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Environmental Services

What Happens To Curbside Recyclables?

Ever wonder what happens to all those recyclables after the collection truck drives off? What magic separates the paper from the glass from the cans from the plastic? Well, there's nothing up our sleeves but technology. The City contracts with two recycling companies for processing and marketing of the curbside recyclables. IMS Recycling operates a material recovery facility (MRF) located at 2740 Boston Avenue, and Allan Company operates a MRF at 6733 Consolidated Way. IMS takes the curbside material collected in the southern part of the City. Allan Company gets the recyclables collected in northern San Diego.

Both MRFs are equipped with technology designed and manufactured locally by CP manufacturing in National City. The process includes conveyor belts, manual picking lines, disk screens, air classification, magnetic separation, eddy current separation, and more manual separation. For more information, visit the Allan Company San Diego MRF web page.

But getting the recyclables separated is only one part. For recycling to happen, there have to be manufacturers who want the recovered material to make into new products and customers who want to buy those new products. So what becomes of all this neatly sorted and bailed material when it leaves the MRF?

Photo Collage of Products Containing Recyled Paper

Much of the newspaper, mixed paper and cardboard will go to Asian countries for production of a variety of paper products, including more boxes, tissue paper, and packaging. Most of the office paper and computer paper will go to domestic mills to become recycled content paper products.

Photo Collage of Products Containing Recycled P.E.T. Plastic

Plastic soda/water bottles are made from very high quality plastic called PET Image of Plastics 1 Recycling Icon. Besides coming back to us in brand new soda bottles, this PET plastic is produced into dozens of products, including t-shirts, sweaters, tennis shoes, and backpacks made from recycled products. Check out your fleece outerwear. It just might contain your old soda bottle. Recycled soda bottles go into carpets, tennis balls, combs, cassette tapes, car bumpers and car parts, boat sails, and furniture.

Photo Collage of Products Containing H.D.P.E. Plastic

Milk and juice jugs and detergent bottles are typically made from HDPE Image of Plastics 1 Recycling Icon plastic. They will come back to stores as new containers or show up in parks as playground equipment, on back yard decks as plastic lumber, and in parking lots as speed bumps and parking blocks.

Photo Collage of Products Containing Recycled Aluminum or Steel

You will find a lot of recycled aluminum and steel in beverage and food cans. You will also find recycled steel in cars and ships and construction beams; in appliances, file cabinets, and paper clips. You will find recycled aluminum in air planes, bicycles, foil, toys, electronics. In fact, you will find recycled steel and aluminum virtually everywhere you find steel and aluminum.

Remember to close the loop and buy recycled content products.