Are you looking for a trip during winter vacation that is out of the box? I know just the trip, but maybe it is not really out of the box, but in the box – the recycling box.
The Recycling Plant in Hillburn, NY, also known as an MRF, Materials Recovery Facility, offers an extensive education on the importance of recycling, as well as exciting activities related to recycling for children to enjoy.
Jennifer Sheridan, Assistant Waste Educator, offers a fascinating tour of the facility. She explains the importance of Reduce – to buy and own fewer items, Reuse – reuse items whenever possible, and Recycle – plastic, metal and cardboard items. The program’s purpose is to empower children and their families to develop sustainable lifestyle practices in their own lives and then inspire others to do the same.
The first part of the tour is a video presentation explaining the process of recycling. The recyclables are carted from the blue (cardboard and paper) and green (glass, metal, and plastic containers) recycle boxes that every resident in Rockland County is given, to the MRF in Hillburn, by trucks and tractors.
The recyclables are then loaded onto a conveyer belt where workers look through all the material and separate the plastic from the metal and the metal from the paper. They also remove anything that cannot be recycled. The metal is left on the conveyer belt, which makes its way towards a huge magnet. The metal containers and cardboard are pressed into bales and resold to companies. Currently Coca Cola buys all the bales of aluminum from the MRF.
The glass containers fall through the conveyer belt and go into a pulverizing machine, which breaks up the glass and turns it into sand, which is sold to major companies for construction projects.
All recyclable plastic has a number from one to seven on the bottom. These numbers tell the workers what type of plastic the container is made of. The workers sort the plastic containers and package them into bales which are sold to companies that use only recycled plastics to make their products – pencil cases, reusable bags, t-shirts and even park benches. The profits of the sales of the recycled products go to the counties that provide the recycled material.
After the video presentation, visitors proceed to an observation deck where they can view workers sorting and baling the sorted recyclables, before stacking and loading them onto tractor-trailers for transportation to remanufacturing facilities.
The tour concludes with a visit to the Star Lab. The Star Lab offers visitors the opportunity to experiment on interactive exhibits. Each exhibit focuses on a different area of the environment, showing the positive effects of waste reduction as well as the benefits of recycling, responsible decision making, decreasing energy consumption, and backyard composting.
Tours of the facility are free of charge. To schedule a 1 ½ to 2-hour tour with a group of 10-35 people, call or e-mail Jennifer Sheridan at 845-753-2200 ext.34 or e-mail her at [email protected].
Compiled and Photographed by: S.Y. Einhorn