July 23, 2018

Where Recycled Materials Go

Recycling Overview

Have you ever wondered where your recyclables end up after they leave your facility? Part of the answer depends on whether your recycler engages in single-stream recycling. This method allows you to place any items that are destined for recycling in the same container, which is then transported by your waste hauler to a special plant where it is sorted into different material types and processed. On the other hand, if your recycler doesn’t offer single-stream recycling, you may be asked to separate your materials into different containers before they leave your facility. From there, the waste hauler takes them to the appropriate locations for processing.

What Can I Recycle?

To ensure your recyclables are properly disposed of, it’s important to first understand the various kinds of materials that can be recycled. For example, corrugated boxes, paper, glass, metal, and certain types of plastics—such as those used to make water bottles—can all be processed and reused to make other items—either the same thing as the original or something wholly new. 

Importance of Keeping Recycled Materials Clean

Another critical element in successful recycling is remembering to keep items clean. This means rinsing out any food particles or other contaminants before disposal. Not every item can be cleaned—think pizza boxes—and if it can’t, then it must go into the regular waste bin. Additionally, when a material is contaminated with blood or body fluids, the waste must be placed in regulated medical waste containers. 

Train Staff to Segregate Properly

It is important that staff know exactly what items can be recycled and which should be disposed of in the regular waste stream or in regulated medical waste containers to ensure your recycle program operates to its full potential. If staff are not certain, they may inadvertently contaminate recyclable loads, such as when a staff member throws an item considered “trash” in with recyclable materials. If a recycle load is contaminated, it becomes regular waste and must be sent to a landfill, which adds to the environmental impact and waste management costs. If those kinds of mistakes occur regularly, the environmental and cost ramifications can grow exponentially. As such, it is essential to train staff about recycling and monitor activities to be confident that everyone consistently follows the rules. 

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