We get the chance to interview Emily Hanson, Community Relations Manager of the the industry-leading company GreenWaste. Based in the Bay Area of California, GreenWaste has been pushing the envelope of efficiency in both recycling and conservation since 1991. Their headquarters in San Jose is one of the most innovative processing facilities in the world, capable of sorting and recovering 98% of recyclable materials and 75% of trash for a total facility diversion rate of 88% for household and commercial waste. What makes GreenWaste unique is that they process garage and recyclables side by side. Before GreenWaste, the garbage from San Jose residents went straight to landfill!
If a plastic container has a recycling symbol on its bottom, doesn’t that mean it’s recyclable? Why can some plastic containers be recycled but others cannot? Believe it or not, the “recycling symbol” on the bottom of plastic containers has nothing to do with whether it’s recyclable or not. The numbered symbol on the bottom is merely an ASTM resin identification code that helps sort the type of plastic into the right category – it doesn’t necessarily mean that it actually gets recycled. There are many factors that affect the outcome of recyclable waste. Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) determine a product’s recyclability by the type of resin it is made from and by its shape. More importantly, a product’s recyclability is determined by the market demand for that specific type of reclaimed material. For example, if there is no demand for plastic bottles, then MRFs would not make it their priority to sort them. There are just too many containers made from so many different types of resins that it is hard for manual laborers to sort every single container.
Going back to what Emily Hanson said during our conversation, we can put all the containers we want into our recycling bins, but that doesn’t guarantee that they’ll be recycled when they get to the MRF. That doesn’t mean that we should stop recycling. We should keep doing what we’re doing and go even further by pushing manufacturers and legislators to implement changes. As consumers, we have more power than we think!