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WPTV looks into where recyclables go in St. Lucie County

Posted at 5:15 PM, Jun 19, 2019

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Every week you put your recycling bin at the curb for pickup, but do you know where all the paper and plastic goes?

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With China’s ban on contaminated imports, many countries have been looking at inward solutions to recycling. In St. Lucie County, nearly all the recyclables are being sold domestically.

Inside the St. Lucie County Bailing and Recycling Facility, about 25 tons of recyclables are processed each hour.

“St. Lucie County recycles about 17,000 tons of paper and cardboard each year. That’s over 3,000 tons heavier than the entire Brooklyn Bridge,” said Rebecca Olson, Solid Waste Marketing & Quality Control Coordinator.

Recycling trucks dump the items onto the tipping floor at the facility before being processed. From there, a loader scoops them up and puts the recyclables into a drum feeder, and then they head up a conveyor belt. The plastics, glass, paper, and metals are sorted and then bailed.

“A lot of people think just because China is no longer taking our recyclables that we don’t have anywhere to send them,” Olson said.

In St. Lucie County, 99 percent of recyclables are sold to recycling companies and mills, and turned into usable materials like rolls of recycled paper and sheets of aluminum. For instance, water and soda bottles are sent to a plant in Summerville, Georgia.

“Those get sent mostly to a plant that makes the polymer carpet,” Olson said.

The bails of paper, plastics, and aluminum are also loaded on a truck and shipped to mills in the Southeast to be reused. The items are turned into raw materials for things like pipe and plastic lumber and sheet aluminum.

“It helps the environment, it cuts down on us having to create new landfills in the future,” said Edward McDuffie, the Integrated Waste Management

“The more we recycle the more we keep out of the landfill, so it’s really for the future of the residents,” said Olson, who added the only thing here that goes to the landfill is actual garbage.

St. Lucie County is working to keep its contamination rate low, and is reaching out to other municipalities that want to recycle but so not have the means.

Click here to learn more about what can and cannot go into your recycling bin.