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What Happens at a Recycling Facility?

Have you ever wondered what happens at a recycling facility? Let's take a sneak peak of the material separation process!


Every hour, 44,000 pounds of mixed recyclables, also known as single-stream, arrive at Midwest Fiber’s material processing facility to be sorted. In 2014 alone, 318,876,000 pounds of material came through our facility before undergoing the next phase of the recycling journey.


Semi-truck drivers travel miles to maneuver their trailers onto Midwest Fiber’s scale and weigh recyclables before dumping their contents onto the tip floor. It doesn’t take long before a mountain of material is formed, comprised of plastic and glass bottles, cardboard, paper, metal cans, and the occasional teddy bear.


Unfortunately, this material can’t remain mixed. It must be separated into its own product category to be marketable to factories and mills, where it becomes a raw material in the making of new products. Plastic milk jugs can be turned to plastic board, water bottles may become your new carpet, and metal is used to construct many of the quality products that we use every day!


As you can imagine, separating 44,000 pounds of recyclables per hour isn’t an easy task! But with the help of automated machinery, strong magnets, and skilled workers, material travels through the entire processing system in 35 seconds or less! Most of the action unfolds in the second story of Midwest Fiber’s material processing facility.


Workers line up along the conveyer belt, creating the first line of defense for the system. The spinning disks that separate material further on in the process are vulnerable to contamination items, which are extracted from the line before causing real damage.


Common contaminants in recycling include plastic bags, stretch wrap, medical waste, and wire. Although some of these materials can be recycled through other venues, they will not make it through a single-stream system.

After contaminants are removed, the separation process begins. Large screens made of spinning disks churn the material, separating paper, cardboard, and containers by size, weight, and dimension.


Each material type ventures to its own conveyer line, where it’s further sorted by a strong magnet, additional automated machinery, and trained line workers.


Eventually, recyclables are compacted into bales and transported to mills all over the United States and worldwide. But the recycling story does not end there. It goes on to effect multiple aspects of our every-day lives by preserving natural resources, saving money for our communities, and benefiting the environment.



Tip Floor 2

Shred for the Cure!
Recycling Plastic Bags


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Sunday, 09 August 2020

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Well-designed programs save money. Communities have many options available to make their programs more cost-effective, including maximizing their recycling rates, implementing pay-as-you-throw programs, and including incentives in waste management contracts that encourage disposal companies to recycle more and dispose of less.