Welcome to “Ask Recology,” a monthly feature from sponsor Recology King County.

You have questions, Recology has answers!

Hello Recology!

I’ve been recycling for years and have tried to teach my family and friends to recycle well, too. Recently, one of my grandchildren asked me what happens after our recycling goes into the bin, and I was stumped! Can you please explain what happens after it’s dumped into that big Recology truck?

Thank you kindly,

Hey Avery!

Firstly, we want to thank you for teaching people how to recycle—we are so happy to hear that you making this effort! We think it’s great that you are teaching your grandchildren to recycle early and that they are curious about how it all works, too. We are here to explain!

After our driver picks up your recycling, they haul it to our Materials Recovery Facility, also known as our MRF. Once the material makes it there, it is dumped onto the tipping floor which houses a large pile of soon-to-be sorted recyclables. From that point, the recyclables are funneled into the metering bin, which ensures that an even flow of material enters the machinery; this helps the MRF avoid jams and any overload onto the conveyor belt.

Once the material is on its way up the conveyor belt and through the MRF, it will go through several points to be separated correctly. Our recycling service is co-mingled, which means we accept paper, cardboard, hard plastics, metals, and glass. To make sure everything ends up in its respective category, our MRF uses advanced design that includes screens, magnetic separators, artificial intelligence, and trained people. All these features work together to eliminate contamination (non-recyclables) and to create a high-quality finished product which we can send to recycling processors.

So, once everything has been sorted into the correct category, it is then turned into a bale, which is really just a gigantic cube. From there, it is shipped to another facility which will turn the bale into useable material for the manufacturer who uses it in the next product. Depending on the material, it can be turned into a number of new products and the cycle re-starts all over again!

If you have more questions about the recycling process, please reach out to our Waste Zero Team at RKCWasteZero@recology.com. You can also schedule a MRF tour with us through this email, as well!

Thank you and happy recycling,

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