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Ocean County Single Stream Recycling Center Visit
June 9, 2010

On Thursday, June 9, 14 members and friends of CILU visited the Ocean County Single Stream Recycling Center in Lakewood. This is a brand new multi-million dollar facility owned by the county and contracted to Waste Management, Inc.

All recyclables from participating Ocean County towns are now commingled and brought to the Center during daytime working hours in garbage trucks and even 18 wheelers. The materials are dumped at a covered holding site. One or two front end loaders then push the materials hopefully at a slow even rate onto a conveyor belt. At the top of the conveyor run the items start to be separated by sensors, magnets, and other robotic machines into cardboard, mixed paper, newspapers, glass, magnetic cans, aluminum cans, plastics #1 and #2 (with pourable spouts as other #1 and #2 without spouts seem to have different plastic sensitivities), all other plastics and "other trash". A number of conveyor belts move materials between stations where blowers, spinning discs and drums, shake tables, gravity assist and plastic composition detection systems further separate and concentrate materials to a purity level acceptable to purchasers.

At present there are only 5 employees needed to do the quality control at stations in a huge 3-dimensional jungle of Rube Goldberg conveyors and processors in these multi story structures. Formerly at least 26 workers hand-sorted these materials at a much slower rate. After the mechanical sorting, some errors are caught by hand by the workers. Overall, it is not a 100% fail-safe system, but quite good enough.

The glass is crushed and filtered over 3 successive screens and is ultimately returned to the county as road base fill. The aluminum cans are crushed into large cubes or bales weighing up to 1500 pounds. All other materials are cut up, chopped up, crushed, baled or otherwise condensed in size to be sent on their way for sale and new uses. The whole operation was quite amazing and financially productive. The processing equipment was owned, managed, and operated by Waste Management, Inc.

We left feeling that we are all creating an enormous quantity of materials that can now be recycled and profits made from their sale.

Now if we could just do something with our garbage!

Photos by Sam Shramko

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