What Happens to Your Recycling After It’s Collected? | NowThis

What actually happens to the stuff you put
in the recycling bin? I’ve always been curious, so I decided to
collect the recycling from our office and bring it to a recycling plant to find out. Follow me – we’re going to find out the life
of our recyclables as they go to a recycling plant. When I got to Sims recycling plant in Brooklyn,
I found a huge warehouse where 800 tons of recyclables from all over
New York are dropped off by barge and truck every day. The plant was built in 2013 and it is state-of-the-art. It handles materials like:
metals, glass, and hard plastics. And after those materials are dropped off,
they’re sorted. So we take all of those unsorted recyclables
and we’re pushing it through our processing system which is almost all automatic. It’s about two and a half miles worth of conveyor
belts, magnets, cameras all sorts of other machines dedicated to just sorting out different materials. The sorting machine is very high-tech
and sorts 14 kinds of materials, like glass, aluminum, cartons, and different
types of plastic. Once enough of a material is collected,
it’s compressed into a 1,000 to 1,500 pound block called a bale. After the bales are sorted, they’re sold to 3rd party companies. For example, a bale of aluminum might sell
for $800. Buyers then take the raw material, clean and
process it, and turn it into something new. This process saves way more energy than mining
for virgin materials. With the same amount of energy that it takes
to make 1 can of new aluminum, you can make 20 cans from recycled aluminum. And using one ton of recycled plastic saves
16 barrels of oil. You have to think about all this stuff as
coming from the earth. Right, there’s natural resources, oil in all of these plastics, and
once you put it in the trash, it’s going to a landfill or it’s going to an incinerator,
you’re never going to use that material again. So it’s super important we’ve got limited
resources on this planet, to use these kinds of materials as much as we can in the best
way as possible. Despite the great set-up at Sims
there are still a lot of issues with recycling. First of all, Americans kind of suck at it. According to the EPA, about 75% of all our
waste is actually recyclable. Yet, our recycling rates hang around 34%,
nationally. That basically means that only a third of
every single thing we use and throw out every day is making it to the recycling bin. And don’t get me started with New Yorkers.
We only recycle 17% of our waste. This is a garbage can right outside of our
office and you can see there’s paper and there’s some cans in there, cups. All of these thing are recyclable and they’re
in the trash, right when there’s a recycling bin right next door. Only about 50% of recyclables in New
York City are getting recycled right now. And I think that’s largely a result of maybe
a lack of public education. The fact that the rules have changed over
time. Maybe some people just don’t care enough or
don’t know why they should care. And I think all of those kind of issues can
really be addressed through education. For their part, Sims offers daily educational
tours of their plant, in an effort to boost our low recycling rates. Low rates aren’t the only issue though.
Sam also told me about another problem called ‘wish-cycling’. That’s when people put trash into the recycling bin, hoping it can be recycled when, in fact,
it can not. I would say it’s about 10%-13% of what we
get is not something we want to receive. Those kinds of materials are extra plastic
bags, plastic film, maybe little bits of food scraps mixed in with those containers. Wish-cycling wastes a lot of energy and fuel
because items are shipped to a plant like Sims sorted, and then eventually just sent
to the dump. I wanted to see if my coworkers and I were
guilty of any wish-cycling so I convinced Sam to go through our bag with
me. We’re not wearing gloves because, is that okay with you? Yeah, we do this every day, this is fine. By looking through our bag,
I learned we made some mistakes. Like putting paper towels in the recycling
bin. They’re actually compostable. He also told me important tips,
like cutting down on plastic straws. A lot of sort of single use disposables that
are really small, it’s better to use less of these then to even
try to recycle them because a lot of small plastics sort of fall through the cracks in the system. Reduce. Exactly. Sam told me that another huge misconception
about recycling are plastic bags. We get about 18 tons of plastic bags here
every day, ideally we would be getting nothing. Plastic bags are a low quality kind of plastic,
which makes them really hard to resell. For example, in SIMS case, they actually have
to pay another company to to come to pick up the bags and recycle them elsewhere. On top of that, the bags get stuck in the
machine and can break it. So if you want to recycle your plastic shopping
bags, go to a plastic bag drop-off at a retailer
like Whole Foods. Or better yet, skip the plastic bag all together
and bring a reusable bag. It’s important to note that every city is
different so look up what your city’s recycling plant accepts. Sims is one of the most inclusive recycling
plants on the East coast and accepts more materials than many recycling plants.
But Sam told me to abide by the general rule, ‘If it’s a hard plastic, put it in the
recycling bin’. Seeing the 800 tons of recyclables at SIMs
was insane. But that’s nothing compared to the 12,000
tons of trash residents of New York City throw out every day. I know seeing that made me more conscious
of what I use every day and inspired me to cut down on single-use plastics. But let’s be real, plastic is still a part
of our everyday lives and it’s hard to avoid it completely. However, I’ve realized we can have a say
in where it ends up, and while we’re at it, help our environment and create a more
sustainable future.

