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  • Writer's pictureTamanna Mohapatra

Have you heard of MRF?

Updated: Sep 6, 2020

MRFs is the acronym for Materials Recovery Facility . Last weekend I finally got to visit SIMS Municipal Recycling Facility in Brooklyn, NYC. Below is a brief article I wrote up from the very educative tour I got to be a part of that evening.

They are considered one of the largest if not THE largest MRF in the country. They are responsible for taking care of all NYC's Residential recycling. That's a big distinction to note because that's only 1/2 of all the collected recycling..the other half being commercial recycle.

That's 5 borough's worth of residential recycling generated every single day of a year. Even so, currently the amount of recycling they sort through is approx. 1000 tons a day! How much is that you say- It's about the size of 200 elephants packed together in a room. That's a lot.

Technically this facility has one primary job and that is to sort recycling. Why sorting? Well, that's because NYC allows its residents to recycle Metal Glass Plastic and Paper. Ideally they should only be sorting and separating Metals, Glass, and Plastics as those three are collected together. But because recycling rules in NYC are not 100% followed, they get a lot of trash too that they have to first remove. In fact, 12.5% of what’s received is waste, therefore once separated is baled and sent to a landfill.

The whole facility is highly automated and it was fun seeing that aspect. It functions 24 hours with 33 people in each shift and there are 3 shifts a day. In addition to sorting recycles and selling the recycled products to various up-cycle markets they also work with corporations on making their products more recyclable in the first place. The primary idea being 'close the loop'. Final form of the recyclables are bales; most of which are 1000 pound each.

Our wonderful tour guide spoke about the role of DSNY folks (Dept. of Sanitation NY) with whom they work closely and rightfully so called them heroes as they keep our city clean. So, next time you are behind one of their slow moving them and yourselves a favor and at the very least, show some patience and not yell at them for delaying you! She mentioned how organics make a big chunk of what is part of our trash. The end goal is to separate out organic waste and not send it to landfills but currently the city's organics program's roll-out is paused. This means that whoever currently has organics collection will still receive it, but organics collection will not be going out to additional homes at this time. DSNY is trying to focus on improving the output of current households participating instead of expanding it even more. Some interesting facts I learnt to help us all better recycle (applies to NYC residents only!)

  • Anything that is 50% metal should be recycled.

  • Plastic- only recycle hard/rigid plastic.

  • Cartons and tetra packs - are recyclable but as a plastic

  • Only 50% is being recycled properly, rest 50% gets trashed

  • MGPC stands for Metal Glass Plastics and Cartons

  • Biodegradable is not same as compostable

I would highly recommend taking a first person tour which can be done through this link. Here are some fun pics from the tour. Go see it and share your own

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