> Home > About Auburn >  News and Notices > October Recycling Tips from the City of Auburn: Where Does Your Recycling Go?

News and Notices

October Recycling Tips from the City of Auburn: Where Does Your Recycling Go?

When we recycle at home, what we’re really doing is starting the recycling process.

Recycling involves a lot more than just the collection of materials. Those materials need to be picked up, processed and turned into a new product, and that product needs to be marketed and sold. Only then can recycling be considered a success.

What makes recycling so fascinating and so challenging is that each type of material needs to be handled differently. Even sub-groups of materials are often sorted and processed in different ways, to get the maximum value out of them. For example, collected paper may be separated into many different grades of paper. Office paper especially when collected in large quantities from commercial buildings, has high value and is often used to make recycled-content toilet paper.

The important thing to remember is that recycling is a business. A recycling hauler doesn’t want to collect a material unless they can make money selling it. Recycling haulers and processors find various markets for the materials, and contracts differ from city to city, which helps explain why the items accepted in the City of Auburn curbside recycling program are a little different than what’s accepted in Seattle, for instance. Processors and haulers usually do not want to reveal their exact markets publicly, for competitive business reasons.

Final markets for the items we recycle may be overseas, or just a few miles away. Local markets include the Nucor steel mill in West Seattle and the Verallia glass bottle plant in South Seattle. Nucor turns tin cans, appliances and scrap metal into rebar (reinforcing steel bar) used for construction. Verallia makes wine bottles partly from the crushed pieces of glass bottles collected in the Northwest and British Columbia.

The journey of collected recyclable materials can get complicated. Grays Harbor Paper mill in Hoquiam (Wash.) made 100% recycled content office paper. The paper pulp it used was being supplied most recently by a mill in Oregon, which makes the pulp from recycled paper collected from various sources. Sadly, Grays Harbor Paper was unable to make it financially and closed its doors in May 2012 after 18 years, resulting in the loss of 240 recycling-industry jobs.

That unexpected and devastating mill closure just shows how important it is for all of us to buy products made from recycled materials, to keep recycling alive. Recycled-content products are increasingly available, from toilet paper to compost. Why not pick some up this week?

Information provided by the King County Solid Waste Division and the City of Auburn Solid Waste & Recycling Division.