Mauricio Tobon likes to talk about waste recycling. "If you recycle your Sunday newspaper every week for one year, you save three trees," says Tobon, the recycling manager at the Material Recovery Facility (MRF), a recycling center run by Penn Waste Inc. in York, Pa.
State of the Art = Success
"We went green with this new recycling facility," Tobon continues. "There is only one landfill in York County. It feels good to be doing something that contributes to society as a whole and helps to save the environment."
The new state-of-the-art facility is an unqualified success. In operation since February 2008, Penn Waste's MRF recycles and sorts single-stream household waste - paper, cardboard, glass, metals and plastics. For about six years, the company has operated a commingled waste facility - which sorts metals, glass and plastics, but not paper or cardboard - on the same site as the MRF.
Today's recycling technology enables waste recovery companies like Penn Waste to sort the paper and cardboard from the plastics, glass, and metals. That way, homeowners need not separate the paper and cardboard from other recyclable waste.
More than 30 trucks per day bring waste material to the MRF in York. Working 20 hours per day, the facility processes approximately 4,000 tons of singlestream waste per month. Recently the MRF began processing construction and demolition debris, and in one week produced 191 tons of recycled construction materials - sorted into wood, masonry, drywall, paper, cardboard and metal.
Workers and Machines
The recycling process calls for an interesting blend of workers and machines. As we entered the MRF (which is the size of an indoor sports arena), we immediately noticed a Volvo MC80B skid steer hustling to grab single-stream waste with its scrap grapple and feed the material onto a large conveyor.
"That Volvo skid steer is the backbone of this operation," says Tobon. "That's the machine that makes everything happen, because it feeds the unsorted waste to the in-feed conveyor. We really like the maneuverability of the Volvo skid steer loaders. They can turn on a dime. And don't let their small size fool you. Those little machines are powerful."
At the MRF, Penn Waste operates two Volvo skid steer loaders. Each loader handles one 10-hour shift, and the working conditions are difficult. There's considerable dust, and when the loader pushes up into a pile, the waste nearly covers the machine.