What Happens at a Materials Recovery Facility

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Question: After your recycling is picked up, where does it go? 

Answer: Once the recycling truck has picked up your paper and other recyclables, it heads over to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). 

Your recyclables are loaded onto a conveyer belt. Workers remove contaminants like plastic bags, clothing, food scraps and holiday lights. Holiday lights are also called tanglers. 

The remaining recyclables continue down the conveyer belt. Machinery helps separate the different kinds of recyclables.

Workers at the MRF usually manually separate cardboard first. Then other paper-based recyclables are separated. 

Next, the different types of paper are baled and sold to paper mills where they’ll be turned into new paper products. 

Why Wishcycling Hurts Recycling 

“Wishcycling” is putting something in the recycling bin and hoping it can be recycled. This causes issues at the MRF and ultimately makes recycling cost more. 

Plastic bags, films and tanglers often wrap around the machines, causing workers to stop their work to cut them out. This isn’t safe. 
There are ways to recycle some of these items. For instance, plastic bags can often be dropped off at your local grocery store. 

What Can You Do?

Always check your local recycling guidelines to see what’s accepted in your area. This helps make sure your paper products get turned into new products.


Source: AF&PA