Republic Services' new 90,000-square-foot facility in Fort Worth processes 500 tons of recyclables a day. Photos courtesy of the city of Arlington.

Nov. 5, 2013

When Arlington’s recycling contractor Republic Services opened a 90,000-square-foot state-of-the-art recycling complex in July, it meant big changes for recycling in the city. Changes that allowed residents to, for the first time, recycle a number of new items, including foil and plastic bags. 

Residents in Arlington traded in 22-gallon recycling bins for 65-gallon wheeled carts, which were delivered to every household in the city. Lorrie Anderle, the city of Arlington Recycling Coordinator, says this, and the fact that there are vacuums on the sort lines for plastic bags and that now foil can be recycled, is a big deal.  

Courtesy of the city of Arlington.

"[Foil is] separated and recycled just like all the other materials now,” she said, adding that pie plates and other foil containers are also acceptable.

The technologically advanced materials recovery facility, or MRF, processes more than 500 tons of mixed recyclables a day overall making it one of the largest facilities of its kind in North Texas, alongside Greenstar/Waste Management. 

“Greenstar/Waste Management’s may be larger, but it depends if they are talking about capacity for sorting recycle volumes or the footprint of the facility,” says, Elizabeth Combs, president of the North Texas Corporate Recycling AssocIation.

Courtesy of the city of Arlington.

The new facility, located in Fort Worth, is owned and operated by Republic Services and uses an automated high-speed system that moves 35 tons of materials an hour.

However, Combs says while this is a large facility and will certainly change recycling in Arlington, many recyclers have been working with the public on recycling plastic bags for years. It was just a matter of time before recycling facilities found a way to do something about it.

“Plastic bags are typically the largest contaminate at most MRFs,” Combs says.

She says the grocery bags are worth very little, but with this new technology available to capture bags, it is now possible to find a recycling outlet for grocery bags and other unlikely items so that there is less items that need to be landfilled.

“This is a nice alternative to the bag bans because the plastic is used as recycled content in new bags,” she adds. “This strengthens the recycling market.” 

As for other cities, Combs said many are working to match Arlington’s new recycling capabilities. 

Film bags are handpicked and transported to a film packing system. Courtesy of the city of Arlington.

“We always want to add new items into recycling programs. When it comes to education, simple programs get better participation. For example, we can say, ‘recycle all paper’ but the plastics message is a lot more complex with codes and exceptions, this makes it more difficult for residents to recycle. Movement towards ‘recycle all plastic’ is the goal.”  

Craig Mikolajchak, general manager of Republic Services, says the company takes its role as environmental stewards very seriously. 

“Our new equipment will allow us to better support our cities’ green initiatives,” he said.

Overall, Republic Services’ new Fort Worth MRF is a great example of utilizing new technology to expand and improve recycling programs throughout North Texas, Combs said. 

“Adding new materials to existing recycling programs brings positive reinforcement to the industry. The average resident or business doesn’t always get to see the good they are doing by recycling, but each item recycled saves landfill usage in addition to reducing resource demands to create new products,” Combs said. “North Texas is growing daily and it’s reassuring to see that recycling infrastructure is being built now to keep up with capacity demands from our population.”

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