A few years ago, early in 2018, I spent a few Tuesday afternoons at the offices of SLCGreen, and I was certified as a Master Recycler. This was a sobering and eye opening experience. I saw a newspaper unearthed from the landfill recently. Date? 1960-something. I was assured that it probably had not been in the landfill that long, probably not more than 40 years. But, you could still read it. Things don't break down like you think they might, in our sealed landfills. And when they do, those newspapers and hot dog buns are mixed with plastic diapers, old paint cans, and tires, and mattresses. The things they break down into are downright scary!
EcoTip # 212 There is no "Away".
You might have an image of the landfill as a big hole in the ground where stuff gets dumped. But, it is more complicated than that. All those toxic chemicals need to be contained and kept out of the ground water (we all hope). Things need to be kept from blowing away (as much as possible). It all needs covered daily to prevent (or at least reduce) rodent infestation. It is expensive, it is difficult, and it is dangerous. And, landfills have a tendency to fill, after which we need a new space. Again, expensive. Learn More about Landfills.
This is why our new MRF is so exciting! MRF stands for Marterials Recovery Facility. You probably noticed back in 2018, recycling got a lot more complicated. Before that, our recycling was roughly sorted, and sent to countries like China, where they picked out what they could use, and burned or buried the rest. It really wasnt working well at all. China announced in 2018 that they would only accept materials that were 98% pure! As the standard at that time was 80%, and all the Utah facilities where still low-tech, where only the roughest sorting was done by machine, with the final sorting done by lines of men and women surrounding a series of conveyor belts, it was a nearly impossible standard.
According to SLCGreen:
What’s different at this MRF, you might ask? Well, the facility is comprised of a network of machinery equipped with advanced automation capabilities and sorting optics. Rotating fiber screens, ballistic motion separators, 2D and 3D optical sorters, and barrel magnets are among technologies used to separate materials. More than 2.5 miles of fast-moving conveyor belts carry materials through this single-stream processing facility.
Waste Management's MRF can process up to 280 tons of materials a day, and is currently processing about 600+ tons of residential waste a day. Remember, the cleaner the things you toss away, the easier it is for them to do their job, so check your city's list often, and recycle carefully. Here is Salt Lake City's list.
Remember, that is not only materials given a second life, its materials diverted from the landfill, giving our landfill a longer life.
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