MRFs Are Planting the Seeds for Sustainability as the Market Shifts

As we reported in February, China’s National Sword Policy that came into effect in January of 2018 has continued to have groundbreaking effects on the U.S. recycling industry. Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) are rapidly adapting to the need for recycled materials to be of a higher quality and purity with retrofitted technology, increased staffing, and supplemented funding.

China is not the only country to impose stricter demands on purity, so rather than looking for other places to outsource our trash to, we need to take responsibility in adapting and growing our MRFs to manage the volume more efficiently, which is where Berg Mill comes in. We have been consulting with various suppliers to assist with the upgrade process from beginning to end.

These MRFs have implemented additional chutes, and conveyers, larger and better presort lines, glass breakers, scalping and improved old corrugated cardboard (OCC) screens, and infrared equipped optical sorters. But labor still remains the costliest part of recycling. This has the opportunity to create more jobs in the industry, but it also calls for the automation of as many processes as possible in order to maximize efficiency.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a promising route to keeping up with the increasing need for accurate and timely sorting, and it’s being implemented in San Jose, San Francisco, Anaheim, Arizona, and Canada through local government grants.

But these new features are expensive and although funding is being implemented by local government entities to offset costs, MRFs will likely not see any sort of return on these investments for years to come. The U.S. can’t put off adapting any longer, so we can only hope that these changes will be worth the cost in the long run, both financially and environmentally.

The way we think about recycling in the U.S. needs to change fundamentally. Because so much of the process involves sorting and eliminating materials with impurities, some states (including California) have considered switching back to dual stream recycling.

MRF’s also encourage consumers to be informed about what types of materials are recycled in their communities and how to do so properly to minimize impurities. Good intentions may actually cause more harm than good—as consumers set aside items to recycle with the false hope or belief that they can be recycled when they can’t be, they may slow down the process or even cause an entire selection of recyclables to be thrown in the landfill.

The responsibility for a more sustainable future lies with all of us at the individual, corporate, governmental, and international level. At Berg Mill, we hope to do our part in planting the seeds for a cleaner planet.

Berg Mill has a long history as one of the pioneers in the industry, and we are not going anywhere even when faced with recyclable import changes. If you continue to handle large amounts of recycled waste and are looking for solutions to offload idle scrap, please contact our industry veterans at Berg Mill Supply.