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See the Possible: Company giving trash a new life

5:08 PM, Aug 23, 2013   |    comments
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OBERLIN -- "Renewable energy" and "high tech" are phrases you may not think of when you're taking out the trash. 

But a local company is seeing the possible in just that. 

Now, what you throw away can wind up around the world and even back in your home. 

When you toss your recycling, there is a good chance it will make its way to the Lorain County Resource Recovery Complex. 

The plant opened nearly 20 years ago but recently "reopened" after a $15 million upgrade. 

"The old plant was like a Volkswagen beetle. Not a lot of moving parts to it. Not a lot to take care of. This plant is more like a Ferrari. So it takes a little while to understand how it works and get it tuned up the way we want it" said Eric VanHousten, the general manager of the Elyria Business Unit for Republic Services.

The complex is the largest of its kind in the region. Grants from the Ohio EPA and others have led to cameras that can sort out milk and juice containers. 

Along with magnets that pluck metal and soda cans out of the air. 

All the automation means you don't have to sort or bag your recyclables. Toss it all into one bin and your done. 

"When we automate a community or put the carts in the recycling almost triples," VanHouten said.  

Thirty-five tons of recyclables move through the plant per hour.

Once sorted and formed into bails, your garbage can go global.

"The cardboard will stay fairly local as will the plastics. But the fiber, the newspaper, the mixed paper could end up anywhere in the world" said VanHouten. 

With the upgrades, 85 percent of what is sent to the plant is now recycled, keeping it out of the landfill. Even with the leftover trash the company is thinking green, creating electricity from methane gas given off by the garbage. 

"We capture the methane and send it over to generators that will take care of more than 20,000 homes," VanHouten said. 

Reusing resources means better business.

"The recycling facility also helps us be a good community citizen. And we are getting something that was thrown away back into the stream to be used again," VanHouten said.

Republic Services runs the plant, which recycles waste from Lorain and Cuyahoga Counties, as well as parts of Sandusky. The company is looking to expand their operation is Ohio.

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