Today KPWB staff and interns had the amazing opportunity to take a private tour of the American Recycling Center. The American Recycling Center is a single stream recycling processor that opened in January of 2014, it is owned and operated by American Disposal Services. The tour was led by KPWB Board Member, Alyssa Peltier, who works for American Disposal Services. We also had the chance to meet some of the staff at the Recycling Department of the Keep America Beautiful (KAB) office in Washington D.C., including Senior Vice President Brenda Pulley. As well as Refuse and Recycling Coordinator, Monica Boehringer, in the Public Works department of the City of Manassas and Debbie Haight of Historic Manassas. We were shown the step-by-step process of materials entering the facility, being sorted, and eventually prepared to be sold to end-market manufacturers. This particular facility functions on a 30 tons and hour system and uses optical sorters, eddy currents, screens, magnets, and manual sorters to remove contamination and produce the highest quality commodities they can.
Even through the multiple levels of sorting and their cutting edge technology the facility has trouble keeping up with the large amounts of contamination in the materials they receive. A large portion of this issue stems from residents putting grocery bags and plastic films in their curbside recycling bins, these items cannot be recycled by the facility and should always be taken back to the grocery store where they can be properly recycled. In fact according to the general manager, the vents that collect these plastic materials get clogged up approximately every 2 hours causing the whole facility to shut down until the vents are unclogged. Not only are these wasted materials that could have been recycled but it’s costing the industry a lot of money that could be invested elsewhere. For example, at the American Recycling Center it takes them approximately 15 minutes to recover and start up again once the vents are clogged. This happens an average of six times a day, meaning the facility is totally shut down for approximately 90 minutes every work day. Keeping the facility operational costs an average of $100 dollars a minute. Since the facility opens Monday-Friday that’s a total of 260 days in a year. Therefore, roughly $2,368,000 is wasted every year just because residents are unaware that grocery bags and plastic films can’t be recycled from their home.
It’s important that these issues are brought to light and residents are made of aware of the true impact this is having on our facilities. We are so grateful that we were able to learn first hand how these facilities operate and were able to discuss some of the larger problems with the various representatives from all the wonderful organizations. We would like to thank all of the staff and interns who took time out of their day to participate and former board member and Top Ladies of Distinction Regional Beautification Chair/KPWB Volunteer Pauline Hunter for also joining us. It was such an eye-opening experience and we hope to continue to share all that we’ve learned with our community. Below are some pictures taken during our tour.