On Friday November 10th, 2011. 5 members from Zero Waste Pittsburgh took a tour of Greenstar Recycling, who provides recycling services all the way from Cleveland to Central Pa. They process over 30 tons of recyclables every hour. The following fact sheet summarizes what we learned about recycling in Pittsbugh.
1. What is not recyclable?
Well, just about everything is recyclable. That is if there is a market for it and if it can be easily sorted in Greenstar’s automated single-stream system. Bottle caps, small scraps of paper, and other small pieces often become separated erroneously with crushed glass. Plastic bags also get caught in the sorting system, and large irregular items, such as toy bicycles do as well.
Some things that are not yet recyclable at Greenstar include:
Plastic bag and plastic wrap: You should collect these and take them to Giant Eagle for Recycling. They will bale them on site. In the summer of 2012- Greenstar will partner with a plastic-to-oil recycler that will allow them to take plastic bags.
Aluminum Foil: It is a different composition compared the can aluminum. Can-aluminum has high demand, but the market for the foil is small. Nonetheless if you’re not sure, it’s probably best to to bundle up your used aluminum into a big ball and put it in the recycling. The little pieces will fall in with the glass.
Packing peanuts and styrofoam: It breaks up to easily in the system and becomes mixed with glass. In addition, it’s low melting point allows it to coat the machinery and mess up some of the plastic sorting systems.
Plate Glass: Different kind of glass than the ones that go into making glass jars and bottles. Take these to Construction Junction.
Small irregular pieces of plastic: Small pieces of plastic are indeed recyclable, but they will fall into the glass stream if the pieces are too small.
2. What is recyclable?
There are a few things that we’re never quite sure about when it comes to recycling. The following questionable items are indeed recyclable at Greenstar.
1. Juice boxes. Yes even the ones with the plastic lining and aluminum plastic inside are taken at Greenstar.
2. Paperboard. Consider you’re cereal boxes and milk cartons as recyclable as well.
3. #6 Plastic. As long as it is not puffed up and in the styrofoam type, Greenstar will take and process this plastic. Indeed your Solo cups are recyclable too!
4. Then of course there are the regulars:
Glass containers: Jars, bottles, etc. These do not need to be of any particular size.
Aluminum, tin, and steel cans.
Paper and cardboard. But make sure if you have shredded paper to bag it in a clear bag. When they are torn open, the little shreds of paper fall down to the glass stream and contaminate it.
Does Greenstar Recycle in Pittsburgh?
Yes and no. The City of Pittsburgh’s curbside program recycling is in a contract with another recycling company, Pittsburgh Recycling. They do not have the same recycling practices as Greenstar and may accept different material.
Greenstar does contract with all of the private waste management companies in the area, including Allied Waste and Waste Management among others. See if your building uses one of these companies for their waste management. In this event, your recyclables are making their way to Greenstar. Greenstar also has contracted with most of the municipalities in the area, so if you do not live in the city of Pittsburgh proper, you may want to see if Greenstar is the final destination for your municipal recycling program.
Your plastic bottles are often downcycled to make carpet thread.
Milk cartons often get downcycled to make Kleenex and tissues.
Greenstar is operated by ten workers per shift for pre-sorting.
Greenstar is part of a megaconglomerate that spans across the United States and Europe.
Til Next time!