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UofM Recycling tour 9/9/11

Six of us went on a tour of the U's recycling facility. Our host told us about the market for various materials, took us out on the sorting floor, and answered questions about why certain things can or cannot be recycled with others.

Present: Rianna Andrews, Jacob Haapala, Annie Hotop, Marc Katz, Nathan Mitchell, Mark Weaver

Miscellaneous notes:

BOTTLES AND CANS
Mixed bins are dumped on a conveyor belt. Staff toss glass into colored bins and pull out unacceptable materials. Number 2 plastic is sorted out. They have to go by shape/experience, since they cannot check every label, so some acceptable items are pulled out. Plastic (#1) can then be blown off into a shredder and baler. Metal continues on and aluminum (most cans these days) is separated from magnetic metal.

PLASTIC
Plastic recycling is about more than the number on the bottom. Within a category there are different versions of the polymer, having different chain lengths and thus melting points.
Bottle caps can/should be left on plastic bottles, and should not be recycled separately. They can jam the machines.
#1 and #2 bottles are recycled here, but not cups and tubs and plates (or loose caps). These products are made with different methods, and require different polymer chain lengths. All of these are separated by hand and tossed out. There are some additional plastics being collected in special programs.

PAPER
Office paper only allows pastels and whites. White-only would get higher prices, but would recycle less.
Vivid colors require extra bleach, which causes factories to exceed their chlorine release permits, so they should not be recycled.
Office paper is lignin-free and can go in with the newspaper, but newspaper (which has lignin) should not go in office paper.
They hand-separate the newspaper-plus into books, magazines, newspaper. Thick items (like phone books) need to be torn apart before shredding.

ORGANICS
Organic recycling (paper towels, etc.) is being tested in several buildings. It requires a different and more efficient use of custodial staff.