New equipment helps Prince George’s County recycle plastic more efficiently

Prince George’s County, Maryland, is changing the way it recycles plastic to make the process more efficient and save the county time and money.

“Prince George’s County has long been a leader in the environment, and I don’t think we get a lot of credit,” said Andrea Crooms, director of the county’s Department of the Environment. “This is another example of us moving forward in recycling and being a leader in the region in recycling.”

She spoke ahead of Thursday’s ribbon-cutting, unveiling $6 million in new equipment at the county’s Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) in Capitol Heights.

The additions include an optical sorter, which uses light sensors and compressed air to quickly sift through and separate by type all the plastic homeowners recycle.

Take plastic jugs of Tide laundry detergent, for example. Both the bottles you pour liquid from and the bottles with pods inside are orange, but the average person likely wouldn’t know that they’re made from two different kind of plastics. The optical sorter can tell the difference very quickly and send them to two different bundles.

“The value of the plastic is much higher when it’s separated out into the things that we can sell on the market, and the things we can’t,” Crooms said. “We’re really hoping that the (return on investment) on this machine, if we can continue to grow our recycling program across the county, will be about five years.”

The county is encouraging residents to recycle as much as they can, only place acceptable plastic items in collection bins, and keep recyclables clean and un-bagged.

“Right now across the world, only 1% of plastic is recycled. In Prince George’s County, only between 25 and 35% of our plastic is recycled. So, in our own communities we have a long way to go,” Crooms said.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter and anchor at WTOP.

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