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Republic Services simplifies recycling with sorting facility
Recycling is a lot easier than it used to be.
The painstaking process of separating out every piece of material into three or four bins that have to be lugged to the curb every week has been largely eliminated in this area.
Republic Services’ Material Recovery Facility in Seattle’s SoDo area plays a big part in this enhanced convenience. The 50,000-square-foot site takes in more than 200,000 tons of recyclable materials annually and sorts them out, category by category, to be sent off for reuse.
“There are more materials that can be thrown in that single can because we’ve made the investment in the equipment and the people to effectively sort it and send it back to market,” said Jeff Borgida, general manager at Republic Services.
The company, formerly known as Waste Management, collects trash in Bellevue and surrounding communities.
The Material Recovery Facility was first built in 1988. Since that time, Republic has made extensive investments to add machinery that makes it easier and faster to sort the stream of materials that enter the facility every day. A 2008 investment of more than $5 million added more sorting machines, which led to simpler recycling for customers.
The human element still plays a big role in the effectiveness of the facility, Republic Services Marketing Manager John Caputo said. The facility runs 24 hours a day, in three shifts, and a total of 160 employees work the area during a typical day.
They are essentially responsible for quality control. They are stationed near pieces of machinery, and at extremely high speeds remove and toss materials — such as textiles — that can be damaging to the equipment.
The machinery works as an intricate and interconnected system. Materials come in, and a variety of screening methods will filter out some of the smaller pieces — cans and glass — from things like paper and cardboard. Each piece goes through parts of the system to separate bailers that compact materials to be delivered for repurposing back into such items as corrugated boxes and recycled beverage containers.
While not the biggest of Republic Services MRFs — that honor goes to the San Jose facility, which opened last month — the Seattle facility is the most prolific.
“The Pacific Northwest gets it. It’s been just a bit further along in the program and how to go about recycling,” Borgida said.
No major investments in the facility are planned in the short-term, officials said. But the company does want to create a customer-friendly awareness center that will allow people to see exactly how the facility works.
Nat Levy is a reporter for the Bellevue Reporter newspaper, a sister paper of the Mercer Island Reporter.