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Recycling is the process of converting waste into reusable material. Although recycling benefits the community and the environment, the most effective way to reduce waste is to reduce consumption and look for ways to reuse items.
Collected materials are taken to a material recovery facility (MRF) for processing. At the MRF, the material is delivered to the processing floor and loaded onto conveyor belts for sorting. The sorting process combines mechanical equipment and manual labor to remove contamination from the stream of materials. Many items like food waste, trash, and plastic bags must be manually removed from the conveyor belt in order to prevent equipment damage and further contamination of the recyclables. Once the material is sorted, a compactor bales the items into large blocks to be sold for the production of new material.
Materials that end up in the recycling stream that cannot be recycled must be manually removed during the sorting process. Material recovery facility (MRF) employees must handpick trash, food waste, and other contaminants from the conveyor belt before it reaches the mechanical sorting equipment. This increases both the cost and time to process material received at the MRF.
Wishful recycling is the term used to describe placing unsuitable items in the recycle cart in hopes that it will be recycled. These items often contaminate the recycling stream and cause suitable material to be landfilled. One example is placing a greasy pizza box in the recycle cart. Although the box is made of cardboard, the grease it contains can contaminate surrounding items that would have otherwise been recycled.
Plastic bags should not be placed in the recycle cart because they can get caught in processing equipment and slow down material sorting at the recycling facility. An environmentally friendly alternative to using plastic bags is to utilize reusable tote bags when shopping. If you do have to use plastic bags, many local grocery stores offer in-store collection containers where bags can be deposited for proper recycling.
China National Sword is legislation enacted by the Chinese government imposing strict regulations on the import of recycled goods, including the ban of various types of plastics and paper. As the world’s largest importer of recyclables, China National Sword legislation has led to a rapid decrease in commodity values for recycled material.
Emptying, rinsing and drying items before placing them in the recycle cart helps prevent contamination of surrounding materials.
The triangle symbol found on plastics is part of the resin identification code (RIC) used to identify what type of plastic the product is made from. It is important to note that the presence of the RIC symbol on an item does not necessarily indicate that it is recyclable. Recycling programs utilize the RIC symbol to educate the public on which forms of plastic are accepted. The City of Sugar Land’s recycling program currently accepts #1-5 and 7 plastics.