100 thoughts on “What Happens to Your Recycling After It’s Collected? | NowThis”

  1. Glass bottles and jars are starting to make a comeback though. I remember glass soda bottles(excellent musical instruments 😉) when I was little.

  2. this isn't a recycling plant, this is a sorting plant. I thought we were actually recycling, not sorting it, smashing it and packing it to sell to "3rd parties." What are these 3rd parties doing with it?


  4. Plastic bags could be recycled but everything is money driven. The more valuable the waste the more of it will try to get reclaimed. Outside of the money part there is little motivation to actually help the planet.

  5. The best way to get more people to recycle would be to have a recycle bin next to every trash bin with a sign on it explaining what goes in there, ie; that empty starbucks cup, paper bags, cans ect. Yeah in the video there are bins next to the trash but I've seen plenty of trash bins with no recycle anywhere in sight.

  6. Generally people do not care about planet. Living and loving plastics, minimum recycling. All together in one garbage bin. This is my experience in America … obsession for bottled water and other beverages, etc…

  7. Do any of you optimistic recycle-loving dummies read the news? 90% of our plastic was recycled in China until they realized they should stop.

  8. I'm putting more into my recycle bin than I was a few months ago. It used to be there was a rule here that the only plastic that was recyclable was #1 and #2, and only if they were bottles with necks. Also, the collection company rejected the boxes frozen food came in.

    But, I recently checked with the collection company, and discovered things have changed. They now accept the frozen food cartons and plastic food containers #1 through #7. Of course, they don't want contaminated material, so I rinse and possibly wipe the food plastic.

  9. I think most people wish-cycle because they feel (myself included) that while its understood some plastics are not currently recyclable or to low a profit margin to warrant spending time and money to do it, That some smart person one day will say, 'hey that's a lot of that particular thing we just through away, There is so much of that now, its a viable business to actually start recycling it.' Thats the hope anyway. I know that different counties in Europe recycle more types than others, partly due to some local governments partly funding that or giving tax breaks if they do. So recycling plants can at the very least cover their losses.

  10. I'm so strict about sorting things into waste bins, that I reach into the bin when I see a material that doesn't belong in that bin. (Ex: if I see paper in the trash, I reach and put it in the recycling).

  11. I've been recycling since 1995,and composting biodegradable stuff where possible for at least as long,and I send so little to the conventional rubbish destined to landfill that I'm still very slowly using up rolls of plastic sacks given to every household in our neighbourhood by the local council during the noughties. But even with the numbered kitemarks for different types information on recycling of plastics is refrequently conflicting as to what actually will and will not be accepted apart from platic wrap/polythene and materials like polystyrene,styrofoam,etc. not. Fortunately our local supermarket has a plastic bag recycling drop-off thingy and the recycling scheme is a user friendly one where the recycling plant not the public does most of the sorting,so aside from people who need help with age and mobility type issues it must just be laziness and thoughtlessness that is behind some people not doing it when they could with little effort.

  12. Recycling is a great tool but not the answer. Always remember it’s REDUCE, REUSE and then recycle as the last option unless it has to be thrown out.

  13. This is the reason why I buy my clothing from five12apparel….they make amazing clothes from recycled water bottles and recycled coffee grounds…everyone can do their part!

  14. Holy cow how many sodas do people drink in a day, I'm guessing like 14 billion sodas a day and any ways if there is more why do people even drink that many sodas a day because if you drank that many sodas a day you would be FAT.

