Mixed recyclables are then scooped up by a front-end loader and placed on the sorting line. Large objects and contamination are removed first. The recyclables then travel through an automated sorting system which uses a disk screen, magnets, optical sorters and workers on the line to separate the materials.
The sorted materials are baled and sold to manufacturers who make them into a variety of new products. For instance, your cereal boxes may become a game board or paper towels. Your aluminum cans may become new soda cans or airplane parts. Your soup cans may become new bikes or even a bridge. The cycle is endless.
If you put items in the single stream recycling that are not accepted for recycling at the MRF, these items could jam or slow the sorting process and may even endanger workers. Some examples include clothing, plastic film, hoses and cords that tangle in the equipment, large metal objects that damage equipment, and syringes that can harm workers. Other items have little or no value, are too dirty to process or cannot be manufactured into something new.
Contaminants are costly to the MRF. Eventually, this cost could be passed on to the Solid Waste Management District because the contaminants must be sorted out and landfilled. That is why it is important to recycle properly. Many items that cannot be recycled at the MRF may be recyclable elsewhere.
Recycling is a for-profit industry that relies on the ability to sell reclaimed materials at a profit. When it doesn’t pay to recycle a given material, Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) will often stop accepting it.
There are two material characteristics that work against glass’s recyclability:
1. Glass is fragile
Certain types of glass (like Pyrex and window glass) aren’t recyclable, so when glass breaks prior to being sorted at the MRF, it often must be discarded to ensure there is no contamination with potentially incompatible types of glass. Recycled mixed broken glass can find applications in some industries, such as insulation and water filtration, but because all the different types of glass are blended together, the quality is low and can’t be used for more in-demand applications such as beverage bottle production.
2. Glass is heavy
Weight is an issue because it increases transportation costs and emissions. This is compounded by the fact that there are very few glass recycling centers around the country. The result is long, costly trips transporting glass from MRF to recycler.
In addition to the material characteristics that are working against glass being recycled, single-stream recycling is also making glass more expensive to recycle.
If recycling glass becomes impossible for you, consider switching your purchase practices. Recycling food and beverage packaging is high on our list of to-dos because we use so much of it. The ideal is to purchase what you can of your food in bulk, with as little disposable packaging as possible, which (bonus!) is often a more cost-effective way to go. This means those glass tomato-sauce jars can turn out to be the perfect containers to store rice, flour, beans, and other foodstuffs. Metal containers and recyclable plastics come second and third, respectively.
Latex paint is water-based and can safely be disposed of in your household trash once it has been solidified. One of the easiest ways to solidify the paint is to mix kitty litter with the paint and leave the lid off until the mixture hardens. Then it can be placed in your trash and is ready for the landfill.