Creston Mayor Ron Toyota admits to being fascinated with how public systems work — how transportation systems move people around, how water gets from creek to tap, and so on.
So it is no surprise that he recently arranged a visit to a new state of the art recycling plant in Spokane.
“I’ve always wondered what happens to the bins full of recyclables that are collected by Waste Management three times a month,” he said yesterday. “Every once in a while I would get a complaint from someone who heard from someone else that some or all of it just gets taken to the landfill in Cranbrook. I didn’t believe it, but I wanted to see for myself.”
Earlier this year, a visit to Waste Management’s facility in Cranbrook allayed any concerns that the bins’ contents aren’t really being recycled. Paper, plastic, glass and metal are collected from around the East Kootenay, then compacted in Cranbrook before heading south to the company’s recycling plant in Washington.
Accompanied by Coun. Tanya Ducharme and town engineering manager Colin Farynowiski, Toyota spent two hours at SMaRT (Spokane Material and Recycling Technology Center), a $20 million facility that opened last October near the Spokane International Airport.
One of about 100 “single stream recycling” plants operated by Waste Management, one of North America’s largest recycling companies, the SMaRT plant is built to handle about 6,000 tons a month, processing about 11 pounds per second.
“The SMaRT plant opens the bales, fluffs them and everything goes into the processing line where the latest technology processes and separates cardboard (different types), paper, metal, glass and plastics,” Toyota said. “These products are then baled and sent out to the different destinations. Glass goes to Seattle. Metal products are sent to U.S. plants. Plastics can go to China or other source locations.”
Materials are sorted by a variety of means. Air currents float off cardboard and paper, plastic bags are sucked into vacuum tubes and hand sorting separates other items into separate streams.
Volume is key for recycling sorting operations, the Creston group learned. The contents of 42 green Waste Management bins in the Creston Valley eventually arrive at the SMaRT plant, along with recyclables from southern B.C., Idaho and Washington. Alberta recyclables are also being considered for the Spokane facility.
“Another most interesting discussion was Agilyx,” Toyota added, “a company based in Beaverton, Ore., with an operating plant in Tigard, Ore. WM has partnered with this company and its purpose is to extract pure crude oil from waste plastics that are already in our landfill sites. It is an amazing vision and process.”