Marion County Transfer Station recently changed its recycling procedure to single stream recycling.
The major differences in the new procedure is that recyclables are now accepted six days a week and residents no longer need to sort their recyclables before or at drop off.
“People can just put all their recyclables together and drop them off on the same floor where trash is dropped off,” transfer station manager Rollin Schmidt said. “Recyclables are kept separate from the trash.”
Schmidt said one key to the new process was getting all the proper materials.
The transfer station still accepts all the recyclables that they previously did, he said, but they still do not accept plastic grocery or trash bags for recycling.
The process is very similar to what they do with trash, he said. Employees simply load all the recyclables onto a trailer. However, instead of going to the landfill, the recyclables travel to Waste Connections Inc.’s recycling center in Hutchinson.
“There is a multimillion-dollar machine there,” Schmidt said. “It sorts all the recyclables.”
He said there also would be one recycling bin, a 20-yard towable trailer with a lid, set up in six different locations — Burns, Centre, Durham, Florence, Goessel, and Tampa.
“The big scheme is to get more people involved in recycling and less going to the landfill,” Schmidt said. “We also want to get people who don’t already recycle to participate.”
In the past, Schmidt said he received many phone calls from people who said they stopped recycling because the recycling center was only open on Thursday and Saturday. He thought many people would probably start recycling again due to their expanded hours and the simplicity of a one-step drop-off.
“I am gratified it has worked so well,” Marion resident and longtime recycling advocate Margaret Wilson said Thursday. “It’s just so easy anyone can do it. Every time I have been to the transfer station this week, there has been a line of cars.”
Multimillion-dollar sorting machine
Jeff Fawcett of Waste Connections, Inc. said the machine is composed of conveyer belts that connect a series of automated and staffed sorting stations responsible for separating a specific recyclable material.
Once in the machine, a large toothed mechanism fluffs up and separated large items like cardboard and paper products.
“Other materials then go through a manual sort in the process line,” Fawcett said. “Employees sort plastics into types 1 through 7 and also look for ‘film trash’ like grocery and trash bags as well as other contaminates.”
After that, the remaining recyclables pass through an automated portion of the machine where a non-ferrous magnet separates aluminum.
“It looks like what happens when two magnets of the same polarity come together,” Fawcett said. “It forces or pushes the aluminum cans out of the rest of the material.”
Another magnet lowered from above on a separate conveyer belt collects steel and tin cans, he said.
Most recyclables are compacted in a continuous bailer that usually churns out about 30 bales before employees need to clean it with a pitchfork, he said.
Employees also manually sort glass. However, glass is the only material that isn’t bailed.
“Once glass is collected we grind it up and heat it to remove any moisture,” he said. “With glass, we make a specific product that meets the classifications of a fiberglass and insulation manufacturer in McPherson.”