We all know our recycling goes in that Big Green Bin, but I wanted to find out where our recyclables ended up. Today, I had the opportunity to tour Waste Management's sorting facility in Woodinville, Washington. I arrived at the recycling facility 1pm sharp thinking I would be intermingling with a group of elementary school students. To my amazement, I was the only one on the tour! Community Education Director at Waste Management, Rita Smith, was very helpful answering all of my questions regarding the sorting process. We spent about thirty minutes in the conference room before I got to see the sorting facility.
All of the sorting can be monitored on a flat screen television in the conference room. I did notice workers pulling a large amount of trash from the fast moving conveyer belts. A lot of it is loose plastic bags. Rita informed me that plastic bags are a big problem with jamming the sorting equipment. So, if you're still guilty of not bringing your reusable bags to the store, be sure to recycle your old plastic bags at your neighborhood retailer. Another big problem they have is shredded paper. While shredded paper is accepted, Waste Management prefers that its in a plastic bag than a loose or in a paper bag. A securely tied plastic bag can be manually removed and sorted on the conveyor belt.
Loose shredded paper can also jam up there system and can get mixed with crushed glass because of it being light weight. Shredded paper from a home office is better mixed with your compost bin than recycled.
Other products that are not accepted are plastic bottle caps, plastic deli trays, bottles containing chemicals (engine coolant, oil, etc), styrofoam, plastic cups, and food soiled papers. The reasoning behind not taking some plastics is that they have poor attributes for recycling and the market demand is not as high. The sorting process is not perfect. Many of the listed unapproved items can and do make their way into bails of paper, plastic and aluminum. Ultimately, this can effect the selling price of the recycled bails.
So, I had to ask some questions related to Sustainable Group's recycled office supplies. All of our products are made of either recycled corrugated cardboard or recycled chipboard, so recycling is not an issue.
The ring metals in our 3 ring binders can be removed, making both pieces (the cover and rings) recyclable. I asked Rita about other binders with ring metals that are permanently riveted to the spine and she told me that if the cover is made of a chipboard or corrugated material, free of the ring metal assembly it can be recycled.
If the binder were to come down the conveyor line fully assembled (metal and paperboard), it would get sent to a landfill.