Boulder County’s recent purchase of two plastic optical sorting units and other capital improvements at the county’s recycling center at 1901 63rd Street in Boulder was designed to give residents more options for recycling and to help further push Boulder County towards its goal of Zero Waste or Darn Near by 2025!
The two plastic optical sorting units will allow residents to add new types of plastics to their single-stream recycling bin. Overall, the new capital improvements will increase the volume of residential material processed through the recycling center to 30 tons per hour (tph) from 25 tph with a recovery rate of 95% for mixed plastic and 98% for other targeted materials, increase aluminum’s recovery rate to 90%, while eliminating hours of manual labor sorting recyclables from the container line.
Additional Plastic Materials Accepted
(all material must fit easily in your curbside recycling cart):
- Berry containers, salad green containers, and other plastic “clamshell” containers (no food and remove liners)
- Larger rigid plastics, such as flowerpots, plastic lawn toys (remove any metal including axles – must fit in cart) and buckets (no need to remove metal handles)
- Hard plastic six- and four-pack holders
- Plastic tub lids (no cup lids)
- Clean PLASTIC take-out containers (no Styrofoam, NO FOOD)
- EMPTY vitamin and prescription bottles
Always empty and rinse containers, food and liquid pose health and safety issues for the Recycling Center workforce.
Plastics that are still a NO:
- No plastic bags or plastic film
- No foam/polystyrene
- No cold cups or their lids
- No plastic-coated paper products (like to-go cups)
- No toothpaste or lotion tubes
Details about the new equipment
The new plastic sorting units use advanced camera and light technology to identify which plastics are on the belt while the facility’s new 100HP air compressor releases jetted airs to propel plastic items sorted by type into their correct storage bunkers. The high-speed, short-wave infrared hyperspectral detection system takes only one millisecond to analyze items on the belt, drastically increasing the volume of material processed.
Additionally, the new takeaway conveyor for the containers line will save hours of manual labor by automatically delivering material containing (paper) fiber from the pre-sort station to a new walking-floor bunker where it becomes ready to be baled.
Lastly, the purchase of a new eddy current machine (which helps separate materials using magnets and electrical currents) will bring the recycling center’s recovery rate of aluminum up to 90%.
“Aluminum is our most valuable commodity, so it’s a big deal for us to be able to increase our recovery rate for that item,” said Arians. “The new unit is twice as large as the previous one, which means more aluminum will be collected. We’ll use the existing eddy current machine as a back-up recovery unit to capture any material that may have been missed on the first run, ensuring that we maximize our collection of aluminum during each run.”
“These capital improvements will allow us to provide residents with more opportunities to recycle, while making the operation of the recycling center a more modern, efficient, and sustainable process,” said Boulder County Resource Conservation Manager, Darla Arians. “These improvements will help us make progress towards Boulder County’s goal of Zero Waste or Darn Near by 2025, and give our residents additional opportunities to help divert more material from the landfill.”
The capital improvements were funded by the now-expired Boulder County Recycling Tax and cost $2.8 million.