By Alessandro Lallas- University Apartments
Have you ever wondered what happens to your waste after the trucks pick it up? Well wonder no further! The University Apartments team did some recon this week and mobilized to the Athens Materials Recovery Facility in Sun Valley.
The proper disposal of Los Angeles’ millions of tons of trash is astoundingly intricate. There are many companies contributing to the disposal effort. This particular recycling facility was tasked with sorting different types of waste. Not knowing what to expect, we entered the facility with an open mind and a few notebooks. The conference room offered a great view of the inside of the building. In the foreground we could see conveyor belts carrying piles of waste past long lines of employees who had to hand-sort the recyclables. In the background we grasped a glance of the powerful machinery and trucks that moved the trash mountains across the hangar. The operations supervisor was a very friendly UCLA graduate student who gave us a great overview before we jumped into the belly of the beast. After gearing up with hard hats, vests, and goggles, we were ready for the grand tour. The noise and smell were overwhelming. We could barely hear our guide over the roaring machinery. As we walked past each unique machine he would yell a description of its role in the sorting process. One machine that stood out to me was a half million dollar piece of technology that separated objects based on their wavelength. It blasted air at specific objects to put them on a different route. After walking through the main part of the facility, we were taken to see the final products. Large, compact cubes about 5 feet tall sorted by waste type and sealed tightly together. Our guide informed us that it would take over a day of sledgehammering at a large compact square of just cardboard to break it apart. Each of the compact trash cubes had a different destination ranging from landfills to companies in China. This facility’s main responsibility is separating waste, but the shipment of assorted products is their source of profit.
This journey gave us a taste of the complexity of the trash industry. Not only did we gain a great experience, but the suggestions of the on-site experts will help guide our decisions so we can achieve our ultimate goal of increasing diversion.
Whether we choose to make any changes to our plans is still a subject of discussion. Our team is now preparing to enter the initial stages of the experiment at the University Apartments as we start tracking the current diversion rates. Let’s see if we can ease the burden on Athens Materials Recovery Facility by motivating people to recycle.