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More than ever, the planet needs recycling. The fact is, recycling the material in the United States' waste stream could be turned into more than $7 billion.

Luckily, modern recycling companies are deploying trucks, scooping up waste, and making it good as new. 

But most people don't know what's going on inside those recycling trucks, and they might be surprised to find out how innovative they are becoming.

We've laid out a guide to the recycling process and picked out six amazing recycling truck innovations in 2019.

The Crucial Role of the Recycling Truck

Recycling trucks are an invaluable resource that get materials from bins and take them to a complex facility. Since they're part of the solution to waste, it's important that they are efficient themselves. 

But after they grab recyclables and presort items, they're part of an innovative recycling system

They carry items to an advanced recycling facility, called a material recovery facility, or an MRF. From there, those used items are broken down.


Here's a basic look at what goes on at an MRF:

A Look at the Single-Stream Recycling Process

A Recycle truck will grab materials and ship them to a recycling center. Here the MRF generally focuses on five categories: paper, steel, glass, aluminum, and plastic.

Paper and cardboard can be sorted using rotary screen separators. These wheels help this lighter material move on to a different conveyer belt to be separated, cleaned, and shredded for reuse

The heavier items continue on a different belt and steel is pulled out with a magnet. It can be put together and reused using processes like heat treatment. Here are some innovative kinds of heat treatment:

Glass, aluminum, and plastic moves on to an air classifier. This uses swirling air to pull the lighter aluminum and plastic onto a new conveyer belt. The heavier glass falls to a lower belt.

The glass is crushed, sorted by color, and repurposed. The aluminum can be separated using a magnetic eddy-current separator. From there, the aluminum is shredded, washed, and remolded.

What's left is plastic. These need to be sorted into categories because they often have different properties. They can be sorted by hand or by using infrared sensors.

The plastics are then broken down in different ways, depending on their makeup. 

Recycling Truck Innovations

It's easy to see the recycling process is stocked with innovative technology. And that high-tech equipment is making the planet more efficient. 

But the process is less efficient if the trucks carrying items are wasteful. Here are the top six recycling truck innovations that are cleaning up the future:

1. RFID Tracking

RFID tracking is all about pulling in valuable information. Recycling trucks can be equipped with RFID readers that look at tags on smart recycling bins. That tag can record which houses are recycling and how much they are recycling.

That means cities can identify neighborhoods that have low participation rates. And they can start things like incentive programs to fix problems.

2. Strategic Bin Hookup

Advanced technology is making recycling bin locations more strategic. There are GPS trackers being used in some cities to figure out which recycling bins are getting the most action. 

Cities can use this technology to put recycling bins in places where people may be looking for one but are simply tired of hanging on to that used bottle. Trucks can feed off GPS technology to service these new strategic bins.

3. Advanced Payment Trackers

Along with RFID trackers, trucks can now be set up with advanced weight scales. These can tag the weight of a load to a specific house.

That means reward programs or penalties can be set up for houses on an individual basis.

4. GPS Precision

GPS technology and software are helping create more efficient routes for each recycling truck. That means trucks are using less fuel and putting off less waste themselves. 

Improved GPS technology also lets recyclers do their part. New recyclers can simply search things like, "recycling center near me." Advancing GPS can give recyclers info that was once hard to come by.

And in the future, systems could be set up to show recyclers where their nearest recycling bin might be located.

5. Alternative Fuel Trucks

Many cities in the United States are starting to use trucks powered by alternative fuels. They're shedding traditional gas for things like natural gas and biofuels. 

This makes for a recycling truck that could reduce greenhouse gas. And they tend to cut out noise pollution. They usually run much quieter than their alternatives that use diesel power.

Recycling trucks are also experimenting with hybrid models. These can make the most of lithium batteries. They also have the capability to turn off an idling diesel engine when it's not needed.

Since there's a lot of stop and go moments with a recycling truck, this technology can help boost energy efficiency in a big way.

6. Specialized Engines

Many recycling and garbage trucks still use diesel engines. But advances in technology are making them more efficient. New models are cutting down emissions and putting off fewer air pollutants.

EPA standards have prompted things like ultra-low sulfur diesel, or ULSD, fuel to lower the amount of sulfur put off by trucks. This is meant to cut down chemical emissions that lead to things like acid rain.

And many cities are moving to blended fuels, like a combination of ULSD and bio-diesels. These mixtures usually come from things like vegetable oils.

More in Recycling and Heat Treatment 

These six innovations in the recycling truck show there are powerful options in the future to make a positive impact on the planet. And we can help with the next step in recycling.

We have a range of advanced products for recycling. And we're the largest Slovenian provider of heat treatment. Want to find out more about the latest in heat treatment procedures?

Check out our heat treatment section here to see how it's done and what heat treatment can do for the planet.

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