What Do You Really Know About Recycling?
Another thing she discussed is that Athens is a LEED-certified building. It’s designed to be environmentally friendly by conserving water and energy through various in-house procedures. The facility runs on solar power. Their near-zero emission natural gas vehicles are 90% cleaner than the EPA’s strictest standards. They preserve the surrounding air quality by adding a touch of cherry scent in their emissions, just like a giant essential-oil diffuser.
To help them sort what comes through their facility, Athens employs the Max-AI commercial unit: an artificially intelligent autonomous technology that uses mechanical vision to differentiate between recyclables and waste. It’s essentially a giant robot arm that can sense what is fit for recycling and what isn’t. The arm picks out the trash while letting recyclables pass through the rest of the system. Some tips: “Maxene,” what the robot is affectionately referred to as can’t sense anything under 4 inches. Black plastics don’t register either, so keep those old Thai food containers and loose bottle caps out of your recyclables. Anything that’s dirty gets tossed, so you’re better off throwing away unwashed takeout boxes and used plastic silverware.
After going through Maxene, the remaining materials are sent down a line to be filtered out by human hands. The workers pick out any waste items the machine may have missed. These individuals have to be on high alert, as any non-reusable materials that pass through them end up packed away in 17-ton barrels of recyclables. These barrels are made to be shipped back to China, where factories turn the discarded materials into a new product. If the barrels contain a certain amount of non-recyclables, they’re sent back to the U.S. where services like Athens are forced to foot the bill.
So, now that you’re more familiar with the process, how can you improve the way you recycle? A few suggestions via Athens’ website:
- It’s easier to identify smaller plastics when grouped together. Collect small plastics in one bag and knot it when it’s full.
- Return your plastic bags back to the grocery store to be recycled. Or, you can choose to put all your plastic bags in one secured bag.
- By purchasing recycled-content product, you create a closed-loop system. Using material with at least 30% recycled content can reduce significant water and energy use, air pollution, and mining waste.
- Commit to carrying your own reusable ware. This can include reusable utensils, carryout containers, coffee cups, water bottles, straws, chopsticks, and/or napkins.
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