Our team recently had the opportunity to take a tour of the Springfield Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) to see how these facilities separate the many materials in a recycling bin. The Springfield MRF, owned by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and operated by Waste Management Recycle America, has been sorting and selling the recyclables of Western Mass since it started up its conveyor belts in 1990. Despite a lot of progress in increasing recycling rates, there is still a great deal of confusion about what can and can’t go into a typical single-stream or dual-stream recycling bin.
There are a few products in particular that repeatedly cause issues for recycling facility staff. Plastic bags and other types of “film plastic” are among the worst culprits. Because they are thin and stretchy, they often get stuck in the sorting machinery. Instead, search the Plastic Film Directory to find a drop off location for film plastic.
Another common contaminant is black plastic, often used for to-go containers or packaging. While black plastic is technically recyclable just like white or clear plastic, the black dye on the plastic diminishes the economic value of the product when it is all melted together. Manufacturers often re-dye the recycled plastic that they purchase from the MRF to create new products, but the black dye makes it harder to do so. Black plastic should go in the trash.
Other contaminants include Styrofoam (polystyrene), motor oil containers, light bulbs, and textiles. If your business want to recycle materials like polystyrene, textiles, and plastic film, use the RecyclingWorks database to find an outlet for these materials.
Anything with more than trace amounts of food residue can contaminate recyclables as well. Rinse out food containers, and leave plastic caps on plastic bottles to ensure these materials can be recycled.
RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts is a recycling assistance program for businesses and institutions. If you need assistance diverting a material from disposal, call our hotline at (888) 254-5525 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.