Friday, 01 March 2024

New recycling system keeps more materials out of landfills

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An initial pile of recyclables after it's brought into the Ukiah facility. Photo by Caitlin Andrus.
 

 

 

 


UKIAH – We learn about recycling in grade school: reduce, reuse, recycle.


We used to have to separate our glass, plastic, cardboard/paper into separate bins and then stack the bins for pick up. In an effort to make recycling more “user friendly” the single stream recycling method was introduced. Utilizing this method, more people have chosen to recycle, as it does not require too much effort.


The big blue cans lining the streets on garbage day are a reminder of how more people are pitching in.


But, do you ever think beyond placing the blue can at the curb? Many people are proud of their efforts to recycle, but they may not actually know what happens to recycled goods once they leave the blue can.


C&S Waste Solutions – which includes Clear Lake Waste Solutions and Lake County Waste Solutions – transfers recyclables from Clearlake, Kelseyville, Nice, Lucerne and Upper Lake to the Pacific Recycling Solutions new Material Recovery Facility (MRF).


The new MRF, located in Ukiah, is where the contents of your blue can make their first stop.


Julie Price, C&S Waste Solutions' expert on recycling education, took Lake County News on a tour of the new facility.


The facility opened in January and uses a combination of manual labor and machine to sort all of the recyclables into high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which include milk cartons and heavier plastics; Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which are soda and water bottles and other food containers; mixed paper; cardboard; aluminum; glass; and tin.


The trucks drop off the mixed recyclables at the site. A tractor takes loads of the unsorted recyclables and places them on a conveyor belt that goes up to the platform where the laborers quickly perform a visual inspection, pulling off clothing, electronics, plastic film (the thick plastic wrapped around flats of bottled water, for example), plastic bags, and other things that cannot be recycled on site. This is called the pre-sort section. Here, they also remove all cardboard from the belt to be recycled.


Glass falls down to a system that breaks it down into small pieces and puts it on another conveyor belt that takes it to a pile that is distributed to manufacturers that make various recycled glass products.


The next station sees the paper taken off the belt via ascending rubber plates that bounce the lighter objects (such as paper and magazines) up and allow the other, heavier, recyclables to continue on.


The conveyor belt is again visually inspected and laborers take off plastic bottles and cartons and drop them down chutes into separate stalls. The belt then reaches a magnet that snatches up tin objects and puts them in another stall. The final station on the trip utilizes an electric current that bounces aluminum off of the conveyor belt and down to the appropriate stall.


The remaining articles drop off of the conveyor belt into a pile and this pile is sent back trough the entire system to ensure that all recyclables are taken to their appropriate space.


When a stall fills up, its contents are taken to a small conveyor belt that feeds into a baler that then bales each specific type of recyclable good with wire. These bales are then stacked and ready to de distributed to approximately five different manufacturers.


It is important to recognize all of the work that goes in to separating the recyclables that we put in the blue can. In order for all of our articles to be recycled properly, they need to be clean, loose in the blue can, and tops separated from bottles and jars.


The new MRF in Ukiah is a great step in recycling for Lake County, according to the company. Not only does it decrease carbon emissions due to its proximity to Lake County, the single stream system makes it easy for more people to contribute.


Price said that C&S Waste Solutions' eventual goal is to get households to limit their weekly garbage to a 10-gallon can. This will be possible if residents continue to use the blue can.


For more information on Ukiah’s Material Recovery Facility, as well as to discover what you can and can not recycle, visit www.candswaste.com .


To see who your hauler is, visit http://recycling.co.lake.ca.us/collection/collection.asp . Here you will find a map that breaks down the different haulers around Lake County.


E-mail Caitlin Andrus at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

 

 

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The beginning of the MRF conveyor belt. Photo by Caitlin Andrus.
 

 

 

 

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A view from the ground at the beginning of the Ukiah facility's system (cardboard on the left, shredded paper and glass on the right). Photo by Caitlin Andrus.
 

 

 

 

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A view of the belt toward the end

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