I Spent an Eye-Opening Day at a Recycling Plant to Learn What Really Happens to Our Trash
Confessions of a Novice Recycler
Aug. 13, 2018
By Kyle Davis
My hands grip the aging staircase railing as I ascend a series of steps suspended roughly 70 feet in the air. Below me, the floor is a scattered mosaic of broken plastic and rubble. I’ve wedged a pair of squishy foam plugs into my ears, offering a comfortable barrier between myself and a chorus of whirring machines producing a dull white hum. The air is thick and dank, and every few minutes I’m startled by a distant crashing sound. All around me, there is trash.
You see, I’m what one might (and should) deem a “casual recycler” — I care about the Earth (don’t get it twisted!), but when it comes to properly discarding my trash, more times than not I’ve opted to do what was most convenient for me in the moment. I have a recycling bin at my apartment, but I don’t always know if what I’m putting in there is definitively recyclable (I’m looking at you, empty toothpaste tubes), and my apartment complex doesn’t have separate bins for paper and plastics. So when I was given the opportunity, while working with Ad Council and Keep America Beautiful, to visit the Sims Recycling Plant (the nation’s largest) in Brooklyn, New York, I welcomed it with open, impressionable arms.
And take a look at the companion piece: 10 Facts About How Recycling Has Changed Over The Past 100 Years That Will Blow Your Dang Mind