Thursday, October 25, 2012

Beware of the haunted recycling centers!

They are all over the country. You can even find one right here in Normal, Illinois! Recyclable materials fly off the floor and float along the second story of the building. Materials fly this way and that without any explanation of what is happening. Before you know it, steel cans fly off the belt and disappear into thin air. Not too far from there Aluminum cans are being thrown 3 feet away! In other areas in the building you see bottles flying off and disappearing, and paper falls into a black hole, never to be seen again!

Ok, so maybe it isn’t haunted but the sorting of the material by sophisticated machinery makes the process feel like there is paranormal influence. Most people would say they have never seen ghostly spirits, much like a material recovery facility. It is an amazing thing to see, and you can catch multiple glimpses of the spirits in action right on YouTube.  Did you see anything you may have recently recycled?

Many municipalities have made it easier than ever to recycle more materials than ever before, and a lot of that is thanks to the sophisticated (though possibly slightly haunted) material recovery facilities. Once your material enters the system to be sorted it takes less than a minute until it is separated into its own storage area, waiting to be baled. After the spirits in the center bale the material it is sent out all over the country, and the world, to be made into new products.

It is all so magical that just maybe there are witches involved, putting spells on our recycling!

Tags: Bloomington, Normal, Central IL Recycling, Midwest, Decatur, Peoria


Friday, October 12, 2012

Recycling Myths: Debunked

I hear a lot of these myths repeated over and over (because if you say something enough it has to be true, right?), and I wanted to set the record straight.

Myth 1: You have to remove the caps from your bottles before you recycle them because the cap and the bottle are different kinds of plastic.
Fact 1: The caps should be left on! The recyclers have a very efficient way of getting the two different plastics separated. Once the bottles get to the recycler, they are chipped and put into a vat of water. One of the types of plastic floats and one kind sinks. Skim off the floating plastic and voila!

Myth 2: As long as my diabetic pens/ needles are in a hard plastic jug I can recycle it because the jug is recyclable.
Fact 2: Nope, needles should never be placed in with the recycling, even if they are in a hard plastic jug with the lid taped on. Why? Have you ever seen a recycling processor facility? View it here. Many of the parts in the process can crush or crack open the lid of that container, thus, throwing needles all over. Obviously, this poses a health and safety risk for the employees. So what should you do? Take that jug and put it in with the regular trash, or buy a sharps container from your pharmacy and follow disposal instructions.

Myth 3: Food-stained and grease soaked paper can be recycled.
Fact 3: In the paper making process, recycled paper must be turned back into pulp to make new paper. The paper is put into a churning vat of water and made into pulp. Oil and water don’t mix and thus the oil causes spots and holes in the finished product. Your best bet? Tear or cut out the food soaked areas and recycle the rest. Your food soaked paper can also be composted.

Myth 4: I heard that I can recycle my plastic bags with my curbside recycling.
Fact 4: Even though plastic bags are recyclable, they are not accepted in most curbside programs. They get caught in the machinery and can cause a lot of damage. Take these bags back to the grocery store where most have a plastic bag recycling center in the entrance area. FYI, those plastic bag programs also take newspaper bags, dry cleaning bags, bread bags, and Ziploc bags (sans food of course).

Myth 5: Recycling is a time consuming burden on the American public.
Fact 5: Recycling does not require much time at all. In fact, the author of Recycling is Garbage asked a college student to measure the time he spent separating materials for recycling during one week. The total time was a mere 8 minutes.

So there you have it, 5 recycling myths Debunked. Thirsty for more? Just ask a question in the comments and I will answer to the best of my abilities!

Tags: recycling Bloomington il, recycling Normal il, recycling Springfield il, recycling Decatur il, recycling Peoria il

Friday, October 5, 2012

Things you didn't know about recycling

I would be willing to bet that most people have no idea what actually happens to their recycling once it leaves the curb. Do you know where it goes or how much of an impact you and your community are having on the planet and the economy? What about the kinds of items in our everyday lives that can be and are made out or recycled materials?

Even as an avid recycler all of my life, I didn’t know the answers to all of these questions up until a few years ago. 

There are still many people in the country who don’t recycle because they believe that there are no savings in energy, pollution, or other environmental impacts. There is so much information out there about the environmental impacts of recycling and its ability to help manufacturing plants save time, energy, water, and ultimately money. Governments from local to federal benefit financially through job creation and savings from avoided hazardous clean-ups as well. From paper mills to glass plants to can manufacturers, all can see the benefits of using recycled material. But they all have to get past the hurdle at the curb.

Your recycling, much like your trash, has a long journey once it leaves your curb. There are several videos on YouTube that show what a Material Recovery Facility (MRF) does to separate recyclables but I like this one that explains each part of the process. There are plenty of videos on YouTube though that show the process as it can be different from one MRF to another. However, all MRF’s have the same purpose: to sort materials into separate saleable commodities.

This brings me to my next point of the materials we use that are made from recycled material. If we aren’t creating demand for materials made with recycled content then nothing changes. We need to close the loop and consciously buy products that have recycled content. For example, there are many play sets, park benches, and decking that is made from recycled milk jugs (#2, HDPE plastic). In fact, a company right here in Illinois does this. There are new Pilot ® pens that are made from recycled plastic bottles (#1, PET plastic). You can buy them at Wal-Mart. Speaking of the retail giant; did you know that they have a packaging scorecard? The company is actively trying to persuade vendors who sell products in their stores to “green” their packaging through recycled content, reduced amount of packaging, biodegradability, etc.  There are many active programs in the U.S. that are making small steps to help influence the demand for recycled content in products and packaging. That is what it is all about right? Baby steps to a greener life.