Sims Recycling Center Visit

I went on a tour of the Sims Recycling Center in Sunset Park of Brooklyn with Eva. The tour of the facility and the education center is phenomenal. They have a great tour set up for anyone interested. It is amazing to see how our recycled material is acquired, broken down, filtered, categorized all in this one facility. There are many takeaways from this visit, below is my attempt of trying to capture some of them but I think everyone should just go in person.

First, there was a lecture about what Sims Recycling Center even is, what it does and how is different from other facilities. The main point was that this center is focused completely on residential recyclables. Commercial recyclables go to private carters and companies. Other facts:

  • The Sims Recycling Center is the largest Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in United States
  • MRF are focused on sorting. It is the MRF’s responsibility to also sell
  • 50% of recyclables come in via barges, the rest come via truck
  • Sims focuses on sorting then selling to markets the sorted materials
  • Different cities have different markets and types of materials that are sold
  • Different cities also have different conditions for recycling. For example, in New York the recycled material doesn’t have to be entirely clean; there can be some food residue on it still.

Next, we covered the general facts about recycling in the 5 boroughs.

  • Key players in recycling: brand owners –> consumers –> municipalities –> MRF –> MFG
  • Green Bin: Mixed paper, cardboard
  • Blue Bin: Metal, hard plastics, glass and cartons
  • Orange Bin: Food scraps, food-soiled paper
  • Hard vs soft plastic makes a difference in recycling. Soft plastic (i.e. plastic bags) go in regular trash. Hard plastic (i.e. water bottles) go in blue bin.
  • Foam is now banned in New York because foam is not recyclable

Next, we covered the process that the recycled material is sorted at the facility

  • Sims receives 100% of the curbside MGP (Metals, Glass and Plastic)
  • Sorting system is 2.5 miles of a conveyor belt system
  • There are double belts for each step of the process because in case one side is jammed, they always have another
  • The most common reason for jams in the belt are plastic bags or long, loose plastic material that gets wrapped around the disks

  • 1st Process: Barge –> Tipping Floor –> Liberator
  • 2nd Process (Metals): Screen –> Magnets –> Eddy Currents
  • 3rd Process (Plastics): Conveyors –> Optical Sorter –> Manual Sorting
  • 4th Process (Final): Bunkers –> Bales –> Load

  • Liberator: opens bags that then go into sorting system
  • Screens: different sizes go to different screens; they are separated into 3 different size categories
  • In the disc screens, the glass gets broken up in the process and small plastics also fall through
  • Magnets are used to sort ferrous metals from non-ferrous metals
  • Ferrous metals: contains iron and are attracted to magnets
  • Non-ferrous metals: eddy currents; repels the magnetic stuff; eddy current is a current that flows in a conductor as a result of changing magnetic fields
  • Optics are used for sorting the plastic
  • They use an infrared light to identify chemical makeup of the plastic. They also use an air jet to blow the plastics into their specific categories once the type is detected
  • The final check is to manually sort the recyclables. The workers pull things out that don’t belong.
  • Lastly, the materials get formed into bales
  • Different bale types have different costs; for example, aluminum is the most valuable type
  • Bale –> Compression; after baling, the materials are compressed using a hydraulic ram; this creates dense bales and are then tied together
  • Different bale types: a.) PET, b.) color HDPE, c.) polypropylene, d.) aluminum, e.) steel, f.) cartons, g.) natural HDPE, h.) refuse
  • 12% of what is received at Simms is trash, which is unfortunate because they have to spend money to export that trash elsewhere