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  1. The Journey
  2. Wishcycling
  3. Recyclonomics
  4. The Ton

Image of Halloween decorated trunk of a vehicle

Many Pasco residents are surprised to hear that paper and cardboard products can go in the same container as all their regular recycling. How can this single stream of mixed recyclables be separated into one material or another? The process is complicated. First, contamination and large, bulky items are removed by hand. Then, agitation is used to remove glass shards and small items such as bottle caps. Huge machines then “fluff” the stream, using air and more agitation to separate fiber (paper and cardboard) from everything else. A magnet pulls away any material that contains iron, mostly steel cans.

Usually an air classifier will use a fan to push lighter goods like aluminum and plastic to a different conveyor belt while allowing heavier items to fall to a lower conveyor. An eddy current separator pushes aluminum out of the stream using an induction (reverse) magnet. Finally, an optical sorter uses infrared to separate different grades of plastic based on the spectrum of light they reflect. This way, more valuable plastic like #1 or #2 can be identified. Gone are the days where separate bins for paper, plastic, and cans lined the streets; today, single-stream recycling is the norm, allowing curbside recycling to be as convenient as possible.