For decades the recycling industry has been ineffective in reducing the growing issues such as plastic pollution. This is due largely to the scale and reliance of fossil-fuel based transportation. The Ketchikan Afterschool Program will begin the development of a comprehensive, small-scale recycling operation this fall here in Ketchikan.
The advantages of a small scale approach to recycling are many, though you might not see them in light of the global scale of consumer waste related issues. Before we can understand why a small scale approach can be more effective we first must understand the limitations of the current large scale model.
Whats a MRF?
A Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) is a sorting and packaging operation for recyclables. The purpose of a MRF to to separate, prepare and sell materials to be recycled. MRFs DO NOT RECYCLE. There are about 300 MRFS in the US which means each one is responsible for over 10,000 square miles of US.
Most MRFs however are clustered in major metropolitan areas, but the still cover large urban populations. As a result the large scale model is 100% dependent of fuel costs. This is the reason why recyclables are often mixed in with regular trash and sent to the landfills. Up until a few years ago almost all of US recyclables were shipped overseas and turned into disposable plastics which together erase any environmental benefit of recycling
The large Scale model is limited by size of materials due to the automated sorting process at MRFs.
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