Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Keep It Local: Montgomery County Recycling Center

As part of their discussion of Earth Day, yesterday Kane's class took a field trip to the Montgomery County Recycling Center and they let me come along! Kane had warned us that it was "really smelly" and we would need to wear earplugs because of the loud crushing noises. He was right on both accounts, but it was still a SUPER cool field trip and I didn't want to leave (Kane had had enough of the noise by a certain point, but I was into it).

The tour started out in the visitor's center, which was full of information, including a step-by-step photo illustration of the recycling process occurring at the facility and visual displays of materials as they go through that process. The Center offers group tours for groups of 10 or more, so first we had the opportunity to meet with a tour guide who walked us through the entire process -- even illustrating how some of the equipment works (e.g., magnets that remove metal from the waste stream). The Center is technically a sorting facility. Once sorted, the materials are sent offsite for further recycling and return to various product streams.

see the soccer balls at the bottom? 

After the introduction, we moved on to the really fun part: a tour of the actual facility. Kane refused to wear the earplugs and chose to go hands-over-the-ears, but I put them right in and walked along the catwalk up over the top of the process. You can pretty much see everything in the sorting facility: where the waste comes in to the facility and a digger loads it into the pile for sorting; through the various hand sorters; through the eddy current magnet; etc. And everything is labeled so you can really follow it. I thought it was really funny to spot various items I use at home: chobani yogurt containers, fizzy water, and several soccer balls (just to name a few). It STUNK, but that didn't really bother me. It was a great way to celebrate Earth Day!

Turns out that the facility is open to the public for self-guided tours every day that recycling occurs at the Center: Monday - Thursday, 7:30 - 5:00 p.m. You do not need an appointment to visit and you can find earplugs at the front desk. If you have a group of 10 or more, you can make an appointment for a guided tour, which are available Monday - Thursday between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. If you're interested in taking a guided tour, call 301-417-1433.

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