How Recycling Really Works

Tyler Clemons & Amanda Huff

Oxford, Miss., is trying to be a greener place by recycling, but few people know how the process actually works. Here’s a breakdown of what happens after your stuff vanishes into the recycling bin:

Oxford Recycling Center workers come to empty the bins early each morning, loading each bin onto a specialized truck to take it to the center on Pea Ridge Road.

• What happens next depends on the item being recycled. “Paper and cardboard are immediately baled,” Oxford Recycling Coordinator Amberlyn Lyles said. Plastic and aluminum containers are sorted before they’re baled.

• Once they’re sorted, the materials are taken to the baling machine. The machine uses more than 400 pounds of pressure to compress the items into square bales.

• Now that the recyclables are in moveable form, a forklift picks up the bales and stacks them with like materials in the center’s warehouse.

• The bales are sold by the 18-wheeler load to outside companies, who use them to make new products. “Most of our plastics go in 18-wheeler loads to Mohawk Industries in Alabama,” Lyles said. “They make carpet.”

Oxford recycled nearly 15 tons of cans last year – enough to power the average television set for the next 320 years. Additionally, every ton of recycled paper saves 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water and 4,100 kilowatts of electricity, the recycling center reports.

So the next time you toss last month’s magazine into the recycling bin, you’ll know exactly what happens to it after it leaves your sight. That’s how recycling gets your stuff from your house to the warehouse and back again.

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~ by tylerclemons on November 2, 2009.

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