Rocky Mountain Recycling unveils new sorting system

ST. GEORGE — Rocky Mountain Recycling officially unveiled its new material recovery facility in St. George Friday morning, with company officials hosting a public ribbon-cutting event.

Larry Gibbons, vice president of business development for Rocky Mountain Recycling, said the new facility will save the company time and money by enabling materials to be sorted locally instead of having to be shipped elsewhere.

L-R: Rocky Mountain Recycling Chief Financial Officer Marvin Acey, Vice President of Business Development Larry Gibbons, President John Sasine, Washington County Commissioner Victor Iverson, and St. George Mayor Jon Pike take part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony as Rocky Mountain Recycling officials unveiled the company’s new material recovery facility in St. George, Utah, Sept. 22, 2017 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Previously, recyclables collected from Washington County’s curbside programs had been sorted on the floor or trucked to either Salt Lake City or Las Vegas for sorting, Gibbons said.

The new sorting facility, which was about two years in the making, features a customized system that moves collected recyclable waste material along a series of conveyor belts, where it can be sorted manually by workers into several large bins.

Fifteen new jobs were created as a result, Gibbons said, adding that most of the newly hired workers are sorters whose job it is to sift through items on the conveyor belt at the rate of up to about three pieces touched per second. The new conveyor system is about five times faster than sorting the items on the ground, he said.

Gibbons said nine commodities are sorted at the facility, including several categories of plastic in addition to aluminum, other metals, cardboard and mixed paper.

Workers get ready to sort materials on a conveyor belt, shortly after Rocky Mountain Recycling officials unveiled the company’s new material recovery facility in St. George, Utah, Sept. 22, 2017 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Contaminants are removed first, followed by smaller items like aluminum cans, plastic bottles and milk jugs, which are sorted and dropped into bins. Cardboard and paper products, which account for nearly half the recyclable material by weight, remain on the belts until the end of the line, when they are dumped into different piles.

After the various materials are sorted, they are crushed, flattened and/or bundled into bales before being shipped to markets around the world. Large custom-built 8-by-8 foot metal stackable bins will be used to store and move the sorted items, company officials said.

Gibbons said the fluctuating market for recyclables did create some worries as the project got underway.

“It’s hard to build a business model on a commodity that is up and down in value and up and down in demand,” Gibbons told those gathered at the ribbon-cutting. Even so, he praised company officials and local government officials for having the vision to see the project’s long-term value.

A tractor is used to move materials onto a conveyor belt. Rocky Mountain Recycling officials unveiled the company’s new material recovery facility in St. George, Utah, Sept. 22, 2017 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

St. George Mayor Jon Pike agreed, saying, “Markets changed dramatically just as we started curbside … but you really got to look at the main reason for doing recycling, and that is we want to be as good as we can to the environment and to lengthen the life of our landfill.”

“It’s probably got a pretty long life now, but someday it’s going to fill up and I won’t be here for that, but whenever it is, it’s going to be expensive and it’s going to have to be way far away,” Pike added.

Pike thanked Rocky Mountain Recycling and its employees, along with Washington County officials, for helping move the project forward.

Company officials say the facility is opening at half capacity, with plenty of room for future growth.

“We were right at a tipping point where it made good sense to have this happen,” said company president John Sasine, who co-founded Rocky Mountain Recycling in 1999. The Salt Lake City-based company, which has over 200 employees and is the largest paper recycler in the Intermountain West, will be adding another similar sorting facility at its main Salt Lake City facility within the next couple months, Sasine said.

Recyclable materials fall from a platform into piles and bins, shortly after Rocky Mountain Recycling officials unveiled the company’s new material recovery facility in St. George, Utah, Sept. 22, 2017 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Neil Schwendiman, manager of the Washington County Solid Waste District, said one of his primary goals is to educate the public on how to better recycle, and what to keep out of the recycling containers.

For example, although glass bottles and other items made of glass are not collectible in the curbside containers, Schwendiman said they can be disposed of in any of the 35 containers located throughout the county as part of the “Binnie” program. In addition to glass, there are separate containers for paper, cardboard, plastic and metal.

Schwendiman said the amount of waste that went into the county landfill during 1999 was 109,000 tons, but 2016’s total was more than double, with nearly 229,000 tons. In the first nine months of 2017, the number is already at 210,000, so this year is expected to be another record-breaking year, he said.

Every item recycled helps reduce the pressure on the landfill, he said, encouraging county residents to continue to support recycling efforts.

Gibbons also said he appreciates the public’s willingness to recycle.

“Every ton of paper that’s recycled saves 17 trees, so roughly we save about 1,500 trees-plus per month, just from scrap paper,” Gibbons said. “It makes a big difference.”

On a final note, Gibbons offered the following motto as a reminder for those who may be unsure whether an item is recyclable: “When in doubt, keep it out.”

Rocky Mountain Recycling is at 838 North 1080 East in St. George. Its telephone number is 435-628-9626.

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3 Comments

  • Foxyheart September 22, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    I don’t see any way to keep the materials in the yard when the wind picks up. Is there something in place for picking up this litter? Look through the pics, can you imagine a dust devil coming through here? Or even a wind of 20 mph?

  • Kyle L. September 23, 2017 at 1:22 am

    I don’t see any information stating the amount of fossil fuel used to process a metric ton of recyclables. I bet that it is still environmentally unreasonable to recycle, using fossil fuels, in terms of “global warming”.

  • Common Sense September 23, 2017 at 7:05 am

    Any news on when we can start adding glass to our co-mingled recycling containers at home?

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