MINNEAPOLIS -- In a fast-paced, high-tech and sometimes high-temperature trip, KARE 11 cameras show how used items are recycled into new ones.
"The goal is to make this as simple as possible, from the resident, to the curb to the recycling stream," said John Saladis, Waste Management Plant Manager.
Waste Management's MRF
From your street, Waste Management curbside recycling goes to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). The Waste Management MRF in northeast Minneapolis is among the biggest in the country, moving a massive 250,000 tons of recycling a year.
"We take in anywhere from 80 to 120 trucks a day," Saladis said about the MRF.
The facility creates 300 bales of newspaper, 175 bales of cardboard and 65 bales of plastic every day. Add the other commodities and Saladis says the Minneapolis MRF stacks a daily total of 600 bales of recyclables.
The MRF combines a series of stations that use air flow, gravity, magnets and optics to separate items into different streams.
"The larger stuff travels over the top and the smaller material falls through the bottom," Saladis said about the system of sorters. "The stuff that falls out the bottom is conveyed to another step."
Cardboard and newspaper are reused in the paper industry. Things like laundry detergent bottles can be made into new plastic containers. Pop and water bottles are used in a variety ways, including in the making of carpet and fabric.
Glass jars and bottles are sent through a crusher at the MRF. The glass is then shipped to another local company for further processing.
eCullet Glass Processing
"Glass is 100 percent recyclable," said Joe Meierhoff, eCullet Plant Manager.
Crushed glass is called cullet. It comes to eCullet Glass Processing in Minneapolis to be sized, cleaned and sorted. Smaller pieces that can't be separated by color are used in sandblasting and road bed construction. But a majority of the glass that ends up on eCullet's conveyors is eventually reused in the container industry.
"It's a phenomenal process," Meierhoff said.
Like the Waste Management facility, eCullet uses a series of stations to size and clean the glass. Then it is sent through optical sorters to be separated into piles of clear, amber and green cullet.
"It's almost mind-boggling to see how fast the computers can react to the different colors," Meierhoff said.
The end product is clean cullet that can be used to make new containers at another Twin Cities company.
Anchor Glass Container
Anchor Glass Container turns cullet back into jars and containers at its plant in Shakopee.
"The main components of glass are sand, soda ash, limestone, nepheline syenite and cullet," said Kyle Fiebelkorn, Melting Process Leader at Anchor Glass.
Fiebelkorn monitors the huge furnace that is used to heat the mix to a mind-blogging 2900 degrees.
"We hold them at 58 or 59 inches deep of glass all the time," Fiebelkorn added.
When the molten glass is ready, it is sent through a shear to be cut to the correct weight. The red hot material is then dropped into a specially-designed mold.
"This one here is the Snapple bottle," Fiebelkorn said in front of one of the machines.
The rest of the process happens in seconds.
"It makes the very top of the bottle," Fiebelkorn said of the next step.
After the lid is formed, the machine tips the glass over to form the rest of the bottle. The completed containers are then sent down a conveyor where they are cooled, inspected and packed for shipping.
More about recycling
This story tracks how three Minnesota companies handle recyclables. The process varies depending on your address and your recycler. Visit the Recycle More Minnesota website for links to recycling in your area.
The Waste Management MRF processes curbside recyclables. Customers can read more about what can be recycled at the curb on the company's website.
Waste Management has other programs from processing things like hazardous household waste, computers and televisions. For more details on those items visit Waste Management's Think Green website.
To learn more about eCullet's processing technology and operations visit the eCullet website.
To learn more about glass processing visit the Anchor Glass Container website.
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