Taking a Trip to Trashy Town

Saturday August 28, 2010
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Montgomery County Recycling Center
16105 Frederick Rd
Derwood, MD 20855 (Map)
County Website

On Wednesday, a friend and I decided to take the kids to “Trashy Town” aka the Montgomery County Recycling Center.  Earlier in the summer, I read that you can take tours of the recycling center and I thought this would be a great way for the kids to see what happens to our trash, or more accurately, Mont Co’s recycling.

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We arrived and check out the exhibit room, which had a giant diagram, explaining what happens in the processing floor.  It also had some other exhibits, showing how different materials are broken down.

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The kids were not too interested in learning – the room was a big space to runaround in, as far as they were concerned.  So, we moved on to the processing area.   You go upstairs and then have a view of the facility from a catwalk that over looks everything.  The kids were interested for about 5 minutes, but we moms were fascinated.  My memory of everything is a little fuzzy, but here’s my best attempt to explain what we saw.

Materials arrive via truck and are dumped on the “Tipping Floor”.  Then front loaders scoop the materials and place them on a conveyor belt that carries them into the processing area.

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The trash comes in and is then sorted by 6 workers.

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The immediately pick out non-recyclable materials and also separate into categories like plastic, or milk jugs, etc.

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From there, the trash goes up.

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It gets shaken, which drops out some of the broken glass and then fed up into another convey belt.  You can see below that some of the material that was sorted by the workers gets dropped to a lower conveyor belt to be processed differently.  I forget what material that was.

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It was definitely noisy when the machines were running (they were off when we first walked in).  Ear plugs were provided, but my kids didn’t want to wear them.

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More sorting happens here by hand.

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I thought this “Eddy Current Magnet” area was fascinating.  Material came along the belt from the left and dropped below.  On the right side of where things dropped was a magnet which made all the metal material (like soda cans) fly of the belt and drop to the right side, thus separating the metal onto a different belt below.

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You can see on the right, glass items are being moved up the conveyor belt where still more workers separated the glass, by color, I believe.

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Along the back wall, you can see material that has been separated, compacted and is waiting for transport to be made into something else.

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While I don’t know how much education we imparted to the kids, they did have fun seeing everything moving.  Of course, they also enjoyed running around like wild children.

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If you ask them what was most memorable about the trip, they will tell you, “It was stinky!”

If you are homeschooling, or just have kids who are fascinated by the garbage man, I think this would make a fun field trip.   After our visit, we headed to a nearby park to eat lunch and burn off more of the crazies.

If you want to plan your trip, here’s what you need to know:

Montgomery County Recycling Center
16105 Frederick Rd
Derwood, MD 20855
County Website

The recycling center is open and available for drop in visit Mon – Thurs between  7:30am – 5:00pm.  Guided tours are can be scheduled for groups Tues – Thurs between 9:00am – 2:00pm.

Worth noting:  there’s no public restroom available — I’m sure there’s one in their administrative offices if you get desperate – but they ask that you “go” before you come.  There’s also no space for eating lunch – which you probably wouldn’t want to do anyway, since you’re basically at a big refuse facility.

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One Response to Taking a Trip to Trashy Town

  1. 1
    Shannon says:

    This actually sounds pretty neat! Since we have single source recycling, I’m pretty curious about the sorting process and I think my son would be too.

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