(Crystal A. Proxmire, The Ferndale 115 News, April 1, 2012 ed)
By now most Ferndale residents know the benefits of recycling – both in slowing the destruction of our natural resources and in helping the city earn money for valuable plastics, glass and metals. A growing number of citizens put these items in special recycle bins which go out to the curb with the trash. But what happens after the contents are dumped into special recycling trucks that come around on trash day?
That’s what the curious youngsters of Brownie Troop 75093 of Northwood Elementary in Royal Oak went to find out on Saturday, March 24, 2012. The young ladies and some parents came out to SOCRRA headquarters in Troy to get a tour of the facility, which processes recycling for twelve SE Oakland County communities, including Ferndale, Hazel Park, Royal Oak and Pleasant Ridge. SOCRRA [Southeast Oakland County Resource Recovery Authority] gives tours to those that want to find out more.
The tour starts out in the education center, where youngsters hear a presentation about recycling, and watch a video about the process. Karen Bever, from SOCRRA explained that the more kids recycle, the more money the cities get back from the program. “It costs cities $26 a ton to take away garbage, but for every ton of recycling the city brings in they get a $37.50 credit,” Bever said.
Metal recyclables go down a conveyer where magnets are used to separate metal from other scraps. Glass recycling is placed on a shake table where heavy glass items are able to push through rods that other items won’t push through. Plastic soda bottles get crushed into bales and other plastic jugs and containers are cut into chips where they are sold to be melted down. Paper and cardboard is put into large bales.
The tour first took the Brownies to see the scale. When trucks come in with recyclables they are weighed. Once they drop their load, they are weighed again. The difference is the amount of recycling brought in. Bever said truck weights vary greatly depending on what items they bring in, but that trucks from a typical city recycling run might be 1,500-3,800 lbs. The Brownie Troop, when standing together on the massive scale, weighed 1,320 lbs.
From the scale area they walked to the public drop-off area. Here there are large dumpsters with holes cut in the side so people can insert recyclables that they bring from home. This is for people who don’t have curbside recycling. There are also items which can’t be collected curbside, like books, medicine, electronics, compact fluorescent light bulbs and non-laytex paint. These can all be taken to SOCRRA. The Brownies brought items from home so they could do this for themselves.
They passed by the compost area, where a giant back hoe helps load yard waste into a large storage shelter, to be turned into compost which is delivered back to the cities for the public to pick up and use in their yards again.
Next is the main processing plant, where the items are sorted and packaged for sale to manufacturers. Even the adults felt small compared to the mountains of recyclable items in the plant, and the loud noises of machines and high-lows made it even more intimidating for the little Brownies. They plugged their ears and tip toed through the potentially dangerous work areas. They’d been given strict instructions not to touch anything and to stay together, which they did as they posed in front of the mammoth storage areas and watched the people sorting the products.
“The girls get a lot of this stuff in the classroom, but here it reinforces what they learn. We do this tour and we make grocery bags in April for Trader Joes to teach the value of recycling,” said parent Kathy Bashawaty.
“It helps kids learn the impact, that even when they recycle one or two little things, it adds up to a lot,” said Jennifer Dalziel, another Brownie’s mom.
To find out about SOCRRA tours and other recycling information, go to http://www.socrra.org/.
Read more about recycling in The Ferndale 115 News: