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What Is Single Stream Recycling?

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Single stream recycling takes the annoying job of sorting recycling out of homeowners’ hands, and puts it into the much more efficient hands of machines and employees. Homeowners can simply leave a barrel full of unsorted non-hazardous recyclables at the curb, and forget about it.

Single Stream Recycle

How Single Stream Recycling is Sorted

First, the waste is assessed to identify potentially hazardous materials, like batteries, paint cans, and electronics. These materials are dangerous to recycling staff and the environment, and should never be put into a single stream barrel.

If the waste is determined to be safe, the recycling center uses a large magnet to separate out metals. Then, the waste passes through a bunch of layers:

  • Workers take out plastic bags
  • Machine screens take out cardboard
  • Workers take out small non-recyclables
  • Machine screens take out paper
  • Machine shaker knocks out heavy objects, mostly glass
  • Eddy field pulses aluminum off the belt
  • Laser sorters separate out recyclable plastic

In the end, workers have several bins, each mostly filled with one type of recycling. The amount of waste that can be sorted over the course of an hour is staggering. A dozen employees can do the sorting for hundreds of thousands of households.

Benefits of Single-Stream Recycling

Single-stream recycling is often thought of as the future of waste management. Most importantly, by making recycling easier on residents, it increases both the number of residents who recycle and the amount of recycling per resident. This leads to fewer landfills, cheaper materials, and a better planet.

Where do I Find Single Stream Recycling

Single stream is still unusual for cities. Unless you are lucky, it will probably be many years before it comes to your neck of the woods. On the plus side, Junk It! and other trash removal companies use single stream solutions. If you hire a private firm, you will still be able to help the planet without sorting junk yourself.

Preparing for Single Stream

On our end, we try to prepare any removed junk as well as possible for single streams recycling facilities. There are ways you can help us, though, including:

  1. Separating organic and inorganic waste. Single stream facilities still will not take organics.
  2. Rinsing food packaging. If not rinsed, milk and juice cartons get pretty ripe before recycling employees have a chance to deal with them.
  3. Removing plastic bags. These jam up the machines.

Our people and the fine workers and machines at the recycling plant will deal with the rest.

Written May 25, 2015 by Nathan

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