HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - In Harrison County, about 3,000 tons of recyclable materials are expected to be collected this year alone. That's 3,000 tons of waste that will not end up in our landfills. Have you ever wondered where all that stuff goes?
All the paper and plastic that we toss into the bins will be given new life. Before that happens though, they have to make a long trip from your curbside to one of several destinations.
Before most people roll out of bed, recycling trucks are rolling into their neighborhoods.
"We start about 6:00 in the morning and work until about 4:00 or 5:00 in the afternoon, going house to house," said Gerald Greene, Advanced Disposal District Manager.
Advanced Disposal handles curbside recycling for Harrison County and its five cities.
"We've seen a steady increase, especially the last couple of years in volume. So we're on a trend in 2012 to do about 3,000 tons. That's up from about 2,100 tons two or three years ago," said Greene.
Beer bottles, jars, and other glass items get their own space on the truck. The rest are dumped into a larger bin. Paper and plastic are the most common recyclable items, followed by newspapers, magazines, and junk mail.
"You would be amazed at some of the things that show up in the recycle can," said Greene
When asked to name the oddest items, Green smiled and asked, "Things I can talk about on camera? Believe it or not, we'll see some odd things. Probably the most odd is maybe soiled Pampers, full containers of food products."
Items that are recyclable then begin their long journey to destinations that will transform them from trash into treasure. The first stop is a Material Recovery Facility on Hudson-Krohn Road in north Biloxi. Drivers dump the glass items outside.
"The glass is separated here. We crush it with an asphalt roller and then Pearl River Aggregate takes that in Pearl River, MS, and they use that for aggregate mix," said Greene.
Inside the building, all paper and plastic products, aluminum, and metal containers are poured into a huge pile. A two-man crew starts the process of sorting and scooping up the recyclables and dropping them into a compacting machine.
Once the materials move through the conveyor, they come out tightly baled and ready for shipment.
"And they go to our Sumrall facility for separation and further reduction and then to markets," said Greene.
Glass has no value. The other items are sold to companies across the southeast.
"The cardboard is baled here and shipped directly to Georgia Pacific in Monticello, MS, for instance. Aluminum, obviously, is the most valuable commodity," said Greene.
The aluminum can be melted down and become soda cans again. Cardboard and newspapers can be mixed at mills and turned into more newspapers and paper towels. And the plastic can reappear as carpeting and other plastic products.
Right now, only 15-percent of households in Harrison County recycle. Imagine how much landfill space could be saved if every family uses the green bins instead of tossing their recyclables into the garbage can.
"Please recycle. We make it easy. All you have to do is rinse your containers," said Greene. "It means we save trees. We save our valuable natural resources. Reduce, reuse, recycle."
For a list of recyclable items accepted by the company, click Advanced Disposal.
Jackson County and its four cities also offer curbside recycling. Delta Sanitation handles that service. Hancock County does not have curbside recycling, however, there are containers placed throughout the county that accept recyclable items.