St. Lucie County’s current recycling system is pretty amazing and it started in 2014. It’s called single-stream recycling, meaning that all recyclable items can go in the same bin — this means residents are not required to sort their own recyclables.
When St. Lucie County residents place their recycling cart curbside, it comes to the St. Lucie County Baling and Recycling Facility. The recycling trucks dump the recyclable items on to the single stream tipping floor, which is where material sits before it is processed. From there, materials are placed on a conveyor where they pass by pre-sorters. This is where manual sorters attempt to remove prohibited items that are dangerous to workers and equipment.
After the initial sorting is completed, the conveyor moves materials through a series of screens. There, all cardboard and paper items are removed. Paper is conveyed to a special sorting area where additional plastics and non-recyclables are filtered out manually before heading to the paper baler. Cardboard goes straight to an area just for cardboard where it waits to be loaded on the conveyor to the baler. These screens are also where glass containers are broken and sorted out for the safety and convenience of the workers.
After the fiber products and glass are sorted out, the remaining recyclables continue down the line where they enter an optical sorter. This sorter uses eddy current to separate PET (#1 plastics like water bottles) and HDPE (#2 plastics like milk jugs and laundry detergent bottles) from the rest of the recyclables. These plastics are then manually sorted for quality and sent to segregated bunkers where they wait their turn to be baled.
The recyclables that are not PET or HDPE continue on the conveyor to a manual sorter who is carefully watching for specific commodities that may have inadvertently made it down the line. The remaining materials then pass under a powerful ferrous magnet to remove steel cans which are then dropped into a bunker to await baling. Lastly, the remaining materials enter a second optical sorter where eddy current sorts aluminum cans from remaining plastics and any remaining paper. The plastics left at the end are mixed plastics #1-#7 and are baled and sold as mixed plastics. Aluminum drops onto a final conveyer belt where any remaining non-aluminum materials are manually sorted out before the aluminum is dropped into its bunker to await baling.
Once all the materials are separated, the materials are baled, sold, and shipped to recycling companies for processing where they start a new life being repurposed into recycled paper, aluminum siding, picnic tables and even airplane parts!