Conscious Consumer: Learn the Rules of Single-Stream Recycling

With the observance of World Environmental Day this week—it came and went on June 5th— we are reminded that our all-American lifestyle is one of luxury and convenience. Phrases like 'sustainability',  'post-consumer' and 'food-waste' evade us in our mad-dash for the day-to-day. Realizing the before and after of our own consumption is dismissed in our contemporary roles where we wear 5-hats each and need 6 hands to put them on with. 

We know this. 

So does major industry. 

So, they invented a program that was meant to deal with our gross abundance of left-over waste that could work in conjunction with landfills which everyone by now knows are a detriment and otherwise necessary evil. The recycling movement initialized in the late 60's, but lost steam early on due to lack of interest and resources the deposit-theory was enacted to reward good behavior and change mindset. It worked. Today across the globe we are more cognizant than ever about our clean-up efforts and how they are effecting the world around us. 

One local partner in recycling is Beacon's own ReCommunity. The single-stream recycling plant is more conducive to the American lifestyle than anything that came before it. Recommunity works with haulers within an 80 miles radius to process those throw-away items at a rate of 25 tons/hour. With 36 facilities nationwide ReCommunity has become the largest pure-play recyclers in North America, and they are growing. 

Their job begins with educating the consumer. While they do accept unsorted recyclable messes known as single-stream, they do have a few ground rules that need to be followed in order to make things run as they should. If you missed World Environmental Day this is how you can make up for it; Know, memorize and internalize the following:

NO Plastic Bags - bring them to the grocery store. 

Shredded Paper should be separated into clear plastic bags so that it doesn't gum up the machines. 

NO Hazardous Waste - i.e. paint, automotive fluids, car batteries and pesticides must be 
NO Diapers or Bio-Hazardous WasteSyringes or needles, diapers and other sanitary products are not recyclable. 
NO Nonrecyclable Plastics - Many plastics are still not recyclable like plastic lids and foam (Styrofoam®) 
NO Caps/Lids on Glass Bottles or JarsRemove metal lids and toss them in the bin. Plastic lids and caps from glass bottles and jars should be thrown away.
NO Liquids - It drips, splatters and explodes all over the floor, creating a sticky, smelly mess on the sorting floor. Please completely empty and quickly rinse 
out all containers before recycling.
NO Ceramics orNonrecyclable Glass - i.e. Ceramic, china, dishes, mirrors, light bulbs, Pyrex®, porcelain and window glass
NO Frozen Food Containers - These Paperboard boxes have a plastic polymer sprayed on them to protect against freezer burn so they don't break down. 
Follow the rules! Simply put, this is what is at stake..
If you're not into recycling or think it doesn't matter, think again. Yes, there is a common out-of-sight out-of-mind response that comes with our culture, but the voices that want to be heard are getting louder, and are even taking on celebrity status. 
Jeremy Irons is the face and the force of a movie called 'Trashed' which takes cameras into the plastic-covered shores of oceanic communities across the globe, showing the detriment of our wasteful ways.. (warning: the trailer contains images which may be disturbing to some)..

Chris Coady is the business development manager for the northeast region at ReCommunity. He joined the Beacon location in January 2012 when the facility opened. His message to the public is that of education an understanding. Single stream in particular - co mingling of items requires a change of habit from people who are used to separating their items, and a sense of reassurance for those who fear their items are all ending up in a landfill.  

"If they don't understand the end of the line they get concerned about what's really happening with that material," said Coady. 

One way to really see the work that is being done at ReCommunity is to visit their website and check out the interactive Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). Get a first-hand transparent look at what's happening inside the facility and peruse the easy-to-digest video snippets that help explain the process and illustrate where it all ends up. Find all of this, as well as education plans geared towards children grades 1- 5 and 6 - 12 in the 'education' section. 

David Kahn, plant manager at ReCommunity (shown in headlining photo) is hopeful about consumer participation. "I think the more people are aware of the products going into their house and the products going out as a stream the better! If we are saving our landfill space and taking our used packaging and turning it back into products we're saving virgin material and keeping a cycle going. The more people understand recycling the more people will reuse."
Photo taken at the 56,000 square foot facility in Beacon, NY