Trip to recycling center and landfill

The Oberlin landfill operated by Republic Services sits on more than 14,000 acres. Photo by Patrick McGannon

Behind-the-scenes tour offers look at what happens to our waste

On Oct. 21, the Bay Village Green Team and Rocky River Green Team, along with students from Rocky River High School, visited Republic Services’ Resource Recovery Complex and landfill in Oberlin. A tour of the recycling center and landfill was provided to 31 attendees in order to gain an understanding of where our waste ends up. 

The Resource Recovery Complex is the place where all of our recycling goes. It is a single-stream recycling facility which means that customers are able to mix all of their recyclables together in one container, making it easier to recycle at home or work. At the Resource Recovery Complex, recycling is identified, sifted and sorted using high tech equipment such as magnets, optical scanners, and hand-sorting.

The 75,000-square-foot facility can process 35 tons of recycling per hour! After the recycling is sorted by material type, it’s shaped into bales and shipped to over 100 markets around the country and the world.   

In 2012, the facility was updated, increasing the amount of recyclables processed from 120 tons per day to 280 tons per day using the same number of people on the workforce. About 80 percent of what is received is recycled, and about 20 percent goes to the landfill.

After viewing an educational video and glimpsing into the recycling facility, the tour attendees went by bus to the nearby Republic landfill. It is special that this was possible, as Republic will be discontinuing landfill tours in the near future due to the risky nature of the tour since over 400 trucks enter the area daily.

On the way in, the bus passed two “finished cells,” which looked like large, grassy hills, with metal tubes sticking out periodically. These metal tubes collect the methane gas that is formed during the breakdown of trash. The gas is then collected and burned to produce heat. The heat is used to generate electricity. The energy generated by Republic’s landfill provides electricity to 18,000 homes in Oberlin.

Each “cell” takes about 20-25 years to fill. As the cells are filled, garbage is alternately layered with clay. When it gets to a certain height, it is complete, and grass is planted on top. Republic has over 14,000 acres to use for landfill in Oberlin. To reduce the amount of dust, water trucks are constantly dumping water all around the area. Interestingly, a huge danger to workers in the landfill is seagulls. Seagulls swarm garbage trucks as they go in to dump their waste, creating a vision hazard to the drivers.

Overall, the tour was educational and served to be a great reminder to reduce, reuse, recycle and RETHINK our purchases, which will eventually become our waste. 

Quick tips: When recycling plastic milk jugs, please turn on its side to crush, then replace cap and recycle. Also, the best way to recycle items is “loose” in the recycling bin. Please avoid tying or securing blue grocery or recycle bags if you use them. 

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Volume 7, Issue 21, Posted 10:12 AM, 11.03.2015