Local facility offers behind-the-scenes look at recycling process

In Features
Cal State Fullerton has a recycling program through Republic Services in Anaheim that offers tours for students who want to learn more about the recycling process.
(Alyssa Martinez / Daily Titan)

Blue bins are scattered throughout campus and a number of signs are posted as friendly reminders for students and faculty to properly dispose of trash as well as reusable materials. Proper disposal of materials, however, is only the beginning of the recycling process.

Where does the recycling go?

The recycling program at Cal State Fullerton is made possible with the partnership between Republic Services and CSUF’s Sustainable Waste Management Services.

Republic Services is a 35-acre waste management facility located in Anaheim, that services 10 cities throughout north Orange County. The company has been around since 1949 as the company’s very first contract, with Disneyland, signed by Walt Disney himself.

“The reason (we started a recycling program at CSUF) was because of a regulation called AB-34, which mandates commercial businesses, including universities, to recycle or have some kind of recycling program in place,” said Lisa Robles, recycling coordinator of Republic Services.

Republic Services’ recycling center is known as a material recovery facility (MRF).

All the waste and recycling picked up by Republic Services from CSUF and other Orange County locations goes to a centralized location.

“A lot of people have this misconception that the trash trucks pick up trash and it goes directly to the landfill, or they come here and get turned into something new because we’re the trash company,” Robles said.

What happens when it gets there?

Once the materials arrive at the MRF, they are processed, sorted and separated to move forward on their journey to the scale house and then to the transfer station.

The scale house is where the amount of waste being produced in every city is weighed to ensure that sustainability goals are being met by each commercial business or university.

“We want to weigh how much waste is being produced in every city,” Robles said. “Cal State Fullerton has sustainability goals that they want to reach, so we’re going to keep track of how many tons of recyclable materials they’re recycling, how many tons of actual waste is going to the landfill, and so forth.”

The transfer station is where the destination of the waste is determined, whether it be a landfill, a recycling manufacturer or a place like the Long Beach docks.

According to Sustainable Waste Management Specialist, Kevin Mattson, CSUF is committed to doing its part in support of the statewide target of diverting 80 percent of California’s waste from landfills by 2020.

What is considered good, recyclable waste?

According to CSUF Facilities Operations, recyclable material includes: paper, plastic, glass and metals. When waste does not fall into any of these categories, or if it contains food or liquids, these materials are considered contaminated and therefore cannot be recycled. A more detailed list of what can and cannot be recycled can be addressed on the CSUF Facilities Operations webpage.

Disposing of waste is not black and white. Confidential documents, hazardous materials, batteries, furniture and electronic waste all have specific places throughout campus for safe and proper disposal. A campus-wide disposal guide is available to students and faculty so everyone can be informed on what to do with their waste products that do not belong in a recycling or landfill bin.

When waste materials are making their way through being sorted and separated, they can end up on either a clean line or a dirty line depending on each material’s condition.

Recycling materials collected from residential recyclable bins and various commercial businesses goes to the clean line, also known as a single stream sorting system. 

“What it’s doing is using technology and machinery and human beings to sort and separate recyclable, clean dry material,” Robles said.

Waste from commercial businesses such as shopping centers, as well as from dumpsters at places like apartment complexes, goes to the commercial line, or the “dirty line.”

“In that line, they are sorting actual, municipal solid waste,” Robles said. “They don’t have the three-cart system like residents do, so we do sorting for them.”

Mixed recyclable materials along with food and bathroom waste end up on this line. The goal of the dirty line is to preserve any recyclables found in the municipal solid waste.

Why recycle at all?

Businesses and communities can help recycling centers preserve more recyclable goods, keep them from ending up in landfills by properly disposing of their reusable materials and keep them dry and free of contaminants.

Sustainable Waste Management Services at Cal State Fullerton works to reduce the amount of waste generated through source reduction, recycling reuse and composting. It states on its webpage that its methods have environmental, financial and social benefits that include: conserving energy, reducing disposal costs and ultimately reducing the amount of waste that enters landfills.

To understand the recycling process in-depth, Republic Services offers a free recycling tour to the public. These tours give a one-hour look inside what happens to waste after it is disposed and are offered to students through CSUF’s Sustainable Waste Management Services’ webpage.

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