An outside company contracted by the landlords at three of our facilities, IESI, removes the waste materials from our facilities in New York to a recycling transfer station. Since we have little control over who takes the waste or where it goes, we felt it was important to understand how the recycling process works once waste leaves the building. We knew that different types of recyclable materials, as well a non-recyclable waste, are shipped together to the same facility, and we were curious to see how it is handled once it arrives there. The good news is that the vast majority of what we throw away can be recycled—as long as it’s disposed of properly.
Here’s how IESI’s ‘single-stream’ process works: our bagged refuse is unloaded onto conveyor belts, where the bags are opened and the contents sent through a series of inspections where workers pull out ‘wet waste’ such as food, food containers, and items like coffee filters, used paper plates, napkins, etc.. They sort out corrugated cardboard, plastics, metals, glass, etc. By the end of the conveyor belt, what remains is almost all white paper, which is baled and mostly exported for recycling into post-consumer paper products. The cardboard, low-grade paper, plastic, and metal is also recycled appropriately. Recovered metals are sent next door to a plant that melts them down for re-use. The wet/organic waste along with any non-recyclable materials is transferred to the Seneca Meadows landfill in upstate New York, where methane released from decomposing waste is used to generate electrical power for the local grid. (Visit the Seneca Meadows Landfill for more information.
The most important thing we learned from our visit to the processing and recycling plant is that anything that comes in contact with wet waste must be sent to the landfill; the recycling contractors will not accept it. A whole bag of office paper or plastic or aluminum recyclables can be contaminated by an apple core, a used teabag, or an unclean yogurt container.
As a result of what we’ve learned from our visits to these facilities, we’ve communicated the lessons learned to our employees and posted official recycling guidelines around our offices, as well as updated procedures we have in place with our cleaning contractors. As we move forward, we are looking to do a better job pre-sorting office waste, but more importantly, a better job isolating wet and dry organic waste.
We understand that in order to maximize the volume of our waste that gets recycled, it will have to be a team effort. Fortunately, our team is committed to recycling!