Councilwoman tours massive recycling center that handles Taylorsville paper and plasticsJul 01, 2022 11:27AM ● By Carl Fauver
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
Way out in west Salt Lake City – where there’s more refuse and trucks than residents and tourists – you’ll find the Waste Management Recycling Facility (3405 West 900 South), one of the biggest buildings you’ve never seen. It’s not likely you’ve wandered by it because, well, it’s not on the way to anything. But week after week, ton upon ton, your Taylorsville recyclables do make their way out there before they are sorted and shipped off to many different places outside Utah.
The material recovery facility – or MRF, which those in the industry call a “murf” – is 52,000 square feet. By comparison, a football field is 57,800 square feet. Walt Mathiason is the Salt Lake “murf” manager for Waste Management.
“We bring in recyclables from Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming and many parts of Utah – as far away as Moab,” Mathiason said. “Once it’s sorted, it gets shipped to a paper mill in Washington state, a plastics mill in Louisiana or a metals mill in Missouri. Some of our recyclables even travel as far as Asia. None of it remains here in Utah.”
Wasatch Front Waste and Recycling District contracts with Waste Management to handle much of their recyclable materials, including nearly all of it produced by Taylorsville residents. City Council Chair Anna Barbieri is one of more than a dozen elected officials across the Salt Lake Valley who serves on the WFWRD Governing Board. And that post recently got her invited to don a pink hardhat to tour the “murf” for herself.
“All of the board members were invited to tour the recycling facility, although only a couple of us did,” Barbieri said. “I wanted to go because I think it’s important to understand how it works. If residents ask questions about it, I want to be able to answer them. It just blew me away how big that place is. I learned a lot on the tour.”
Waste Management leases their football field-sized building. But the nearly-new and very expensive sorting equipment inside is all theirs. That equipment includes some 2.5 miles of interconnected conveyor belts designed to move and sort materials quickly.
“We moved our operation from a West Jordan facility to here in July 2020,” Mathiason explained. “When we did, we filled this building with $17 million in brand new equipment. Our old ‘murf’ could handle about 12 tons of recyclable materials per hour. This new one handles 35 to 40 tons each hour. This is Waste Management’s only ‘murf’ in Utah. But the company operates about 80 of them across the United States and Canada.”
Just a couple of years ago, many were predicting the complete collapse of the recyclable market when China began to much more carefully scrutinize the materials it was purchasing from the West. Mathiason admits, the once reliable Chinese market remains disinterested. But that change did not kill recycling.
“China is not back to buying anything; but new markets have developed,” Mathiason explained. “It was tough for a couple of years. There was concern recycling would die. But Waste Management is a market leader and they decided to push harder to keep it alive. That’s one of the big reasons why this new facility was built.”
Waste Management employs 45 fulltime people at their material recovery facility. They also operate a pair of landfills in Utah employing many more people.
Of course, that tedious list of recycle dos and don’ts still applies. A couple of examples: they do NOT want bed mattresses or broken Christmas light strings. And, if you buy a case of bottled water, they want the cardboard box the bottles are in and the individual bottles after you drink them. But they CAN’T use the plastic wrap holding the bottles into the box. Oh, and the pizza delivery box – a “little bit” of grease is OK. Too much grease, or – perish the thought – a runaway pepperoni slice, is a huge NO NO.
For more detailed information about what can and can’t be recycled, visit wasatchfrontwaste.org/recycling/.
Finally, WFWRD does continue to operate its home glass recycling program, which requires an additional fee. But for those who want to protect the environment from glass bottles – without paying for the privilege of doing it – the district operates two glass-only recycling dumpsters in Taylorsville: outside the senior center (1600 W. 4800 S.) and in the parking lot of the barely-one-year-old state liquor store (4455 S. 2700 W.).