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Recycling Rates Jump Following $1.2 Million Investment

Recovery of recyclable materials at Placer County’s sorting facility near Truckee has soared after a $1.2 million investment in new equipment.

With the completed upgrades in place by October 2015, the first full operational fiscal year ended in June. When compared to the year prior to the improvements, recovery of plastics has increased by 21 percent and recovery of aluminum has increased by 37 percent. About 600,000 more plastic bottles were diverted than before the improvements and about 1 million more aluminum cans.

“The intent of the improvements was to improve the visibility of smaller recyclables, making it easier to identify and pull them from the waste stream,” said Placer County environmental engineering manager Kevin Bell. “We’re always looking for ways to efficiently exceed state recycling requirements.”

The upgrades included metering equipment at the beginning of the sorting line that helps control the volume of waste loaded onto the conveyor belt, a new sorting screen that spreads the waste out for better visibility, and four new sorting stations added at the end of the line that increases the opportunity for workers to pull more recyclable materials.

Since opening in 1995 to facilitate the closure of the adjacent Eastern Regional Sanitary Landfill, which had been in operation since 1973, the materials recovery facility, or MRF, has operated as a sorting and transfer station for waste collected in the eastern portion of the county and in the town of Truckee. As in western Placer County, eastern county residents use just one bin for their waste and recycling, and recyclables are separated at the sorting facilities.

All material that comes into the facility gets sorted and goes back out, either as recyclable material for new products, or as residual waste headed to the Lockwood Landfill in Nevada.

The state of California requires all cities and counties to divert a minimum of 50 percent of all waste from the landfill. The Eastern Regional MRF is essential to helping the county not only meet, but exceed, state recycling mandates.

Another benefit of the one-big-bin system is that it allows employees sorting through the material to identify any hazardous wastes that have been improperly tossed in the trash – pulling them for proper disposal, keeping them out of the landfill and protecting human health and the environment.

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