  15. i've wanted to know the answer to this for YEARS
    wow i actually didnt know plastic was made from natural resources, i thought it was all synthetic in a lab
    now i wanna know how plastic gets recycled

  16. Great video, but the first step needs to be to REDUCE. We have so many redundant and wasteful items, like packaging. Some of these things we have direct control over. Just ordered a take out slice of pizza? Let the teller know that you don't need a bag. Better yet if you're planning to walk and eat, stop them before they put the brown bag over. If we were just more thoughtful to reduce the needless excess, that alone would make a significant impact.

  17. I just burn all my plastic and other trash in the back yard. Even electronics such as a bunch of old laptops I burned the other day. No one complained.

  18. I'm changing my life to become zero waste or close to it… But you know what, I feel like it would make more sense if the responsibility was NOT put on the consumer. The governments should ban plastic all together, and they should provide ways for us to produce less trash.

  19. AOC wants to replace every single building in the U.S. In her green new deal plan. Brilliant recycling plan you got there! 😂
    As Merle Haggard once sang: We'll all be drinking that free bubble up and eating that rainbow stew."

  20. this is so frustrating to watch.. i worked in london for 3 months and i saw the same thing happening ! people don't throw away correctly! also, i thought branded restaurants like Wasabi could provide their own recycling bin ?! i felt so hopeless. what can we do to improve?

  21. The "reduce" part of recycling is a double edged sword to me. I recycle probably about 95% of my plastic. So, would it be better for me to keep buying bottled water vs someone who doesn't recycle? I go back and forth on this.

  22. The aluminum bales are where the money is. There's always a steady market for scrap aluminum. The markets for the rest can and and frequently do crater. When they do the "processed" material ends up getting buried anyway.

  23. So a milk bottle may contain.

    Aluminium seal. One type of plastic lid, another type of bottle plastic. Then rapped in paper label.

    Seems to me our government freemadson puppet masters are really really stupid….being that they set the rules

  24. This chick has NO IDEA.
    Oh yeah we ship it here ,clean it, and sent for reuse,LOL.
    She only showed the collection part of recycling nothing of the VERY COMPLICATED AND EXPENSIVE refining of these raw recycled materials.


  25. the manufacture of a canvas bad is over 100x the carbon footprint of a single plastic grocery bag, implying yes, youd have to use a cavas bag for likely YEARS to make it better for the environment.

  26. You have to use your reuseable bag 200 times before it is a net benefit for one use of a plastic bag. Thats right, 200 plastic bags = 1 reusable bag, and I reuse my plastic bags multiple times, by folding them and storing them for easy reuse. People often forget that plastic is very energy and co2 effective compared to other means. It is not the plastic that is bad, but how we dispose of it. The plastic bag should go into the incinerator after it has been used multiple times.

  27. Yep, Germany is in the lead, including Austria, South Korea, and Singapore with their recycling practices. It really is NOT hard to do we just have to EDUCATE and make thus a daily habit.

  28. My ability to recycle and the reactions of others depended on where I was and who I was around; when I'm usually around men (various ages over 25, usually blue collar like me) they scoff or laugh at my attempt to do so, which is discouraging. More white collar individuals and women across the board are usually more supportive. I live and was born in CT, but lived in the deep South for awhile, and unless you take beer cans to a junkyard to sell for money, talking about the environment or recycling in any way for the benefit of the community usually gets you ridiculed and laughed out of the room. In general, less educated people seem to be dismissive of it.

    For example, our company wastes a lot of paper printing work orders for our plant and i save the sheets to use as scrap papers for us to take notes on as we carry out repairs and such. So far, despite people somewhat agreeing with what I do as being useful, nobody has done it. We can do so much better!

  29. The us is so far behind bc the gov here is reluctant to incentivise recycling financially(deposits). Bc we have so much space and so much lobbying and big business rules everything the public and therefore gov is slow to see the need to protect environment. Typically smaller countries care more about environment. They don't have as much space to take for granted!!! Stop the corporate driven madness!!!! Vote vote vote vote

  30. Yes, this is great information and I appreciate the educational aspects in this… but, I’m focused on the fact that the presenter is very cute.

  31. This video didn't mention the fact that a significant amount of material that goes to be recycled ends up being incinerated.

  32. So,,,a sorting facility.
    Great now which Asian countries will end up bury or burning it?
    Make a end product other than cubes
    Unless you sort perfect, most is in landfill in Asia
    Open ones near water with wind rain and ultra poor sorting through the contaminated bails you fools send

  33. Great message….but I fear the people coming to watch these kinds of videos already care about the environment and already recycle. The trick is to get the message to those apathetic, lazy or uninformed citizens. Not knowing that recycling is important is like a smoker saying they didn't know cigarettes were bad for you. It's 2019 and everybody should know: don't smoke and recycle responsibly.

  34. This is great. Now where exactly does the sorted plastic go? What percentage actually gets recycled and how much gets buried or burned?

  35. Industrial waste is a far larger problem versus curb side pick up. There is no regulatory body controlling the waste products of manufacturing in most countries. Rarely offenses are caught, even so a giant corporation may get a small fine as a result. Unstoppable toxic waste continues into Earth's lands and oceans. In many cases waste is shipped to 3rd world counties to be disposed of. Earth's human population and human needs have spiraled out of control. There is no way to stop it now and there is no turning back. Human beings on Earth are now entering the final stage of our modern existence. It is a harsh reality to know and understand, we are just a few generations from global catastrophe. What can we do to avoid this train wreck?

  36. Originally saw this on Snapchat, but I came here hoping I could find out the name of the song. Anybody know?

  37. I thought you're suppose to do the following before throwing it in the bin 1) clean out our plastic 2) remove bottle caps

  38. But if something is contaminated with oil and food but it says recyclable on the packaging can I recycle it?

  39. Lack of recycling is largely due to a lack of incentive followed by lack of knowledge, convenience and community involvement.

  40. They didn't expand enough on wishful recycling. I recall a conversation with a sanitation worker whom told me that cans of food that are not rinsed properly end up in landfills. A scrap of food can ruin a vat of raw material. I always see my neighbors recyclables with tins that have food in them, cat/dog food cans with pet food remaining, and glass bottles with food contents in them. That stuff never gets processed.

  41. The unsalvageable plastics get sent to Southeast Asian countries to be incinerated. So plz plz throw away your recycling waste responsibly.

  42. Well, I was hoping to see "what happens to your recycling after it's collected," but they stopped at step 2- sorting. It was still a good video, just mistitled.

  43. Ask the public to do it is a lost cause, it must be done by laws, tax and culture change. Laws in banning plastic bags, straws, more green bins around public side walks, banning landfills, more recycling centers. Taxing companies for more waste they produce, taxing consumers on none recyclables and educating the public in schools, public transport, airports, work places, advertising, billboards, internet.

  44. Just saw this video today and have to say that we really have a lack of education about this topic. Tks for the video!

  45. Sounds good! But let’s see, my trash bill has more than doubled, They use to pick up 2 days a week, now it’s 1 day a week and if I go to recycle my plastic, they will only give me what I paid for the first 50 bottles the rest of my plastic I get way less than what I was forced to pay for it. I get nothing back for my recycling efforts other than to make someone else rich off this multi-billion dollar industry. I know, I am helping the environment!

  46. yes the civilized USA America refused to spent money to recycle plastic waste. cheaper to send (sell) USD 40 (before USD 300) per ton of plastic waste to dumb country like China Vietnam and Indonesia. watch video PLASTIC CHINA. thanks a lot!

  47. All of you crazy environmentalists are focusing on the details of what to collect and what container to put it in. Then it is sorted at a facility into different types of recyclables.. Then it is almost all dumped in the landfill as no one is buying recyclables

  48. Around here, Nothing. It goes into Recycling bin, goes into truck. then Truck goes to Landfill. Its actually Sad. I did a Ride along on a Recycling Truck. Even the Driver doesnt know why they have Recycling bins anymore if it goes right to landfill. He been driving since they Started to do the Recycling stuff. He told me, it all goes to the Landfill still. As long as they have Recycling bins and trucks to pick it up. doesnt matter where it goes. it only matters to the state that they have the bins and trucks and the Garbage company gets bit more Money and tax relief.

  49. The problem with recycling is that manufacturers do not like to use recycled product so now you have all this materials sitting around causing more pollution. Recycled products are also more expensive because it cost more to make so consumers end up buying the new, better and cheaper product.
    I wish people could pollute less by NOT recycling.

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