Regional center recycles 800 tons a day that are resold
By Meena Rupani
You drop trash into the recycling bin in hopes materials will be reused and not dumped into a landfill, but does this actually happen?
Recyclables separated from other trash are meant to go to a materials recycling facility, but Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce members questioned the reality of that at their goals conference this month when the Natural Resources Committee debated where recycled glass actually goes.
"Your recycled glass ends up in a landfill; there is no market for the product at the moment. One day it may be used for beach restoration," Cheryl H. Jacobs, chamber Workforce Housing Committee chair and director of community relations at Zyscovich architects, told the committee.
But environmental experts beg to differ.
"Recycled glass is sold as cullet," according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. "Uses for cullet include the manufacture of building materials such as glass tile and composite wall panels, concrete applications, construction aggregate, industrial mineral uses, insulation applications, paving applications in road construction, and re-melt applications to make colored windows and stained glass."
"Recycled glass received at the center gets used for road construction projects," said Dawn McCormick of the Reuters Recycling Center in Pembroke Pines. "If not, we find an in-house use for it."
The Reuters Recycling Center receives all the recycling products from residential areas in Miami. The center is the largest single-stream recycling center in South Florida.
"We process about 800 tons of recycled materials per day, which comes out to about 200,000 tons a year," Ms. McCormick said.
Alexandra Dutton, sustainability program assistant at Florida International University, agreed with Ms. McCormick.
"I took a tour of the Reuters Recycling facility just a few days ago and I can tell you firsthand that everything gets recycled even if there is no market for the reused product," Ms. Dutton said. "Your recyclables won't be dumped into a landfill."
According to the Recycling Association of Minnesota, the chance recycled materials do get reused is high in most cases, but various factors are involved.
"Since your recyclables will eventually be sold to manufacturers, they must meet certain standards," the association states. "They can't have too many impurities, since recycled materials compete with virgin materials for use in manufacturing."
For example, if you recycle a pizza box covered in grease, it will most likely end up in a landfill. The cleaner the recycled material, the higher the chance it will get resold.
Another factor is the market.
In the case of recycled plastic, "people in the plastic recycle market get price lists every day, so they know what price is being paid for all sorts of plastic according to plastic type and degree of pre-processing. If the market for a given type of plastic is high enough to at least break even, it may be sold and eventually be recycled," the Environmental Protection Agency said.
However, if the cost is high to separate and transport the plastic, the recycling facility may wait until the market price is right.
"We believe that there are many benefits of recycling and over time, the benefits outweigh the costs. In most cases, sending materials to be recycled are lower than paying landfill tipping fees," the Environmental Protection Agency said.
The organization detailed the economic and environmental benefits of recycling: "Recycling creates six times as many jobs as land filling. Jobs are needed to process the materials and manufacture them into new products. If every household in the US replaced just one roll of 1,000-sheet virgin fiber bathroom tissues with 100% recycled ones, we could save: 373,000 trees, 1.48 million cubic feet of landfill space and 155 million gallons of water."