FAQs

MRF FAQs

What is single stream recycling? What is dual stream recycling?

Single stream and dual stream recycling are terms that describe whether one’s recycling material is all mixed together (as a single stream) or whether recycling material is separated into paper products and containers (as a dual or two-part stream).

The cities of Chicopee and Springfield now collect recyclable material from residents using the single stream method. Only these two cities use this system. Residents in Chicopee and Springfield should place all of their recycling into the wheeled cart provided by the City.

All other towns in western Massachusetts continue to use “dual stream” where paper separated from containers.

If you are still not sure what to do in your town, visit the local information page and click on your town.

What happens to my recyclables?

After your recyclables are collected they are transported to a material recycling processing facility that separates the material. The material recycling facility (MRF, pronounced merf) uses a combination of sorting equipment and people to separate the paper, glass, cans, and plastic. Once each material is separated it is baled. The glass is crushed. After this process, they are hauled to a variety of companies that use the material as feedstock for new products.

Is recycling mandatory?

Every municipality in western Massachusetts that sends recyclables to the Springfield MRF has a mandatory recycling ordinance.  Check with your town clerk for specific language about mandatory recycling in your town.

Why is it important to recycle according to guidelines?

The processing facility is made up of sorting machines designed to produce the highest quality materials at a manageable cost. Too much time spent handpicking contaminants out of the material stream or unclogging machinery increases expenses and decreases the quality of material that is sold to end-markets. It is important to remember that your recycled materials will be used to make new products so it is important to follow the guidelines on what is recyclable.

What happens to the materials that aren’t recyclable? Don’t they just get recycled anyway?

As much as we would like to recycle everything we receive, market demand limits what can be recycled. We cannot collect and process materials if there is no one to buy them. Similarly, if we include too much “junk” with our materials (such as plastic pools or laundry baskets mixed in with milk jugs), we risk losing buyers or getting a lower price for our materials.  In fact, the recycling facility has to pay a disposal fee for materials that can’t be recycled.

What does it mean when recyclables are contaminated?

Recyclables become contaminated when unacceptable materials are placed with the recyclables, making it impossible to recycle effectively. Some examples of contamination are food spilled on otherwise clean paper or cardboard, or non-recyclable items, such as flower pots or window glass, mixed in with the containers.

What product is taking up the most space in landfills in the United States?

The item most frequently encountered in  landfills is plain old paper — on average it accounts for more than 35 percent of a landfill’s contents. This proportion has held steady for decades and in some landfills has actually risen. Newspapers alone can take up as much as 13 percent of the space in US landfills. This proportion has held steady for decades and in some landfills has actually risen.

Organic materials, including paper, do not easily biodegrade once they are disposed of in a landfill. Paper is many times more resistant to deterioration when compacted in a landfill than when it is in open contact with the atmosphere. Research by William Rathje, who runs the Garbage Project, has shown that, when excavated from a landfill, newspapers from the 1960s can be intact and readable.

What materials are most commonly recycled in the United States through collection programs?

U.S. recycling rates for commonly recycled consumer goods in 2010 are listed below:

Newspapers: 71.6 percent
Corrugated Cardboard Boxes: 85 percent
Mixed Paper: 45 percent
Steel Cans: 67 percent
Yard Trimmings: 57.5 percent
Aluminum Beer and Soft Drink Cans: 49.6 percent
Plastic Soft Drink Bottles: 29.2 percent
Plastic HDPE Milk and Water Bottles: 27.5 percent
Glass Containers: 33.4 percent

What effects do waste prevention and recycling have on global warming?

Everyone knows that reducing waste is good for the environment because it conserves natural resources. What many people don’t know is that solid waste reduction and recycling also have an impact on global climate change.

The manufacture, distribution, and use of products — as well as management of the resulting waste — all result in greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gases, which trap heat in the upper atmosphere, occur naturally and help create climates that sustain life on our planet. Increased concentrations of these gases, though, can contribute to rising global temperatures, sea level changes, and other climate changes.

Waste prevention and recycling — jointly referred to as waste reduction — help us better manage the solid waste we generate. But reducing waste is a potent strategy for reducing greenhouse gases because it can:

Reduce emissions from energy consumption. Recycling saves energy. Manufacturing goods from recycled materials typically requires less energy than producing goods from virgin materials. When people reuse goods or when products are made with less material, less energy is needed to extract, transport, and process raw materials and to manufacture products. When energy demand decreases, fewer fossil fuels are burned and less carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere.

Reduce emissions from incinerators. Recycling and waste prevention divert materials from incinerators and thus reduce greenhouse gas emissions from waste combustion.

Reduce methane emissions from landfills. Waste prevention and recycling (including composting) divert organic wastes from landfills, reducing the methane that would be released if these materials decomposed in a landfill.

Increase storage of carbon in forests. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in wood in a process called “carbon sequestration.” Waste prevention and recycling paper products allows more trees to remain standing in the forest, where they can continue to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

How does recycling save energy?

Harvesting, extracting, and processing the raw materials used to manufacture new products is an energy-intensive activity. Reducing or nearly eliminating the need for these processes, therefore, achieves huge savings in energy. Recycling aluminum cans, for example, saves 95 percent of the energy required to make the same amount of aluminum from its virgin source, bauxite. Making recycled steel saves 60%, recycled newspaper 40%, recycled plastics 70%, and recycled glass 40% of the energy needed to make products from raw materials. The amount of energy saved differs by material, but almost all recycling processes achieve significant energy savings compared to production using virgin materials.

Plastics

Plastic FAQs Think Bottles and Containers! All plastic food and beverage bottles Most plastic food containers Most other plastic bottles under 2.5 gallons in size Just a few exceptions: Styrofoam cups and trays and microwave trays are not recyclable. If the bottle contained motor oil, antifreeze, pesticides, herbicides, adhesives, paints, or solvents, it cannot be …

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Paper

Can pizza boxes be recycled? Yes and no. Paper mills require clean paper for recycling. If you remove the insert or have a pizza box without grease on it, then it can be recycled. If the box has cheese or oil residue then it can’t be recycled, will be considered a contaminant, and must be …

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Glass

Why can’t I recycle drinking glass, window glass, light bulbs, or glass baking dishes? The combination of ingredients used to make glassware is different from what goes into container glass for bottles and jars. If these two types of glass are recycled together, the resulting glass will not be suitable for container glass. In fact, …

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Metal

You can recycle some types of aerosol cans. They must be empty and have contained food, laundry, or health and beauty products. This includes cooking sprays, whipped cream, frosting, spray starch, anti-static spray, sun block, first aid spray, hair spray, hair mousse, deodorant, shaving cream, and air fresheners. Put the cover in the trash. Do …

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Misc

Can aseptic containers, like soy milk and juice boxes, be recycled? Yes. Please empty, rinse, and place with other “containers.” It is important to remove straws from juice boxes and put in the trash. Can I recycle tyvek envelopes? No. Tyvek envelopes are not recyclable with your MRF paper and containers. DuPont has a tyvek …

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