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Sep 03

08/01/19 - Part 1: Some Behind the Scenes of Recycling

Posted on September 3, 2020 at 12:16 PM by Jacob Smith

Where Does Recycling Go in Summit County?

Dump TruckRecyclables after they are picked up from your curbside carts are hauled by a truck to a recycling facility. These recycling facilities are called "Material Recycling Facility", also known as "MRF."

In Summit County regardless of which company or city truck picks up your recycling cart, the majority of the recyclable material goes to one of three privately owned Northeast Ohio MRFs. Two are in Summit County, one in Twinsburg and the other in Akron. The third MRF is in Oberlin (Lorain County). Because the one in Oberlin is farther away, for the most part, your recyclables are generally going to the two MRFs in Summit County.

So, What Goes on at the MRF?

After gathering all the recyclables from your neighborhood, the recycling truck goes to the MRF. This is where all the collected materials are sorted. The facility has magnets, conveyor belts, optical sorters, and people to help separate the different materials. Once the recyclables are sorted, the materials are baled.

The collected, sorted, and baled material now must get to a company that has a use for these items. Sometimes it is easy to find a company that wants to purchase it. Other times, the MRF must pay a fee to have the baled material recycled or shipped somewhere for additional processing. If the MRF cannot find a company that wants the baled material, it will go to the landfill. MRFs spend time and money sorting and baling the materials in preparation for recycling and therefore landfills are not their first choice.

So, over all, MRFs prepare items from your recycling cart for them to be processed into other materials by another business.

What Happens to These Baled Recyclables Once They Leave the MRF?

Companies that make products with recycled content want these bales.

Paper mills are one example. All the types of paper collected at the MRF (old newspapers, junk mail with and without envelopes, office paper, magazines, etc.) become a mixed paper bale. These mixed paper bales will be added to the paper mills' processes to generate new paper. Depending upon how much of the paper bales from the MRF get into the new paper it will determine the percentage of the recycled content.

Shredded Paper

One thing to keep in mind: do not put shredded paper into your curbside recycling. The small shreds of paper stick to everything, including all the other materials included for recycling. Shredded paper can be used for composting. Shredded paper is also accepted at certain River Valley locations. However, these locations are not monitored.

To help Summit County residents and businesses with documents that need to be shredded, we offer the free Document Shredding and Recycling events each month, May through October. At our events, the paper is shredded on site in a specially designed truck. The shredded documents are taken to a facility that will further process them, eventually leading to paper made from recycled content.