Materials recovery facility
A materials recovery facility, materials reclamation facility, materials recycling facility or Multi re-use facility (MRF, pronounced "murf") is a specialized plant that receives, separates and prepares recyclable materials for marketing to end-user manufacturers. Generally, there are two different types: clean and dirty materials recovery facilities.
Industry and locations
As of 2016, the top 75 was headed by Sims Municipal Recycling out of Brooklyn, New York. Waste Management operated 95 MRF facilities total, with 26 in the top 75. ReCommunity operated 6 in the top 75. Republic Services operated 6 in the top 75. Waste Connections operated 4 in the top 75.
In 2018, a survey in the Northeast United States found that the processing cost per ton was $82, versus a value of around $45 per ton. Composition of the ton included 28% mixed paper and 24% old corrugated containers (OCC).
Prices for OCC declined into 2019. Three paper mill companies have announced initiatives to use more recycled fiber.
Glass recycling is expensive for these facilities, but a study estimated that costs could be cut significantly by investments in improved glass processing. In Texas, Austin and Houston have facilities which have invested glass recycling, built and operated by Balcones Recycling and FCC Environment, respectively.
A clean MRF accepts recyclable materials that have already been separated at the source from municipal solid waste generated by either residential or commercial sources. There are a variety of clean MRFs. The most common are single stream where all recyclable material is mixed, or dual stream MRFs, where source-separated recyclables are delivered in a mixed container stream (typically glass, ferrous metal, aluminum and other non-ferrous metals, PET [No.1] and HDPE [No.2] plastics) and a mixed paper stream including corrugated cardboard boxes, newspapers, magazines, office paper and junk mail. Material is sorted to specifications, then baled, shredded, crushed, compacted, or otherwise prepared for shipment to market.
Mixed-waste processing facility (MWPF)/ Dirty MRF
A mixed-waste processing system, sometimes referred to as a dirty MRF, accepts a mixed solid waste stream and then proceeds to separate out designated recyclable materials through a combination of manual and mechanical sorting. The sorted recyclable materials may undergo further processing required to meet technical specifications established by end-markets while the balance of the mixed waste stream is sent to a disposal facility such as a landfill. Today, MWPFs are attracting renewed interest as a way to address low participation rates for source-separated recycling collection systems and prepare fuel products and/or feedstocks for conversion technologies. MWPFs can give communities the opportunity to recycle at much higher rates than has been demonstrated by curbside or other waste collection systems. Advances in technology make today’s MWPF different and, in many respects better, than older versions.
The percentage of residuals (unrecoverable recyclable or non-program materials) from a properly operated clean MRF supported by an effective public outreach and education program should not exceed 10% by weight of the total delivered stream and in many cases it can be significantly below 5%. A dirty MRF recovers between 5% and 45% of the incoming material as recyclables, then the remainder is landfilled or otherwise disposed. A dirty MRF can be capable of higher recovery rates than a clean MRF, since it ensures that 100% of the waste stream is subjected to the sorting process, and can target a greater number of materials for recovery than can usually be accommodated by sorting at the source. However, the dirty MRF process results in greater contamination of recyclables, especially of paper. Furthermore, a facility that accepts mixed solid waste is usually more challenging and more expensive to site. Operational costs can be higher because it is more labor-intensive.
Around 2004, new mechanical biological treatment technologies were beginning to utilise wet MRFs. These combine a dirty MRF with water, which acts to densify, separate and clean the output streams. It also hydrocrushes and dissolves biodegradable organics in solution to make them suitable for anaerobic digestion.
In the United States, modern MRF's began in the 1970s. Peter Karter established Resource Recovery Systems, Inc. in Branford, Connecticut, the "first materials recovery facility (MRF)" in the US.
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