General Question

dxs's avatar

What happens to non-recyclable materials in a recycling bin?

Asked by dxs (15078points) March 15th, 2015

At my apartment, many people “think” the recycling bin is a dumpster. A lot of trash goes to wherever WM takes it (recycling plant?). I wish I knew more about the recycling process. Does the trash get weeded out or is this a big problem?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

19 Answers

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I can tell you for sure that recycled paper comes with a whole host of non paper items before processing. It gets “de-trashed” in the recycling process. Imagine 6 foot tall heaps of staples,paper clips, pens, coins, metal bindings and other items. Some things are harder to separate than others, the gooey sticky stuff off of envelopes, stickers and tape are particularly hard since they tend to clump together and gunk things up. I imagine plastics are in the same boat.

dxs's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me How does that play out on a broader scale of trash?

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Not sure, I only really know about paper since I used to work in a paper mill that used all recycled paper. You would not believe the stuff that we would find.

dxs's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me Ahh okay. What was done with the metal and other remains afterwards?

kritiper's avatar

If too much unrecyclable material is found in a load of recyclables, the whole truckload is discarded at the landfill as general trash/refuse. Otherwise it just takes to long to sort out the good trash from the bad. If there is only a small amount, the trash is hand-sorted. If there is any metal, such as steel, it can be placed in with other recyclable steel items such as steel cans, or with aluminum cans if the items are aluminum. FYI- In our area, filmy plastic (bags and sheeting) are not recyclable, and the load can be rejected for this type of plastic, even if the plastic bags contain other recyclables, such as aluminum.

zenvelo's avatar

I have Waste Management picking up our recycling all in one bin too. It is taken to a sorting facility, where glass goes one place, metal another, paper a third, and recyclable plastic to another.

Even when we sorted at home with paper into one bin, glass and bottles into another, it still needed to be sorted. So it was easier to just have one bin and all in one truck to the sorting facility.

The extraneous trash gets separated and taken to a landfill.

jaytkay's avatar

Here’s a diagram showing how a recycling center processes trash.

XOIIO's avatar

That’s like mixing antimatter and matter, the world will end in a black hole.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

@jatkay, your diagram link takes me this question.

zenzen's avatar

Yes, word.

dxs's avatar

@jaytkay That’s just the diagram I was looking for!
@kritiper That is what I feared. I want to find more sources about this, because then I’d think all of our recycling would be going to waste.

jaytkay's avatar

About the woman who invented the plastic sorting codes.

Great story, thanks!

dappled_leaves's avatar

@jaytkay Cool, isn’t it? We tend to think that one person can’t make a difference, but…

Cupcake's avatar

Sign up for a tour at your local recycling plant! I took one (for a class) and it was very enlightening.

At our local facility, a lot of processing is automated. They have processes in place to deal with unsorted and non-recyclable items. They actually sell some of it and make a (tiny) little extra money.

wildpotato's avatar

Doesn’t answer the question, but I had to pipe up with this: Fred and Mr. McFeely visit the recycling center.

johnpowell's avatar

Morgan Spurlock on Inside man actually just did a thing on following his waste from his apartments curb to its final resting place. It is a good and frightening watch.

Safie's avatar

All the waste is put onto a conveyor belt and sorted into categories of recyclable and non-recyclable those items that are not recyclable will be thrown into a garbage bin.

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther