Center now sorts the recycling on its own

RUTLAND — The days of sorting paper from plastic are over, at least in the recycling bins of Casella Waste Systems customers in Southern Vermont.
Casella unveiled its new, state-of-the-art, zero-sort recycling facility in Rutland on Nov. 18 with much fanfare. Gov. Peter Shumlin was the headliner at the grand opening attended by over 200 area business leaders, local and state officials and Casella employees.
Flanked by a one-ton cube of crushed aluminum cans to his right and a heavy square of recyclable cardboard to his left in the cavernous, three-story facility, the governor quipped that the days of having “16 different recycling bins” are no more.
“I’m old enough to marvel at this facility and remember when we went out back of the pig pen and dumped everything right out there,” Shumlin said. “This is how to create jobs, get recycling right, and increase the level of recycling in the state.”
The company spent $3.75 million to retrofit its existing 57,000-square-foot facility off of Business Route 4 in Rutland in order to process 25,000 tons of recyclable material per year. Prior to the conversion, Casella processes 7,800 tons of recyclable material per year.
Customers will no longer have to sort their plastic, metal and paper recycling, the goal being to get more people and municipalities in Southern Vermont to recycle as much as possible.
“We’ve worked over the last 30 years to get here,” said company chairman and CEO John Casella, “We’ve invested nearly $4 million in this facility to give everyone from Bennington to Brattleboro to Rutland the opportunity to re-think how they recycle, and how they move that material into the renewability model. We’re truly excited to be in a position to offer this service to all of Southern Vermont.”
Casella offered continuous tours of the facility for two hours prior to the opening ceremony. Tour leader and Casella plant manager Butch Larsen, who oversees the Andover, Mass., facility, said the company is already realizing the goals of zero-sort recycling.
“The goal was to make it easier for customers and municipalities to recycle,” he explained as he led a group through the new facility.
“We’ve seen an instant 10 percent increase in the amount of recyclables by going to zero-sort.”
The processing facility is filled with an extensive new system of conveyer belts, crushers, chutes and compacters that separate the paper, plastic and metal, as well as the inevitable trash, from what is collected and turns it into marketable, recyclable material. Larsen said there are 3,400 aluminum cans in one bale of crushed metal.
“That’s $1,700 in nickels,” he noted.
A bale of cardboard is worth about $140, Larsen said.
The plant also processes hardened plastic, such as plastic used in children’s toys and storage bins.
“There is a profitable market for hardened plastic,” Larsen said.
The new system separates five different kinds of plastic, from soda bottles to colored plastic to mixed plastic.
Casella then sells the processed material to various commodity buyers from Quebec to Alabama, Georgia to Connecticut.
The Rutland facility receives recycling from central and Southern Vermont, seven counties in New York State, the Upper Valley, and northwestern Massachusetts.
The facility employs a total of 23 people, with 16 employees working on the machines and as sorters and seven workers on the floor running skid steers and forklifts. The employees work 10-hour days for minimum wage and up, Larsen said, processing 15 tons of recyclable material per day.
The Rutland facility is Casella’s fifth zero-sort plant in the Northeast and the second in Vermont. The Chittenden Solid Waste District operates a single-stream facility in Williston as well.
Gov. Shumlin emphasized the job growth associated with Casella’s efforts, as well as the “green” nature of the business.
“This is creating jobs, it’s economic development, it’s the wave of the future,” Shumlin said.

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