ELKHART — There are people looking through your trash.
Residents used to have to sort discarded papers, plastics, metals, aluminum and glass into different bins, but these days, you can throw all your recyclables into one bin and workers and a machine will do the sorting later.
Your recyclables — sorted or not — all get dumped into one truck and, if you live in Elkhart, Bristol, Nappanee, Wakarusa or Millersburg, taken to a facility on 605 Mason St. in Elkhart. There, Borden Waste-Away Services, Inc., feed it to a monster of a machine. It chews up your glass, picks through your discarded metal and aluminum and swallows up your paper and cardboard.
Republic Services, which previously merged with Allied Waste, serves Goshen and Middlebury. The waste management company also dumps all recyclables into one truck.
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That’s why some recycling pick-up centers only have containers labelled “cardboard” and “all other recyclables”, but you can discard your cardboard in either bin, said customer service representative Leslie Jones with Waste-Away Group Ltd.
There’s a separate container only because businesses tend to discard more cardboard. Separate recycling trucks pick up the contents of each container.
Once the garbage truck reaches the facility, it empties the recyclables onto the floor. An industrial loader scoops up the trash and it is fed onto a conveyer belt. The facility processes more than 450 tons of material every day, according to Borden Waste-Away Services’ website.
The machine sorts cardboard, paper, glass, metals and plastics so each material can be processed separately. Sorting can be a complicated matter because different metals and types of plastic need to be treated differently.
For a plant to be considered a recycling facility, no more than 10 percent of the waste passing through the facility is discarded, according to Indiana code (you can find it under Article 11).
If not, it’s considered a “transfer station,” which is where all garbage is dumped and taken to a landfill.
As much as 98 percent of all the trash passing through the Recycling Works facility is recycled, according to Waste-Away’s website.
The sorting process at the facility encourages people to recycle more, plant manager Patrick Kennedy said.
“If I throw it into a recycling container, I don’t have to sort it,” Kennedy said. “It’s easier, so I can recycle more.”