What happens after mixed recycling gets tossed into your bin? Let’s walk through the recycling process for plastic bags:
Waste Haulers collect mixed recycling materials, also known as single stream, from homes and businesses. In Sioux Falls, there are over 20 licensed waste haulers, so you have a wide selection to choose from for who picks up your trash and recycling (see a list of local haulers). After the material is picked up by your hauler, it is brought to Millennium Recycling (If you don’t have a waste hauler you can also bring it directly to the public dropoff bin).
At Millennium, the mixed recyclables are dumped into a huge pile and a team member checks to make sure no large, bulky items are in the mix that could damage the equipment or hurt employees (i.e. tires, metal chunks, wood pieces, etc).
The materials are moved onto a conveyor belt where workers manually pull out the plastic bags to be recycled. This is why we want them bagged. It’s much easier for our employees to pull off one full bag of bags, instead of trying to hand pick the same 20 or 30 bags that would have been loose! The other items like cardboard and paper, plastic, glass and metal continue on to be separated.
The separated plastic bags pulled off the line are baled at Millennium and transported to a plastic processor in Iowa.
At the plastic processing facility, plastic containers are ground up into chips or flakes.
Next, the plastic chips or flakes are washed to clean off any labels or other residue.
After the plastic is clean, it is dried, melted, and formed into pellets that are used for new products like park benches, decking, carpeting, pipes, and new plastic containers.