How Your Recyclables Are Sorted (Video)

MRF recycling sorting image
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Ever wondered how your plastic cartons are sorted from your aluminum cans? High-tech recycling centers called Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) are key to grading, sorting and directing waste streams and turning them into commodities, not to mention weeding out any contaminants or trash.

But how do they work? And what is the single biggest challenge they face that you can help eliminate?

Lloyd once famously declared that recycling is bullsh*t, but I think we can all agree that the proper sorting and recycling or reuse of waste materials is better than dumping it in landfill. Many municipalities and local authorities have given up on asking householders to sort their own trash in favor of automated sorting systems at MRFs.

The video above walks us through the operation of an MRF, using every sorting trick in the book from gravity to magnetics to light. Interestingly though, the single biggest challenge to MRFs is plastic bags in the waste stream. While they are recyclable, they are not able to be mechanically sorted at the moment—so the video urges you to take your plastic bags to a grocery store for recycling. (Of course this is one more reason to consider a green reusable shopping bag too.)