Unfortunately, in most places, you still need to separate each recyclable material based on its composition (glass, plastic, paper). However, a term called “single stream recycling” has been debated in the past year or so and is now in action in Boulder, Colorado. Single stream recycling involves consumers placing all of their recyclables together in one bin, and then the recycling plant separates them mechanically.
Some places do allow single stream recycling, like California. Paper and plastic go in the same bin making recycling that much easier. I think making recycling as easy as possible is important. When nothing needs to be sorted and separated, more people will be more likely to recycle because it will be just as easy as throwing away any piece of garbage.
The technology available for automated sorting of recyclable materials has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, making it more economically and practically feasible to sort large volumes of mixed recyclables. Technologies include mechanical separation (such as sorting by weight or using magnets), optical sorting (using laser technology), and other methods. Of course it takes a large investment to purchase increasingly sophisticated equipment, but some communities find that the returns are worth the investment.
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