Western Recycling (AKA the “chocolate factory”) is Idaho’s only MRF. Here, materials are separated, sorted and baled to be sold to manufacturers to make new items. But the task isn’t easy.
The materials travel down a conveyor belt at a rate of 90 feet per minute, which keeps workers on their feet at all times. And to make things worse, most counties have no-sort recycling, which means that plastic containers, paper products, cardboard, aluminum and tin cans are all placed in one container.
Idaho Statesman explains the whole recycling process in detail:
As a conveyer belt loaded with tons of recycling zipped by, Joe Yamson focused on spotting and removing items that didn’t belong. A stray battery here, an odd plastic bag there. His movements were fluid and his eyes never left the belt, which was no small feat considering it was moving at a brisk 90 feet per minute.
“When he gets his mojo on up there, we call him the Zen master,” said his boss, Rick Gillihan, as Yamson tossed unwanted items into nearby sorting bins. Yamson is among the best of about two dozen hard-hatted workers who perch 14 feet in the air amid a maze of catwalks, conveyer belts, spinning disks, rotating screens and other contraptions. They move in unison at a frenetic pace. Spot, reach, remove, repeat. Hundreds of times a day.
“This is the chocolate factory,” said Gillihan.