Where Recycling Goes

Zero Sort Recycling IconDo you wonder where your recycling goes once your blue bin is emptied at the curb? Do you wonder what your recycling is made into?

The town has just signed a new contract with Casella Resource Solutions to collect recycling from over 13,255 households and about 60 businesses in Brookline each week. Casella sends out 4 recycling trucks. The recycling trucks are set up to pick up our blue single-stream carts automatically with an arm attached to the side of the truck. This is why it is important to make a clear path to your cart when possible.

When the truck is full, Casella brings the material to the recycling facility located in Charlestown, Massachusetts, where the material gets weighed, sorted, and baled. Over 100 recycling trucks dump material at the facility daily.

Importance of Clean Recyclables

At the Charlestown facility, the processing of recyclables is assisted by advanced sorting technology. In addition, recycling processing is labor-intensive. This reinforces the importance of properly preparing your recycling!

None of the recyclable containers are washed at the processing facility; so dirty recyclables are considered trash. If a recycling truck is mixed or contains trash, the entire load can be rejected leading to additional processing costs and more material sent to landfills or incinerators. This is why you must rinse out jars, cans, and tubs so that the materials are free from food.

Sorting Process

In addition, about 500 tons of paper are processed each day. While the paper and cardboard move along the conveyor belt, electronic eyes and then people separate the material into different "grades" and remove contaminants. For example, pizza boxes (covered with grease) are considered a contaminant because of the grease and food residue.

On another conveyor, as the commingled containers flow along, metals are yanked out from overhead magnets and propelled into a holding area. Broken glass and bottle caps shake out and fall onto a lower conveyor for further processing.

The remaining material: plastics, aluminum, and milk cartons are blown around by air jets strategically placed to push and draw light materials over to a manual sorting conveyor. Glass containers travel onto another conveyor where the clear containers are separated from the colored glass.

Bales of recycled material in a warehouse

Baling & Shipping

Once everything is thoroughly sorted, the material is baled separately. Huge bales of plastics, metals, paper, and cardboard are stacked up in the facility and await loading into export containers, trailers, and rail cars for direct shipment to companies that use the material to make new products.

Each month, Casella provides the town with a monthly market report. Although demand for the material and the end markets fluctuate, the end destinations are relatively constant.

Click below for more on what you can and cannot recycle

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