Single stream recycling was introduced in 1990 as a lower cost alternative to dual-stream collection, meaning we didn’t have to sort our paper from everything else in the bins. It requires that once collected, our items must be sorted elsewhere in order to be recyclable. What the people at Groot don’t want to see is “wish-cycling”. Wish-cycling is when people place items in their recycling bin whose recyclability they are unsure of, and hope they will end up being recycled. Unfortunately, when unrecyclable items get into the bin, it must be physically sorted out, slowing the process, costing more, and anything that is missed by the various sorting steps and gets into the final products is considered contamination of that product.We saw the incoming recycling material in huge piles dumped into the building from trucks coming from all over the Chicago area. Materials are placed onto a multitude of conveyors that take them through both manual and automatic sorting steps. The automatic steps were things like magnets that pick up the iron-containing metals, a visual sorter that ‘sees’ the types of plastics and uses precise puffs of air to blow them off of the conveyor belt to a bin, and a super fast robotic arm that can pick things up with a vacuum and drop them into bins. Most cardboard is pulled out by hand, and paper is blown off of the line. It was all fascinating to watch!Here are some important recycling Don’ts we learned:

And a few Dos as well:

The bottom line is – we don’t have a magical recycling system. Rather, we have a hyper-disposable material world and the vast majority of packaging products won’t ever get a second chance at life if we don’t recycle. If we can recycle correctly and responsibly at our end, it will be cheaper and more effective down the recycling process chain, and help to minimize our carbon footprint in the long run.