SANTA ROSA, Calif. - Though the Bay Area has always been a leader in recycling, it can now boast one of the most high-tech mass recycling facilities in the nation, owned by employee-owned Recology in Santa Rosa.
This is where thousands of blue boxes come when it comes to Recology; a mish-mash of recycling. But, this is also where the magic begins.
It is a brand new, $35 million advanced recycling center Recology opened to the public on Thursday. It serves the Marin-Sonoma region.
"That is the magic of this plant: how you combine modern recycling equipment, optical sorters, ballistic sorters and then hand sorting by recycling workers to maximize recycling," said Robert Reed, Recology’s Public Information Officer.
This ultra-modern facility has 109 sorting conveyor belts. From end to end, the belts would run mile-and-a-half-long, sorting, recyclables by size and type of material.
Thirty-five humans assist the high technology as they sort and oversee their stations to ensure quality control and maximize recovery of anything recyclable.
"This new plant is receiving three times as much as the previous plant. So, this is vital new infrastructure," said Reed.
The technology includes seven optical sorters that see and sort a variety of materials. Four other computerized air sorters with high-velocity air blasters blow various materials to the correct sub-sorting lines.
Similar items are put in specific pre-baling bins such as aluminum and even gallon plastic milk jugs and so on.
"Of the 400 tons that we receive here every day, we're recycling up to 85%. So, only a small percentage is going to the landfill," said Reed.
Even with all this technology, the 35 full-time employees make it work, often suggesting improvements.
"This is the state-of-the-art recycling facility for the nation. We're gonna have delegations coming here for many other countries to see how we combine modern recycling equipment with hand sorting by recycling workers," said Reed.
When all is said and done, what's left are high-value bales of cardboard, plastic, paper and most especially metal; all of which are recycled into new products, saving energy and even a little bit of the planet.