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Blog: Sorting Recyclables from the Trash

Sorting Recyclables from the Trash

It’s a common misconception that recyclables and organics (food waste) are separated from the trash by either your trash hauler or at its final destination. Good intending people end up tossing their plastic water bottle in the trash, thinking it will be sorted out later. We’re sorry to say, that’s not true.

What happens to your trash and recyclables.

All trash from Ramsey and Washington counties goes to the Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy Center (R&E Center) where it is shredded to be converted to electricity. The R&E Center processes 450,000 tons, about 52 million bags, of trash every day. Your recycling bins are taken to privately-owned facilities where the materials are sold and then turned back into new products. If you have commercial organics pick-up it is taken to privately-owned facilities where it is turned into compost.

Sorting materials at the R&E Center.

The R&E Center does not have the ability to separate plastic, paper, glass or food waste from the trash. Some metals (like pop cans and steel) can be separated. However, the process of separating metals at the R&E Center is far less efficient and costs more than separating them at home or work, so many still end up in the trash. Also, once in the trash, metals need to be sorted twice to clean them, which lowers the sales price and increases the energy used to recover them.

If we put our recyclables and food waste in the trash, we miss out on opportunities to reuse them for better purposes. Separating our waste at work results in cleaner and more usable materials then if we tried to sort them from the trash later.

Can we ever sort recyclables out of the trash?

Even as we get better at separating recycling and organics at home and work, some valuable materials and food waste will still end up in the trash. At the R&E Center, we’re currently evaluating additional equipment and technologies to help us recover more recyclables and food waste then we can currently. However, these processes will not replace the efficiencies gained in separating the materials at the source, your home and work.

We’re here to help you figure this out.

Managing your trash better doesn’t have to be hard. We have recycling experts who will come to your workplace and create a plan to help you recycle better. We even give grants of up to $10,000 to make improvements. We’ve awarded over 600 grants to businesses! Contact us to sign-up and #recyclebetter.

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