When it leaves your home, where does the recycling go?

CREATED Apr 22, 2014

  • Print
  • Play

WAUKESHA - It's something many of us do every single day: recycle.  But just what happens when that recycling bin leaves your home? 

For Waukesha county residents, it goes to the Materials Recycling Facility.  The process is a relatively quick one. Solid Waste Supervisor Rebecca Mattano tells TODAY’S TMJ4’s Jesse Ritka, “We get 70 tons in a day, we're usually shipping 70 tons out a day so that's how we're keeping things moving.”

Mattano explains the basic process on this Earth Day, “The trucks come in and they scale in, when they scale in, they have to report to us where they were so what community they're coming from so that's number one, our most important step.”

Roughly 35 trucks weigh in on a daily basis, filled to the brim from bins across the county which are quickly spilled out onto what is called the “tipping floor”.

After the recycles are dumped, they get put onto a conveyor belt where they are sorted and separated by hand.  But not everything can be recycled. Mattano explains, “Plastic bags are very bad in our program, when we get these things in, we have to separate it out and then we have to pay about a $60 per ton fee to dispose of them, so instead of bringing more money into our communities, it pushes money out.”

What does make it through the sorting process can cycle cash back into the county after passing through all the separation stages, “Once these cages get full, they go down, the cage will open up, it goes down to a conveyor belt, gets taken over to a compactor, where it's compacted and then ready for market.  These are commodities, so they are worth money and so we do make good money on it, it is an environmentally sustainable and an economically sustainable effort.”

Waukesha county sells the compacted cubes mainly to companies in the United States and tries to keep it as local as possible Mattano says, “Most of our markets are domestic markets so Anheuser Busch is our largest aluminum recycler, we sell all our aluminum to them, in 6 weeks it turns into aluminum cans.  We have our steel recycling, a lot of our steel and tin actually goes to Milwaukee markets and is recycled here, as well as our paper markets, our plastics, some of our number one plastics go to Mohawk Company to be recycled into carpet.”

This Saturday you can watch the entire cycle from start to finish at their Community Open House from 9am-12pm, the Waukesha Materials Recycling Facility is located at 220 S. Prairie Ave.  It may be one of the last few chances to see the center in operation as Waukesha County and the City of Milwaukee are venturing into a recycling partnership.

Mattano exclaims, “We will be moving to the single sort recycling system, which will take all 1-7 plastics but as of right now we're still only taking number one and two bottles.”

The City of Milwaukee Common Council approved a Regional Single Stream Material Recycling Facility in conjunction with Waukesha county to be operational by early 2015.