MAY 03, 2017 07:02 AM PDT

Where Does All That Trash Go?


Most people have become much more aware of the three Rs. Not "reading, writing and arithmetic" since those are not actually all words beginning with R, but "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." With climate change looming and landfills overflowing, the three Rs are a must. Putting out the recycling is a weekly chore for most households, but does anyone really know where it all goes? One major city, San Francisco, sees about 600 tons of recycled material every day, most collected curbside from residents. That's a lot of stuff. Where does it go?

Pier 96 is ground zero for recyclable trash. Huge amounts of recycled material is sorted at this facility into 16 different categories. From a massive pile of all kinds of trash, workers sort each category out for proper disposal. Plastic, paper, cardboard and aluminum are manually sorted, while machines sift out other materials. Magnets grab onto cans, and tiny puffs of air can separate out certain lightweight plastics. It might look like a huge mess when it arrives but with hard work and a little technology, materials are baled together and transferred out. Aluminum is used in making construction rebar, paper is used to make more paper and plastics are turned into all kinds of different materials. It's not just trash, it's material that can be used again in a variety of ways.
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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