Recycling Plant Tour - Ravi's Summer
Today, I would like to share my experiences from a tour of the EDCO recycling plant in La Mesa, California. EDCO is an environmentally conscious waste collection and recycling company. They operate their own trucks, recycling plants and compost greeneries, which means no landfills! The tour was organized by Surfrider San Diego County Chapter and brought out around 30 people. Wow! Amazing to see how much people care about recycling on a Saturday morning. The tour was lead by EDCO’s very own CEO and president, Steve South. He showed us around the sorting facility and explained the operations of the business in great detail.
The facility sorts recyclables from all over San Diego County which EDCO collects curbside with their own trucks! It is a highly automated plant that runs on mostly a conveyor belt, which goes up on an incline and has wheels that are shaped like gears surrounded by rubber that spins and pushes the materials upwards. This purely mechanical part separates the big items (e.g., cardboard) from the smaller recyclables (e.g., plastic bottles). It was very interesting to see the layout of the facility where most of the work took place on an elevated metal platform inside a room with a high ceiling. The conveyor belt runs around, up, and down until it reaches its final process where workers manually hand collect smaller items that the machine could not sort out yet. They then threw the items down sets of vertical chutes below to a conveyor belt that would re-sort everything.
At the end of the tour, everyone got to ask the president questions. At this point I learned that 75% of the raw and sorted recycled materials the plant produces are shipped to China! I was really surprised by that fact, because I thought that recyclables stay in the United States to produce new products. Also 12% of the materials are mixed paper, which is a lower percent than in the past (even in the past 5 years)!
I learned a lot from this tour. It is fascinating how our society has such a progressive system to deal with its waste. There is still a long way to go, but it’s much better than most places, and better than it was in the past!