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November 29, 2020

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Ever wondered where your refuse and recycling goes?

And, while we are at it, here’s what you can and can’t recycle

By Liz Gordon-Hancock
Part 1 of an Icon recycling story series

Ever wondered where your refuse and recycling goes?

Republic Services is Ada’s refuse and recycling provider. It is a large-scale, nationwide company, with a local team based in Lima. Republic Services collects and recycles over five million tons of material annually. It also serves Bluffton, Lima, Ottawa and Carey, among other area villages. The village of Ada has contracted its services until this November, when the contact is up for renewal.

When your refuse is collected from your curb, it goes to a landfill in Carey. 

Your recycling is taken to Lima, where it is loaded into larger containers and shipped to a sorting facility in Shelby County. There it is sorted to be converted to other usable products or recycled.

What can and cannot be recycled?
• Corrugated Cardboard and Paperboard
• Newspapers and Magazines
• Glass bottles (clear, green or brown)
• Aluminum Cans and Steel Food Cans
• Number 1 and 2 Plastics Bottles and Jugs  

Unfortunately, there are not sufficient quantities of the other plastics, marked 3 through 7, to make recycling any of them viable. Please note, milk and juice cartons are not recycled in our area.

We used to separate our recycling, but we don't anymore. Why not?
Republic Services offers single-stream recycling – this means we can mix all different recyclables together in one bin. This method makes recycling easier, more efficient and productive for recycling businesses. Republic sends only one truck to pick up all your recycling and take it to one location, which does the sorting. Plus, with modern technology, it's no longer sorted entirely by hand.

So how does Republic sort the recycling?
Our recycling – all that glass, newspaper, cardboard and various plastics – is dumped onto a large conveyor belt and taken through a series of sorting machines to separate the aluminum, cardboard, paper and plastics. These screenings work on the same principle as a wire mesh:
• the bigger the holes in the mesh,
• the more items can fall through;
• the smaller the mesh, only small items can fall through.

First, conveyor belts run the mix of recyclables over a disc screen, where the cardboard floats over the top, but allows other items like paper, plastic and cans to fall through.

Then these run through further screenings, such as a paper magnet, which vacuums up all paper, a steel magnet, which removes any other metal material, and a glass sorter, which crushes glass, allowing the glass pieces to fall through to be stored for recycling.

Ever wondered how different types of plastic are identified? 
Optical scanners shine a laser or infrared light on a plastic and identify the type of plastic based upon how it responds. These scanners are quick, reliable and more efficient than any manual sorting.

There's the eddy current, which sorts out aluminum. The eddy current is a rare-earth electro current, which repels the aluminum off the conveyor belt into a chute, separating it from the rest of the recyclables.

Check out online videos for "single-stream recycling" to see how it's done.

Operators manually check through the mix to pick out items that sneak through the mechanical sorting processes. The goal is to get all the different types of material separated, where it can be sold, re-used, or re-made.

About Republic Services
Republic is a community-minded company. According to Rick Vannan, general manager for Central Ohio, and Adam Burleson, operations manager: "We recently participated in the 'Touch a Truck' event in Lima, where the kids get to touch, climb on and explore a garbage truck. We want to educate the public, and even school systems, on recycling and how to reduce, reuse and recycle, and we're always looking for opportunities to engage more in the community. We donate to several organizations locally and nationally—nationally we are a partner with Habitat for Humanity."

Do you offer tours to the public?
"Yes - we will have an annual open house in late summer, date to be confirmed," said Burleson.

“We want to be great stewards of the environment in the communities where we live," said Vannan.

Republic Services invests in over 70 renewable energy projects which harvest natural gas, a natural bi-product of landfills, and use it as energy or fuel. These projects generate enough energy to power over 200,000 homes a year. In other states, the collection vehicles have been converted to use natural gas (derived from organic waste) instead of fossil fuels.  Almost twenty percent (and growing) of Republic's collection vehicles are powered by natural gas. However, the severity of Ohio winters makes natural gas unreliable locally, so our collection vehicles still use fossil fuel.

"At Republic, we embrace our responsibility to regenerate our planet with the materials that we are entrusted to handle every day — and we do so by driving increased recycling, generating renewable energy and helping our customers be more resourceful.," writes Republic CEO, Don Slager, from the Sustainability Report 2016.

Recycling Tips
If in doubt about whether it's recyclable, put it in the trash. One non-recyclable or contaminated item (think greasy cardboard pizza box) can spoil the whole batch. Plus, combined material, such as paper with a plastic film on it, must be separated to enable it to be recycled. 

All items, whether refuse or recyclables, need to either fit inside the provided bin, with the lid closed, or set alongside your bins and be no larger than 40 inches in length and under 40 pounds in weight.

Republic also takes bulky items, such as sofas, mattresses and large appliances, but you must call 24 hours in advance to arrange pick-up on your collection day. Call 1-800-491-1115 to arrange.