Thursday, April 28, 2011

A look at where your recyclables get processed

I just received permission from Waste Management to post these photos, so now I can take you inside a materials recovery facility (MRF, pronounced murf). This one's in north Minneapolis.

This MRF processes 50 tons of materials an hour -- one of the highest volumes in the United States. And it's astounding to see in person.
This MRF processes 10 percent commercial and 85-90 percent residential single-stream recyclables.

These men are pulling off anything that's not corrugated cardboard. It was very cold this day, and I felt bad for them that they were working in this unheated area.

This MRF can store only a day and a half's worth of material. It typically turns around 700 to 900 tons in a 24-hour period.

You can't see, but on this particular conveyer belt there was a lot of shredded paper scattered all over everything.

Look at the bales below.

The busiest times of year: fall, holidays (as much as 20,000 tons), spring cleanup and the end of the school year.

Star screens separate containers from paper. (hard to see the stars because they're spinning so fast) The main message that this MRF wants you to know: do not put your recyclables in plastic bags. Those bags wreak havoc on these star screens, and it takes 45 minutes to clear out those plastic bags.

These conveyer belts move very, very fast. These sorting rooms do have heat.

Waste Management may soon start collecting #1-7 plastic containers as well as aseptic (soy milk container) and gable top (milk carton) containers -- a $10 million investment. They don't look at collecting items unless there's a stable end market. The representatives told us that there's a company in Wisconsin using #3-7 plastics to make black paint cans for Home Depot.

Bales of aluminum cans.

Bales of paper.

A new star on the left, and the wear on a star after 500 hours of usage.

Waste Management has an extensive education room at its MRF. Here are some of the displays.

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