RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – You put your recycling in the bin and set it out on the curb to be picked up, but what happens after that? It ends up at Sonoco Recycling in Raleigh. This facility takes in all the recycling from the blue bins in Raleigh, roughly 2,000 tons of it per week! That’s close to the weight of more than four jumbo jets!

“Look at the sheer size of that pile. If it were not for a facility like ours, that material would be destined for a landfill,” explains Patrick McDonald, the Procurement and Sales Manager of Sonoco Recycling.

So how does it work?

Once your recycling gets to this materials recovery facility, or MRF everything then gets sorted.

McDonald says most people mean well when trying to recycle, but some things should not be put in your recycle bin because it can slow down or even damage the equipment.

“Metal is clearly recyclable, but something this size,” McDonald explains while looking at a metal sink that ended up at the facility. “When we say metal, a residential MRF would be thinking along the lines of a soup can, not a kitchen sink.”

Which is why humans in this facility are so important. They see what the machines miss in the sorting process, make sure it goes where it’s supposed to, and remove potential hazards like electronics or lithium batteries.

“We’ve seen an increase in the number of fires not only at this facility, but MRFs across the country as a result of the increased presence of lithium-ion batteries,” he said.

Once hazards are removed and everything is sorted, it’s baled up, ready to be shipped out and used again.

“Sonoco Products Company relies on the material we are pulling out of the recycling stream so that we can in turn make new products without having to pull in virgin pulp,” McDonald said.

New products like chip canisters you may already see on shelves, all made from materials you put in your recycling bin.

Sonoco wants to reiterate that yes, lithium batteries can be recycled, but they should go to a specific battery recycling center, not into the bin you set by your curb. It’s the same with plastic grocery bags because they can gum up and damage the machines.