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Behind the Scenes at a Phoenix Recycling Facility
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Behind the Blue Bin

by Trey Granger on November 21st, 2007
Nationwide, almost 10,000 municipal curbside collection programs provide a weekly reminder on the importance of recycling. Although programs vary by county in materials collected, bin size and collection day, all recyclables go to a recycling center as the first step in transforming them into new products. That’s when the real fun begins Earth 911 recently visited the North Gateway Transfer Station and Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Phoenix, Arizona to get a closer look at the process. The Materials Recovery Facility or MRF (pronounced MERF) handles an average of 4,500 tons of material in a given month. So even a short visit provides a lot of action.

Truckin' It In

Paper FloorThe MRF brings in between 110 and 140 truckloads of material each day, so the payload must quickly be sorted and processed to allow space on the floor for the incoming stream of trucks. Because the city collects on four different days per week, floor space is of utmost importance. No material will end up staying on the floor more than 24 hours, and an assembly line process ensures that materials are constantly moving. Because Phoenix runs a single-stream (or commingled)  recycling system, there is no separation of materials before they arrive at the center. To keep the program simple to use, everything goes in one recycling bin. Paper is mixed with aluminum, glass is mingled with plastic, and all this confusion is sorted out on the conveyor belts.

Recycling of Sorts

The first step in recycling at the MRF is to remove anything that is not recyclable. In Phoenix, the contamination rate (amount of included material that isn't recyclable) is between 20 and 30 percent, so this is a sizable task. Workers


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