Ever wonder what happens to the paper that you put out for recycling?
As a resident of Mansfield, there are two ways that you can recycle your paper – bring it to the Mansfield transfer station, or have it collected at your house with trash service.
Willimantic Waste Paper Co. picks up that big container where paper and cardboard is collected at the transfer station and brings it to their recycling facility. For collection service, the trash company brings the recyclable paper to Willimantic Waste Paper.
Either way, the paper ends up at the same place.
If you have trash collection service, the trash truck comes by your house first, followed by the recycling truck. Sometimes, the trash collector moves all recyclables to a single, more central location. This commonly happens if you live on a cul-de-sac, deadend road or sparsely populated road.
I sometimes get calls from irate residents who see other bags of recyclables next to their own and think a neighbor is “cheating,” when in fact it was the trash collector’s doing, This practice reduces the number of stops that the recycling truck needs to make, which cuts down on fuel, labor and pollution.
So, the paper goes on the recycling truck which is emptied at our local intermediate processing center, Willimantic Waste Paper Co. in Willimantic. We are fortunate to have a facility next door to us.
The paper is sorted using conveyor belts and screens. Contaminants such as plastic, glass, staples and paper clips are mechanically removed. This is a very important part of the process because these are things that can cause problems when the material is sent to the paper mill to be made into recycled paper; they can damage the paper mill’s equipment and can affect the quality of the finished products.
If you think that the recycling collector is picky about what items you put out for recycling and the way they are sorted and packaged, this is the reason why – contaminants undermine the recycling process.
Depending on the strength of the paper markets, Willimantic Waste Paper employees may keep all the newspaper separate from office paper, and from coated paper such as magazines and flyers.
The paper is then baled – imagine a monster bundle of paper tied together with wire – and sent to a paper mill. Most of the mills that our paper goes to are in Canada.
At the mill, the paper is shredded and mixed with water to form a pulp. This mixture is screened and more contaminants are removed.
Deinking (or floatation) uses detergents to remove inks from the paper.
If the end product is white paper, a bleaching process is used to remove any remaining color.
Paper fibers can only be recycled a finite number of times before they become too short and drop out in the process. Manufacturers adjust for the differing properties of recycled fiber in the papermaking process and may add virgin pulp to the mixture to increase its strength.
The final mixture is then pressed into paper. Recycled-content paper today meets the same technical specifications as virgin paper.
Mansfield recycles the following types of paper fiber (most of which is mandated for recycling by the Mansfield Solid Waste Ordinance) :
White office paper
Envelopes with windows
Books – paperback and hardcover
Paperboard – (such as cereal boxes, paper egg cartons, toilet paper rolls, cracker boxes)
Corrugated cardboard (with the wavy inner layer)
Milk and juice cartons (these are recycled with the cans and bottles grouping)
Drink boxes (these are recycled with the cans and bottles grouping)
Next time I will be writing about how to get free of the junk mail menace.
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