Now that we're putting all our recycling in one bin, how does it get sorted?
- Pat Entwistle, Boise
It seems simple enough. Take all your cardboard and aluminum and plastic, throw it in the blue bin and haul it out to the curb. Maybe you haven’t thought about where it goes next. How does the mixed recycling end up getting turned back into products?
In the case of Boise’s Curb-It program, the long journey that starts at your curb goes next to Western Recycling on Ustick Rd. in Boise. Allied Waste drops off all the material, and crews at Western package it all up.
Next up, the recycling is bailed up and loaded on trucks headed for Portland according to Vince Trimboli with the City of Boise.
"The plant in Portland has machines that sift it,” Trimboli said. “Hand pickers also help sort it out. From there it's sent to the paper mill, the plastic mill and the aluminum mill, et cetera.”
In the future, the recycling material may not have to travel nearly as far for sorting.
“The city is working to hopefully locate a sorting facility here in Ada County in the near future,” he said. “It just makes sense to have a facility here.”
Boise is joined by Ada County, Meridian and others with no-sort recycling – all of which currently has to be shipped out of state.
A local sorting plant would create jobs, and could attract other companies that have a use for recycled products like plastic or aluminum, Trimboli said.
I Wonder bonus: What happens if I put glass into my recycling? Boise currently does not accept glass in the blue bin recycling. Why?
“The first reason is that it causes problems in the sorting process, and also, it’s unsafe,” Trimboli said. “If a little bit of glass gets through in a load of paper, it can cause problems with machinery.”
The sharp edges of glass can be problematic with those crews assigned to pick out materials by hand.
So what happens if you accidentally throw glass in your recycling? Crews may have to junk a whole load of recyclables – sending it all to the landfill.
Next week: Why are there birds in the airport?