Group photo

Students Tour Recycling Center

Inquisitive recyclers from the UNF Environmental Center and Timucuan Parks Foundation embarked on a trip to Republic Services to broaden their knowledge of recycling! We attended this tour so we could further educate ourselves on what is recyclable and what happens after it is collected. For those you who could not attend the tour, you can watch this great video created by a UNF student on the process.

The majority of the facilities’ offices were made from recycled materials! The carpeting is made from recycled bottles, and the blinds were made from recycled paper! The facility sells its recycled plastics to companies that repurpose recycled plastics into new things. They receive 250 tons of recycled items per day!

During our tour of the facility, it was mandatory we wear protective goggles, safety vests, long pants and closed toed shoes. The dress code was a precaution not due to the heavy machinery, but more so from the things people put in their recycling!

Recyclable items we confirmed

  • Tin foil: We have heard conflicting things about whether tin foil is a recyclable material or not. We were told if it’s clean, it’s able to be recycled.
  • Paper: There are various types of paper that are accepted:  Newspaper, envelopes, junk mail, phone books, brochures and magazines.
  • Types of cardboard accepted: File folders, poster board, frozen food boxes, cardboard boxes and milk cartons.

You don’t necessarily have to rinse your recyclables. But, they do need to be dry.

Non-recyclable items and why:

  • Aerosol cans: Our tour guide shared with us that when aerosol cans come in contact with the machinery they can explode! Republic Services receives a visit from the fire department at least a handful of times per year due to wrongful items combusting within the machinery.
  • Needles: Thousands of needles come in to the center daily. Needles are recyclable, but cannot be mixed with regular recycling and require special disposal.
  • Styrofoam: Also known as Polystyrene, it is composed of 95 percent air. We learned due to density and contamination, it’s not a renewable source. It’s best to avoid using styrofoam whenever possible.

An additional tip we learned:

  • Try not using a bag to hold your recyclables. When recycled, items get tied into a bag and there happens to be some type of food or spilled liquid, it can damage the other recyclables, such as paper.
  • If avoiding the bag is too messy, then don’t tie it. The reasoning behind this is if food or liquid somehow ends up in your bag, it won’t destroy any paper recycling. It also allows any non-recyclable items to be taken out of circulation. This heightens the chance of more getting recycled and not having to contribute to the landfill.

At the end of the day, it’s best we refuse as much as we can and consume only what we need. Try to keep in mind the four R’s; refuse, reduce, re-use, recycle. By following these as individuals, collectively we can each make a big difference.

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