Monday, February 11, 2013

Keeping our recycling 'streams' clean! - Notes from the field

Kelly BoyleMeet the Collections Staff

Kelly Boyle

Position Title:
Inspector III

Department of Environmental Protection, Solid Waste Services, Collections Section

Inspector Boyle is currently investigating contamination in our dual stream collection process. She is one of the Collections Section’s most experienced and dedicated recycling sleuths. "The Collections Section works closely with contractors and residents to keep our recycling stream clean", says Boyle. "Today, I’m checking to see how well our separation system is working."

Each day, recycling trucks from all over the county end up here at the Recycling Center.

Sign at Recycling Center entrance

"Each truck gets weighed twice", explains Boyle, "first, when it arrives, and and then, a second time after it has emptied one of its two hoppers.”

(This is a split-body rear loader recycling truck. The paper goes into the right chamber; the commingled items (cans, bottles, jars, and containers) go into the left. Keep your eye on our blog for more on these specially-constructed recycling trucks!)

To keep our paper stream clean, the trucks unload, or "tip", the paper and the commingled items into separate piles at the Recycling Center.

cardboard pile at Recycling Center

Inspector Boyle is out on the "tipping floor", checking each load of commingled material for paper contamination. "Paper in the commingled makes more work for those inside the processing facility, and adds another level of sorting," she shouts over the trucks. "And, the tipping floor gives us the first clue about what is actually put into the blue bins and carts."

Inspector Boyle observes truck unloading commingled items.

Paper falls from the rear of the truck onto the tipping floor. Drivers sweep any stray paper into the pile. "Not a problem on this pile – the paper stream is really clean," smiles Boyle.

Recycling truck unloading paper at the Recycling Center.

Back on the commingled side… paper contamination has been detected!  Did you spy the phone book, too?

Phone book piles of can, bottles, and jars

Once the recyclables are tipped onto the floor, they are scooped up and mechanically moved along the conveyor belt to be sorted by the Recycling Center workers. The book, or paper "contamination",  gets sent to be sorted with the commingled items. There, it will be removed.

Front loader scoops material onto beginning of conveyer belt system.

Here's the front loader in video action...

Recyclable materials on conveyer belt

In order to keep our recycling stream clean, use the blue cart for paper and the blue bin for metal cans, glass bottles and jars, and plastic containers. Learn more about our curbside recycling collection program, and what items are accepted.

"This is a lot of material to sort", Boyle exclaims. "We need your help – separating paper makes the job easier for everyone, and it increases the amount we recycle. But it comes down to one thing… "

"… what goes in your blue bin."

What questions do you have for us?  Comments are turned on for our blog, and we look forward to reading yours.
-- Jessica Fusillo, Collections Field Staff


  1. Anonymous6:35 PM

    What do I do with combination containers used for some frozen orange juice and snack nuts? These cardboard cylinders are sometimes lined with foil, the bottoms are aluminum, and the lids are aluminum or plastic. I've been putting the plastic lids in the blue bin and discarding the rest, but the metal tops and bottoms could be cut off and put in the blue bin, and the cardboard cylinders added to the mixed paper. What would you prefer?

  2. These containers are a challenge. As you describe, they are made of so many different materials! Your solution is fine, and is the one I recommended in a previous blog post about canisters. If you are able to remove the metal parts, so that the metal and cardboard portions can be recycled separately, that is great, as this would allow even more material to be recovered. (Any foil-lined cardboard should still go into the trash.)


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