Ever wonder what really happens to your plastic water bottle after you throw it in the recycling container? Recently, our Executive Director Harriet Taub took a morning to visit the Sims Metal Management recycling facility in Jersey City. Located on the waterfront just south of the Statue of Liberty, Sims handles all of NYC’s metal, glass and plastic recycling.
Plastics are recycled with the help of TITECH Recycling machines from Germany which operate along with a series of conveyor belts. The machines first scan the plastics and then, using a powerful air blast, magically (it seems) separate the clear plastic from the colored plastic. After a number of separation cycles the materials pass through the hands of a group of Sims employees who finish the sort and pull out any mixed materials or garbage. The sorted plastics are moved by a conveyor belt into a compacting machine that crushes them into a bale that is then shipped to a manufacturer to become new products. It is a fascinating process and one that clearly demonstrates the importance of putting that water bottle into the recycling container.
Despite increased awareness of recycling, plastics still occupy 15% of total landfill space. Unfortunately, recyclable paper products make up 40% of all waste sent to landfills. That means that our landfills are more than half-full of items that don’t need to be there! So next time you empty that gallon of milk, finish reading your newspaper or go to toss out your junk mail, reach for the recycling bin, not the trash!