Where recycling really goes from your curbside - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

Where recycling really goes from your curbside

By Andrew Freiden - bio | email
Posted by Phil Riggan - email

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - What happens after you take your recycling out to the curb or to the drop-off location? 

After you toss it in the bin, your recycling ends up here in a huge pile on the floor at TFC's facility in Chester. Thanks to these workers with quick hands you don't have to sort it all out at home.

This station is where they make up for our mistakes.  Everything you see them picking out is plain old trash.  There's an unbelievable amount of trash. They throw out pizza boxes, caps, and anything that has food residue on it.

Here's the unrecyclable plastic. All of this trash plus some absurd attempts at recycling, raise the cost for everyone.

The worst kind of trash? Plastic bags.

If one slips through it can shut down this star mixer. It's where the plastic and cans drop down, and the paper flies out the side.

After the line is picked clean of trash, workers are now sorting out the good stuff into separate hoppers.

What do they love to toss in the bin? Cardboard. It can be re-used seven times. And aluminum cans can be reused indefinitely. 

The end result is a bale. A huge compressed block of raw material. These aluminum blocks are valuable so they are numbered - to discourage theft.

The bales are shipped all over to be used in manufacturing. You might not expect a carpet company to show up with an empty truck. They pick up the plastic bottles and use it to make carpet backing.

Just one of the many uses for material that otherwise would get thrown in the trash.

Recycling factoids

Aluminum
Recycling an aluminum can uses just 5% of the energy that is used to produce a new can! An aluminum can is 100% recyclable all the time!

We use over 8 billion aluminum cans a year. Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV for three hours - or the equivalent of a half a gallon of gasoline.

Steel
Steel can be recycled over and over again as new steel. Scrap steel reduces related water pollution, air pollution, and mining wastes by about 70%. It takes four times as much energy to make steel from virgin ore. Annually, enough energy is saved by recycling steel to supply the city of Los Angeles with almost a decade worth of electricity. (Source: National Polymers Inc.)

Paper
Recycling one ton of paper saves: 17 mature trees, 7,000 gallons of water, 24 gallons of gasoline, 463 gallons of oil, 4,300 kw-hrs of electricity and 3.5 cubic yards of landfill.

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