As an intern for Global Green USA’s New York office, I recently got the opportunity to tour Action Environmental Group’s new Material Recovery Facility (MRF) in the Bronx with Lily Kelly, the director of our Coalition for Resource Recovery. Action Environmental Group, the largest waste hauler in the New York City region and a longtime CoRR member, is known for the innovative ways in which they process waste from a variety of industrial and commercial facilities. This new MRF will allow them to divert even more valuable materials from landfills when it becomes fully operational.
The system works through a combination of manual sorting and automation. Incoming materials go through a bag-ripping machine and onto a conveyor belt, where waste technicians perform a primary sort and make sure that the material is spread more or less evenly across the belt. An optical sorter can then distinguish and separate different types of materials further down the line, mainly honing in on paper and plastics.
One of CoRR’s programs focuses on increasing diversion of paper foodservice packaging, such as the paper cups and other items served at quick-service restaurants like Starbucks and Pret a Manager. While these materials are frequently landfilled, Action Environmental Group is currently collecting and recycling the paper foodservice packaging they receive from their customers, and with their new system they will be able to recover even more of these and other items. If all paper foodservice packaging were collected and recycled, it would have a greenhouse gas emissions benefit equivalent to permanently shutting down three coal-fired power plants with no loss of energy.
Overall, this system is anticipated to keep 50-55% more material from going to landfills, compared to the current system. Additionally, materials processed in this way can be made into higher-grade products. As our enthusiastic tour guide said “I’ll be honest with you, it’s gonna truly revolutionize the way recycling is done in New York City.”