On the Job, Recycling in #RVA

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Many of you put your recycling bin by the curb, but have you ever really thought about what happens to all that stuff after it leaves?

8News’ Morgan Dean and Katie Dupree were curious.

As part of a continuing series On the Job, Morgan and Katie hit the street with the Central Virginia Waste Management authority to pick up your recycling.

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Robert Mimms, a Recycling helper with Tidewater Fiber Corporation was their guide for the first half of the process.

“Wait until the truck comes to a complete stop before you get off,” Mimms said, referring to the truck that they rode.

After donning safety glasses, gloves and vests they were off.

Katie was a natural hanging off the truck as we looked for bins ready to be picked up.

Mimms gave some tricks of the trade for collecting items.

“Plastic bags and styrofoam can’t be recycled. We will dump proper recycling in the truck, but we will leave the styrofoam back in the container so they know that wasn’t recycling,” Mimms said.

“Come right over here and just dump it, turn it over … that’s it!” he said.

Our first few bins were easy. After that, we ran into problems with bins filled with items that can’t be recycled.

“Plastic bags and styrofoam can’t be recycled. We will dump proper recycling in the truck, but we will leave the styrofoam back in the container so they know that wasn’t recycling,” Mimms said.

According to Mimms, putting such items in the bin can be a time-suck for him when it comes to collecting.

Right next door, in another bin we found clothes hangers, clothing and children’s toys — all things that can’t be recycled. It earns the home a warning citation on the bin, urging the homeowner to log on to read more about what can be recycled.

With the truck filling up quickly, Katie learned how to dump the larger roll-away bins and to compress the recyclables to make more room.

From there, the duo set off to the sorting facility.

At the Tidewater Fiber Corporation plant off of Route 10 Morgan and Katie got a tour and spoke with TFC Richmond General Manager Tad Phillips.

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“People are sorting, machines are sorting and packaging the material and preparing it for shipment,” Phillips said.

Paper, plastic, glass and cans are flying in every direction. Katie and Morgan spent some time on the paper line where they were tasked with removing anything that was not newspaper.

“70 percent of our paper material goes overseas, bottles and cans are shipped here in the United States,” he said. “60,000 tons is being diverted out of Richmond landfills each and every year.”

Morgan said he felt like they were stuck in that “I love Lucy” episode with the candy conveyor belt, but acknowledged the importance of the work.

Phillips spoke about where the recyclables go after being sorted.

“70 percent of our paper material goes overseas, bottles and cans are shipped here in the United States,” he said. “60,000 tons is being diverted out of Richmond landfills each and every year.”

Eventually, the items that were picked up along the side of the road get bundled into huge bales for transport. The bales weigh about 1,200 pounds and can contain up to 20,000 plastic bottles.

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Two things you will never find in the bales, however, are plastic bags and shredded paper.

For a complete list of what you can and cannot recycle, check the Central Virginia Waste Management Authority’s website.

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