Six people from Van Buren Township toured the ReCommunity single-stream recycling facility in Huron Township last Thursday to see what happens to the things they put in their recycling bins each week.
Education Specialist Tracy Purrenhage led the tour of the 45,000-square-foot ReCommunity facility, showing the VBT group the tipping floor where the weighed trucks dump the recyclables. Then the trucks get weighed again to determine the difference — the pounds of the recyclables.
There is an average of 30 trucks a day dumping their loads of recyclables and the crew handles about 15 tons an hour.
There are about 70 employees at the plant, currently on two, 10-hour shifts. They wear nitrite gloves, earplugs, and hard hats when they’re out on the floor. They are offered face masks, but most don’t want them.
The recyclables are put on a conveyor belt and they go to the team of six who do the first sorting, taking out cardboard for another conveyor and metals and glass as the recyclables run by before them.
The big problem on the line is the white plastic bags that gum up the machines. The white bags can be taken back to Meijer or Walmart for recycling, but they are not welcome in the regular, curbside recycling bins in VBT.
When the white bags get wound around the machinery, the line shuts down and someone has to climb inside the machine to cut the bags away with a knife.
If they don’t get a garden hose out of the line in time, that too will gum up the works.
Bulky metal items and bulky plastic items are pulled off the line, along with pots and pans, kitty litter containers, electronics, and propane tanks.
It’s amazing what people want to recycle. The firm collects box loads of metal fans and electronics and other things they get in small quantities for recycling when there is enough to deal with.
Black garbage bags are discarded as garbage. They do not open such bags because they can’t see what it is inside.
Most of the recycling at the plant is paper which is pressed into 3’x3’x4’ bales, weighing 700 to 2,000 pounds.
A bin holds American flags that have been put in recycling bins. Those go to the American Legion for proper disposal.
ReCommunity has customers for its items all over the world. China has a new Green Fence that restricts contamination (non-conforming items) of recycled items to 1-3%. China was rejecting loads from the U.S. and companies were anxious about sending loads over.
During the tour the guide showed different grades of plastic in tiny pellets and items that the recycled plastics could make, such as a sand bucket, stuffed toy, a shirt, and a toothbrush handle.
The tour teaches to recycle as much as possible and that there no longer is a need to sort recyclables at home. People can put paper, plastic, glass, metal, etc. in one bin to be sorted at the plant.
The Farmington Public Schools brought all 700 of its sixth graders to the recycling facility over a two-month period, ending Thursday, to teach them about recycling.
ReCommunity’s Huron facility was designed specifically with tours in mind, allowing the public to see the entire recycling process from start to finish. Tours tend to last 1.5 hours and cover a broad range of topics related to recycling.
For more information or to schedule a tour, call (734) 753-9125 or email HuronTours@ReCommunity.com .