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Ryan Salm/ Sierra SunAluminum cans are crushed and compressed into bails that weigh approximately 900 pounds. Bails are then trucked off to an aluminum wholesaler and one day become a new product.
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After the last refreshing sip of aluminum canned goodness, that beverage container you’ll toss into a blue recycling bag will begin a long journey.

But before it gets too far, a conveyor belt will send it past the workers at the Eastern Regional Material Recovery Facility off Highway 89 south at the end of Cabin Creek Road.

There, transfer station sorters search for valuable content like glass, plastic, and aluminum, all of which is plucked out and placed on the world recycling market.

In a given period, the sorters may only grab 30 percent of the potential recyclables in black trash bags that speed past them, unlike the 99 percent of the contents in blue bags.

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Recycled aluminum, as well as the other materials in the warehouse, are commodities, and Tahoe Truckee Sierra Disposal will wait until the price is right ” or there is no more room in the warehouse ” to sell off the bales.

Aluminum is a profitable commodity for the company because manufacturers use 95 percent less energy when they use recycled aluminum in their products.

– More than 50 percent of the aluminum cans produced are recycled.

– A used aluminum can is recycled and back on the grocery shelf as a new can in as little as 60 days.

– Every minute of every day, an average of 113,204 aluminum cans are recycled.

– Making new aluminum cans from used cans takes 95 percent less energy and 20 recycled cans can be made with the energy needed to produce one can using virgin ore.

– Last year 54 billion cans were recycled saving energy equivalent to 15 million barrels of crude oil ” America’s entire gas consumption for one day.

– Tossing away an aluminum can wastes as much energy as pouring out half of that can’s volume of gasoline.

” The Aluminum Association

1. The life of a recycled can begins when the can is put into a blue bag for thrash pickup.

2. In the next step, residents take their recycling bags to the curb. Here,Tahoe City resident Alex Gordon takes out his trash and recycling.

3. At the curb, disposal company workers take the bags from the curb to their trucks. Here, Jim Silva of Tahoe Truckee Sierrra Disposal pitches a bag of recycling into the garbage truck.

4. At the Eastern Regional Material Recovery Facility off Highway 89 south, trash trucks dump their mixed contents of blue bags and trash. That’s where the blue recycling bags are separated from the trash bags.

5. At the end of the day, blue bags are opened and contents sorted by material type. Then employees send the contents up the conveyor belt.

6. Aluminum cans are separated from trash and other recyclables into their own bin at the transfer station. Cans not in blue bags are pulled at a rate of 16-18 percent.

7. Edgar Cruz loads aluminum cans into the crusher at the transfer station. The crushed cans then head to the baler.

8. Four stacks of baled aluminum wait to be brought to the commodity broker to be sold for recycling. The commodity broker sells the product to a manufacturer, who makes a new product out of the aluminum.


 

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