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Innovative Machine Makes Recycling Simple

MAKING AN IMPACT Eco-Rollins, the campus sustainability club, hosted their “Plastic Bottle Campaign” last week. Bottled water was not sold on campus in order to encourage Rollins to think twice about plastic’s impact on the environment at large.

The mystery of recycling is over. The efficient single-stream recycling helps Rollins students go green.

You’ve seen it. A big white truck with the emblem “WM” written in green cruises through the campus a few times a week. It stops at all the recycling bins, and a man steps out of the vehicle and disposes of the bin’s contents into the truck. Returning back to the truck, he drives away into the unknown. However, this mystery of where it goes is no longer a question. WM Recycle America gladly opens its doors to those interested to show where the recycling from campus goes and what happens to it.

The Rollins Sustainability Program implements “single-stream recycling” on campus, making it easier for students to recycle. Originally, people would have to separate their recycling into different bins. The options range from plastics, papers, glass, fibers,  etc. The only problem is that most people don’t know which item belongs to which bin, often times causing the individual to get frustrated and just put the item in the trash can. However, the single-stream recycling removes the burden of separating the items. All recyclable materials go into the same bin, which are then picked up by the white trucks and taken to the “machine.” The machine is big, silver, and has arms extending out in different directions, looking something like a massive roller coaster with twists and turns. For size comparison, according to Ann Francis, Program Coordinator of Environmental Studies and the Sustainability Program, the machine is as big as “the whole Annie Russell Theater.”

Here’s how the system works: The bin’s contents are dispersed into the machine, where single-stream processing and optical-sorting systems separate the materials. The optical-sorting system virtually sees every item moving along the machine, and then characterizes and separates them. For example, once a metal is seen, a magnet picks it up and sends it away with all the other metals, which are then compressed into a big box-looking stack. At the factory, you see the machine, the stacks, and the workers. These workers help aid the system by making sure all the materials are being properly sorted. Though the machine has glitches, the workers are always there to make sure these problems get fixed.

The single-stream recycling on campus makes it easy for students to promote a sustainable environment by reducing the frustration that accompanies separating recyclable materials. With eager workers looking to inform people, Recycle America is open to tours. If interested, contact Ann Francis at for information regarding the upcoming tour in December.

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