Recycling Myths: What happens to our recyclables once they’ve been collected? Why are trash trucks used to collect them? Is it even possible to recycle them?
Richmond residents are skeptical about what happens after their full green bins are delivered to the curb. Some people believe the waste ends up in a landfill. However, this myth floating around cannot be more off the dot.
Where Does It All Go?
TFC, which was started by Joseph A Benedetto Jr. in 1973, has a sorting and distribution facility that processes materials from roughly 250,000 residences in seven Greater Richmond districts.
The plant was built after the previous TFC site on Jefferson Davis Highway burned down in 2001. Richmond and nearby counties implemented a “single-stream” recycling system around the time the new plant debuted. Anyone who recalls the early days of curbside recycling programs will recall the obligation to segregate distinct materials.
CVWMA had a recycling program from 1991 to 2001 that required participants to sort their own items. Many residents were discouraged from recycling because of the additional labour. With the single-stream system, individuals can dump recyclable contents into a container with the same everyday effort that they throw rubbish into a trash can–virtually no second thinking or sorting required.
All sorting is handled by Material Recovery Systems (also known as murphs in the industry). Everything is a valuable commodity so every mineral holds the same value.
Each month, the factory processes about 6,000 tons of materials (roughly 300 tons per day). TFC trucks and personnel collect recyclables in Richmond and the surrounding areas (Chesterfield, Chester, Hanover, Henrico, Goochland, and Colonial Heights).
TFC now collects materials with garbage trucks, which Jeff Randazzo believes is one of the reasons why many people believe their recyclables are thrown away. TFC is gradually modernizing its fleet of vehicles to incorporate “side-loader” trucks.
They will store at least twice as much material due to their improved compacting capabilities. A full truck load will weigh between 5-8 tons, compared to the 2 tons that garbage trucks can carry. The trucks will also identify themselves (and thus their services) from TFC’s present fleet of garbage trucks.
Monday through Friday, the facility operates on two shifts: a morning shift (7 a.m.-3:30 p.m.) and an evening shift (7 p.m.-3:30 p (4 pm-12 am). Each shift contains 38 employees, with around half of them being temporary. Staff handle nearly 90% of commodities, which they must manually sort at various stations along the tortuous maze of conveyors and machinery that cost TFC $5 million in 2001.
The sophisticated conveyor system runs 1,000 feet, despite the fact that it has never been formally measured.
Eight people are needed at the first station in the sorting process to separate cardboard and other non-recyclable items. Leftover material goes over rubber “stars” that propel light-weight articles (such as paper) about one foot into the air, while heavy materials (such as glass) pass through the shaft and onto a different conveyor.
As a result, the next station consists mostly of loose paper, which staff load into a truck and transport to various mills across the country when it reaches the end of the system. One is a Sonoco facility in the area, and the other is in Kentucky. Everything that goes there goes somewhere else.
TFC will promote the usage of 96 gallon single-stream carts in the home. These huge carts, which are nearly identical to garbage cans used by Richmond homeowners, protect things from the elements and are easier to handle than lugging potentially unwieldy and heavy smaller containers.