Thursday, March 19, 2020

Homeschool Science: Field Trip to a Single-Stream Recycling Material Recovery Facility

Because we haven't spent quite enough time studying trash yet!

I don't know if you've ever thought about it before, but how our communities handle municipal solid waste is really fascinating, and it makes a terrific study for science or civics. For Will, this field trip is part of her AP Environmental Science study, specifically Unit 8: Aquatic and Terrestrial Pollution. For Syd, this is part of her Honors Biology study, specifically CK-Biology Chapter 12: Communities and Populations.

This is Ray's Trash Service, a single-stream recycling service in Indianapolis:

That's not to say that they don't take any sorted material at all--here's where they receive baled recyclables from some businesses:

Did you know that you CAN recycle shrink wrap? You can't just put it in your recycling bin, though--Ray's accepts baled shrink wrap from certain businesses.

There were so many epic big machines here!

Here is where all of the rest of the recycling is unloaded--it's a big mountain of unsorted recyclables!

Doesn't it sort of make you want to walk around on top of it and look for interesting stuff? No? Where's your sense of adventure?!?

Here's one of the Ray's trucks preparing to back up into the warehouse and add to the mountain:

Oh, and here's my favorite part of the field trip!

I'm happy anytime I get to wear a hard hat!

The recycling comes to Ray's unsorted, but is then sorted in various ways by various means. Here's where humans stand at a conveyor belt and sort recyclables by hand:

We were there during their break, but mostly there are humans here:

Whatever they pull out at their station, they put down a giant tunnel to a collection area on the floor below:

After the humans comes an OCC Screen. It's got big rotating wheels that carry big pieces of cardboard across it, while everything else falls below:

  There are catwalks around the facility, and when you walk them you can follow the path of various conveyors sorting various recyclables:

This is a trommel. It's got holes of different sizes so that different things fall through into different bins:

The warehouse is HUGE!

Here, we're following the path of paper being sorted:

And now we're on past more conveyors--

--check out all of those plastic milk jugs!

--and on to see where sorted materials are baled and then sent out of the facility:

These are all aluminum cans:

This is a specific type of paper:

Here's cardboard being baled:

Whatever actual trash has made its way to the recycling facility gets sorted out and put into separate bins that then go to the incinerator that we saw a bit of during our field trip to the landfill:

The reality of this recycling facility was so much more interesting than I'd imagined it would be--and I was already thinking it would be interesting, because I knew we'd get to wear hard hats! It reminded me in many ways of the Dixie Cup factory that my Pappa worked in and that I'd get to visit every now and then when I was small--all those conveyor belts and all that machinery! Do kids still get to go on real factory tours these days?

Or did they, before the pandemic?

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