Like everything else in Cape May County, the amount of materials recycled every day increases dramatically during the summer, from 50 tons in the off-season to 200 tons of paper, plastic, glass and metal daily.
This will be the first summer that the county's millions of visitors can throw all those materials in one container after the the county government converted to a single-stream collection and processing system in April, making it much easier for out-of-towners to recycle.
"That was the driving force in us going to single-stream," said Linda Crumbock, recycling coordinator for the county.
The numbers so far have been promising. Crumbock said that they processed 360 more tons of material in April than they did in April last year, when the county was still using a dual-stream system. She said that could be due to a number of factors, but they still viewed it as encouraging.
At the minimum, the county expects a 10 percent boost in their collection of materials. Other counties that switched to single-stream recycling, such as Atlantic and Ocean counties, noticed even larger increases in collections afterward.
During a regular week, the facility runs for seven hours a day, five days a week. In the summer, it runs six days a week, for nine or 10 hours a day. It only runs at two speeds: the normal rate, and a slower pace on days when it rains because the material is heavier and sticks together.
On Friday, Crumbock and other officials gave tours of the newly retrofitted recycling facility in Woodbine. The nearly $4 million in upgrades there allow for people to not only mix many materials in one curbside container but also recycle a wider range of materials.
"It definitely makes it so much easier for people," said Woodbine Mayor Bill Pikolycky.
About 60 other government and waste management officials attended to see the machinery in action. As they stood in an enclosed hallway overlooking the interior, a front-end loader lifted tons of recyclables and dumped them on a conveyor belt to start their processing.
Like going through a mechanical obstacle course, the paper, plastic, metal, glass and assorted nonrecyclables would be sorted by hand, shaken through filters, broken by rotating discs, sucked up by magnets and studied by infrared cameras.
At the end, it would be baled and shipped away to Georgia, Canada, China and elsewhere to be reprocessed into new cans, bottles, paper and even clothing.
"It's pretty neat, right?" said Crumbock.
Downstairs, Plant Manager Jimmy Yezzo led another tour through the inside, showing different areas where materials are sorted by hand.
"This is where they pull out Christmas lights, extension cords, anything that could get tangled," he said as workers with hard hats, ear plugs and dust masks surveyed the waste.
In another area, Yezzo stood next to a conveyor belt as an array of materials quickly went by - soda bottles, birthday cards, chewing tobacco containers, tomato sauce cans and pages from The Press of Atlantic City.
One of the most common mistakes people make that they see at the facility is putting all these materials into plastic bags, which workers have to rip apart with their hands. The only material that should be put in a clear, plastic bag is shredded paper, Crumbock said.
"Imagine if everyone put shredded paper in loose," she said. "It would be snowing in here every day."
Another, more serious problem they have encountered in the past has been people putting used syringes into water bottles and then recycling them. There were other, obviously nonrecyclable materials littering the tipping floor on Friday, like an old basketball.
Anything that isn't recyclable is called contamination and can ultimately reduce the value of the material as it is resold to manufacturers. Since some of that profit is eventually returned to the municipalities where the materials came from, it would seem to be in a property owner's best interest to only recycle the right materials.
When the county had its dual-stream system, that meant even more problems with separating materials, especially since many of the visitors to the county come from places that already have single-stream at home.
"That was the number one comment that I got in my outreach," Crumbock said.
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