The sorting line

February 23rd, 2014
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A recent visit to RRR Recycling at Campbell Industrial Park was really eye-opening.

It was exciting to see where all our curbside pickup recyclables go — and how they're sorted, baled and then shipped out to be remade into new products. I mean, this is truly recycling in action!

It's a large, dirty and noisy operation — and fast-paced. That conveyer belt goes pretty fast in the beginning. Workers are snatching out plastic bags and items that don't belong from left and right. I saw sneakers, phonebooks and hard-cover books go by (none belong in your blue bin).

Kudos to the 14 hard-working employees who sort this stuff seven days a week.

There are huge mountains of cardboard spilling on to the floor (I'm glad it gets recycled). Huge mounds of newspaper piled on a floor, and on the other side of the sorting line, piles of plastics, glass and aluminum.

The plastics are sorted by No. 1 and No. 2. Then the No. 2 plastics are sorted according to color or white because, apparently, once the color has been added in, the color can't be removed.

Recycling trucks collect the blue bins from more than 150 routes, bringing in an estimated 20,000 tons of recyclable materials a year. These recyclables actually bring the city and county of Honolulu $1.5 million in net revenue, according to Suzanne Jones, assistant chief for the refuse division.

But they could potentially bring in more, if people understood more of what can go in the blue bins.

People seem to understand newspapers go in there (yeah!) plus cardboard (only the corrugated kind). More plastics other than plastic water bottles and beverage containers (which some like to redeem for 5-cents apiece) can go in there, including plastic bottles for shampoo, body wash, vitamins and peanut butter. Glass jars. Milk containers. Wine bottles.

What's cool about all this is that recyclables are also diverted from our landfill.

"Back before the program started, if you really think about it, all of this was going to the landfill," said Manasseh Santos, who works on the sorting line. "With us recycling now, it'l save landfill space. It's a good thing all the way around."

To learn more, visit opala.org, which has 30-second video clips and pretty extensive information about recycling. Look out for my post about the blue bin tomorrow.

Newspapers baled and ready to be shipped to China for recycling.

Newspapers baled and ready to be shipped to China for recycling.

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