Christopher estimated that a little less than 10 percent of the recyclables that are run through the MRF are plastics.
“The majority is PET. As you can imagine here in Nevada in the summer time, we run a little bit of PET through the place,” he said.
All of those residents, and all of those tourists, and all of that heat, and all of their water bottles do add up.
While Republic previously only baled PET and HDPE in North Las Vegas, the company is now creating a Nos. 3 through 7 mixed bale thanks to the new equipment. There also are two vacuums that suck up and segregate low density PE film that is baled and sold.
The company keeps this film separate from a cleaner stream of film it collects from commercial and industrial customers. “Clean and clear LDPE film has always fared fairly well,” Christopher said.
But even the lower-grade film coming off of the sorting line has a market.
“It's hard to make a top-quality-grade film when it's coming through a facility commingled because it's run through everything else and it gets dirty,” he explained.
Bulky rigid plastics — think buckets and lawn chairs and crates and even toys — used to routinely get tossed in the trash. But Republic, just like other recyclers around the country, can now pick those materials out of recycling stream and find a market for them.
The Las Vegas site, once workers and equipment have segregated and baled the different types of plastics, loads them onto trucks headed for Long Beach, Calif. From there, they head to the export market in Asia, Christopher said.
“You've heard stories with folks not being able to move certain grades, we haven't had that issue. We're creating a better product. Cleaner quality is a little easier to move, that's for sure,” he said.
Education, not surprisingly, is a key for people to understand about their increased ability to recycle plastics in the Las Vegas area, company spokeswoman Tracy Skenandore said. It's a part of her job to help coordinate community outreach.
“The more we're able to educate the community, we're just going to see the plastics, the ones through sevens, will increase over time,” Skenandore said.
“Remember,” Christopher added, “this is Nevada. This isn't California. This isn't Washington. This isn't New Jersey. We're getting with the times here.”
Customers converting from the old bin system to single-stream carts typically increase their amount of recyclables more than three-fold, according to a recent survey by the company. An average participating home now recycles 10 to 11 pounds per week, up from the previous average of 3 pounds.
“It's a significant jump,” Christopher said. The company has not delved deep into those numbers to see if plastics recycling has increased at the same rate. “You would think its all relative, right?” he said. “We haven't drilled down on that. But you would think, overall, as a percentage, the increase would be the same.”