Sunday, August 10, 2008

Materials Recovery Facility

I recently toured Oregon Recycling Systems, a materials recovery facility (mrf) in Portland, OR. There's something inherently cool about heavy machinery that measures its processing capabilities in tons per hour.

Imagine Dr. Seuss getting creative with conveyor belts. There are many kinds of mrf's, and many different ways to process the materials, but basically a pile of commingled recyclables (in Portland we commingle paper, metal, and plastic) is loaded onto a conveyor belt. The belt brings the materials up to a series of spinners, fluffers, screens, and air jets that, more or less, sort the big pile of mixed stuff into other piles of uniform stuff: cardboard, paper, aluminum, plastic, etc. At the end of the line, six people moving extremely quickly do a final hand-sort of the materials. The sorted materials are then baled and sold on the market. (This is a very simplified description of the process).

I am busy getting final details squared away for the Europe portion of my trip. Departure: less than a month. Tick tick.

photos: Bridger Wineman


Heidi said...

I wondered how it worked with the mixed recycling.... I still don't get how it works when glass is involved which seems to shatter, fragment & coat eveything in a fine glass dust.

Meredith Sorensen said...

Yeah, the glass is tricky, especially when it gets mixed with paper. Portland puts paper, metal, and plastic together, and leaves glass on the side. Other jurisdictions keep paper by itself, and then commingle the containers (cans, plastic bottles, and glass).