Single stream recycling doubles tonnage in Roanoke

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) The plastic bottles and aluminum cans that Roanokers recycle end up at the RDS facility in Roanoke, but once the material is dumped there, its journey is just beginning.

A few human hands help with the process, but most of the work is done by machine, a multi-million dollar, automated line that separates paper from plastic, cardboard from metal cans.

We joined a tour on Monday morning, as two small groups got a closer look at the process.

"I was very impressed with the technology that's involved in separating," Mike Willis told us, "a lot of electronic devices to sense different plastics for example, fans to blow the lighter things up to help sort."

"I really didn't know whether it would be people picking stuff by hand," said Ned Savage, "but the level of technology sorting stuff out was pretty cool."

Since single stream recycling started here in October 2015, the city has doubled the amount of recyclable material its crews collect.

"We are around a 65 percent participation rate," said Solid Waste Division Manager Skip Decker, "which is outstanding."

The plant employs a dozen people, and it accepts recyclable material from several localities, stretching from Rockbridge County to the New River Valley.

Although, recycling doesn't pay for itself, Decker says the city saves $15 a ton on material that goes to the recycling center rather than the regional landfill.