It seems to be a truism: people who have lived in a place for a long time may know their favorite restaurant, but they often are so set in their routine that they do NOT know all the new hot places to go see! My dad, who grew up in Brooklyn, loved taking us kids into New York City because he said he got to play tourist. And I know, even after living in the Hartford Connecticut area for over 14 years, I only visited the Mark Twain house when I returned with a carload of high school students on a college tour trip.
Still, you may be surprised that I bring out-of-town visitors to our transfer station at Recology when they come to see Oregon.
Let’s start with the premise that here until recently, and in most places in the United States even now, curbside collection of recycling is not typical. Trash, yes. Mingled recycling, rare. Curbside collection of glass and yard waste, even more rare.
So, for the curious, checking out where that stuff goes and what they do with it is a normal tease. For those who haven’t yet begun to think about the trash they generate, it is an eye-opener.
So, let’s visit Recology (1850 NE Lafayette Avenue, McMinnville) and see just what they do with what we give them.
When the truck comes today to pick up my mingled recyclables, they will be getting some cardboard, a bunch of junkmail, and a plastic jar I have no need to reuse. The truck will load up on its route and make it back to the transfer station by late morning, dump, and then head back out for another truckload.
Inside the building, a forklift operator loads the mixed stuff on to a conveyor to a machine which compresses and bails it all. These bails are stacked and then sent off to a company that purchases our recyclables. That party is the one who sorts. Now, we could get more if we sorted locally, but the cost to process would probably be higher than the current system.
Some sorting is possible because of the collection bin system in the public portion of the center.
Glass, for example, is sorted by color. If you carry your glass to the transfer station you get directed to sort by color.
The curbside collection is mingled, however. Trucks dump glass outside in a contained space for sorting before sending on to the glass buyers. Okay, check out the beer (brown) drinkers versus red wine (clear) and white wine (green) drinkers.
Electronics are also collected inside, then moved and wrapped (the numbers indicate the weight) and stored until a truckload is gained. There are small amounts of gold and heavy metals that are pulled out; the gold for value, the heavy metals for safer disposal.
Other items are also segregated and baled. Some, like cardboard, are sold directly from McMinnville.
Some, like single use flimsy plastic sheeting, have to be moved to another transfer station to be added to their collection. Thin, single use plastic bags, similar to the ones used at grocery stores, are a huge problem. Not only do they have few downstream uses, they typically end up littering our roadways and waterways, and then into the oceans. McMinnville’s decision to stop permitting these bags to be used will help improve our environment. As the Recology sign above indicates, REDUCE is one aspect we all need to practice. If we don’t use a problematic item, we don’t need to worry about how to deal with it at the end of its usefulness.
There are other items that are collected inside the transfer station and then sorted and stored until the volume is enough to transfer. Things like motor oil and antifreeze are stored in bins most of us consider more useful for storing pre-bottled beverages.
People who do not pay for curbside trash or recycling pick-up may bring those items to the transfer station. They are charged drop rates similar to the dump, but again, these items at the transfer station are recycled and so, there is an environmental advantage to this drop site.
Before curbside pick-up was started last fall, many people had gotten used to bringing yard debris to the Greenlands site adjacent to the transfer station. Also part of the Recology organization, Greenlands accepts all kinds of natural items that can be used and reused.
For example, the curbside yard waste pick-up also permits raw vegetables and fruits. In other words, as you are preparing your supper, scraps not used for eating can be used for compost. Cooked food is NOT permitted. The mulch operation at Greenlands is pretty amazing with rows and rows of vegetable matter maturing. If you need muclch for your home garden, consider buying some to be delivered from Greenlands instead of buying it in plastic (ugh) bags at the home centers or nurseries.
So, if you haven’t already been to Recology, go check it out. You’ll be amazed at the things they take which will make you a more responsible person sorting for recycling instead of landfill! And you can raise the awareness of people who come to visit from areas where there is no similar recycling system to learn and hopefully get something started where they live!