Don’t Be A Wishful Recycler
Keep Pearland Beautiful staff and board members had the opportunity to tour Waste Management’s Material Recovery Facility (MRF) this week. From learning about how they sort recyclables to conducting a table audit, we left with wealth of knowledge about how to help Pearland residents become better recyclers. The main takeaway was targeted at ‘wishful recyclers’, who toss items in their recycling bin that they believe should be recyclable. Full disclosure: I classify myself as a ‘wishful recycler’ at times.
During the tour we were informed of all the steps taken at the MRF to sort through single stream recycling. Single stream recycling is when recyclables are mixed together. The material is first dumped out onto the tipping floor. After that, it’s run through a series of conveyor belts with technology designed to sort out the different material. Optical sorters identify and sort different types of plastics, eddy current separators pull out aluminum, and overhead vacuums are used by the sorting line to suck up plastic bags. Once all the different items have found their rightful home, they are bailed and sent to facilities for remanufacturing into new products.
Did you know that Pearland’s waste diversion rate is currently 17% (up from 10% in 2013)? Waste diversion is simply the process of diverting waste from the landfill. When you reduce, reuse, recycle, compost or perform any other act to keep an item out of the landfill, you are helping to increase our waste diversion. For comparison, Texas’ waste diversion rate is about 19% (State of Texas Alliance for Recycling) and the national average is over 34% (Environmental Protection Agency).
Not All Recycling Created Equal
After the tour we participated in a table audit. The table audit is a sample from one of Pearland’s residential recycling routes. The end result showed that 17.6% of the sample was residue (non-recyclable material). Waste Management staff stated that this contamination rate is fairly common and they have seen audits yield upwards of 40% residue. The following materials made up the audit sample: paper 26%, cardboard 22.8%, residue 17.9%, glass 15.7%, plastic 11%, and metal 6.7%.
Become a Better Recycler
The first step to becoming a better recycler is to keep your recycling clean and dry. Make sure that all liquid and food has been emptied from containers. Next, only recycle what is accepted in your recycling program. Accepted items for Pearland include cardboard, paper, cartons, plastics (excluding #6), metal cans, and glass. Plastic bags are not accepted, but can be taken back to grocery stores. Lastly, ask questions! If you are unsure about anything related to recycling, call us at 281-489-2795.
Below is a copy of the table audit performed from Pearland’s curbside recycling on July 16, 2018.
City of Pearland Audit