Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Where does my recycling go?

A recycling bin on the
University of Michigan's Diag.
University of Michigan students, staff, and faculty recycle over 2,500 tons of materials each year. Do you ever wonder what happens to your plastic bottle, aluminum can, or piece of printer paper when you put it in that beautiful blue bin? The University of Michigan Waste Reduction and Recycling Office is here to tell you step by step what happens to your recyclables after you've put them in the recycling bin. 
Step 1: You put an item into a recycling bin on campus, such as the recycling bin depicted to the right. 
Step 2: Once full, a member of the custodial staff dumps the contents of that recycling bin into a blue bag of other recyclables. 
A blue University of
Michigan recycling dumpster.
Step 3: The member of the custodial staff places the blue bag of recyclables into that building's blue recycling dumpster (depicted to the left). Typically, any campus building has both a recycling and trash dumpster. Some buildings will share a dumpster with others due to their smaller recycling output, while others will have additional dumpsters because of their larger size. For example, Michigan Stadium has four recycling dumpsters. 

U-M Recycling Trucks
Two Waste Management Services recycling trucks.

Step 4: A Plant Operations truck will come and load the contents of the recycling dumpster into their truck (depicted to the right). Most buildings have their recycling dumpsters emptied on a regular schedule, for example a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday cycle. Some smaller buildings call in to have their dumpsters emptied. Waste Management Services' truck drivers also pick up trash, compost, Styrofoam, wood, metal—except for regulated waste (such as batteries or electronics which are handled by OSEH).
Step 5: The Plant Operations truck will drop off your recyclables at the Western Washtenaw Recycling Authority. As of October of 2015, the University of Michigan's recyclables are going to the Western Washtenaw Recycling Authority in Chelsea, MI. Previously, our recyclables were going to the Materials Recovery Facility in Ann Arbor.
Truck at WWRA facility
A photo of the Western
Washtenaw Recycling Authority.
Step 6: Your recyclables are sorted according to their material makeup at the Western Washtenaw Recycling Authority. If you throw something away that isn't accepted as recyclable at the WWRA, it will be sorted as trash.
Step 7: Your recyclables, along with other objects of the same material, will be compressed into cubes.
Step 8: The bales of recyclables are picked up by various companies and organizations to use in the creation of new products!

"Home." Western Washtenaw Recycling Authority. Western Washtenaw Recycling Authority, n.d. Web. 14 Feb. 2016.
"PBA Spotlight." Sustainability.umich.edu. Graham Sustainability Institute, Sept. 2014. Web. 14 Feb. 2016.