Every day, the workers at Modern Disposal Services’ Buffalo Recycling Enterprises facility process around 400 tons of recyclable materials, sorting and baling them to get them ready to go back out to become new products.
News 4’s Katie Alexander continued our Buffalo Behind the Scenes series Monday morning with a look inside the Buffalo Recycling Enterprises operation. Watch the videos below to see our full Wake Up coverage.
The whole process starts with the recycling totes being picked up from curbs around the city of Buffalo and surrounding municipalities.
Dozens of trucks collect those items and drop them off on the tipping floor at Modern’s South Buffalo property.
That mountain of material comes in as a single stream, with all of the recyclables mixed together. Starting at 5 a.m. six days a week, the material is loaded up onto the lines to begin to be sorted.
In the early stages of the sorting process, employees pick through to take out non-recyclable materials that have been thrown in. They also start pulling out some of the specific materials, like corrugated cardboard and glass, that they have been tasked to look for.
The materials continue through a series of belts and pneumatic sorters, going through optical scanners and under a massive magnet to pull out metals, as they are sorted into streams of similar products.
All along the way, people are working along the lines, to continue to refine what has been sorted.
Eventually, the fully sorted materials are put through a massive baler, which churns out 1,800 pound cubes to go back out onto the global market to become new products.
“The idea about recycling, besides being good for the environment, we want to make sure that as much material that gets collected at the street can be reduced and reused in the marketplace,” said Joseph Greer, Director of Sales for Modern Disposal Services, Inc.
For any of the materials to be able to be used again though, the contamination levels in the bails that come out of Buffalo Recycling Enterprises have to stay extremely low.
“Say our cardboard gets shipped over to China, and there’s organic matter in the cardboard, they’ll send the whole load back. It will be rejected,” pointed out James Colby, a residential driver for Modern Disposal Services.
Colby has been on a mission to make sure the customers along his route know exactly what can and cannot be recycled.
He took it upon himself to launch an education campaign, giving out a full list of recycling do’s and don’ts (on recycled paper, of course), and specifically pointing out areas for improvement when he noticed some of the non-recyclable materials in the totes he was picking up.
Colby’s efforts have paid off. His truck consistently comes in with “clean” loads.
And now, Modern is implementing some of Colby’s education practices company-wide. “We want to reuse, repurpose, and recycle the right stuff,” Colby said.
Colby also points out that recycling the right stuff is a safety issue for the Modern Disposal Services crews. Things like electronic waste and medical waste, especially, can really put the men and women who work on the lines sorting items at risk.
Plastic bags are also a big problem at recycling facilities like this one. The thin plastic gets caught in the screens in the machines, which then have to be shut down a couple times a day for cleaning.
If you want to recycle your single-use plastic shopping bags, officials say your best bet is to return them to the grocery store, where they can be shipped off to be processed in bulk.