A while back, reader Jim Place from Penacook e-mailed us the following:
"I have a question about the trucks picking up our recycling. In Concord we're supposed to separate paper and cardboard from cans and bottles, but I noticed that they are all dumped into one bin on the truck and mixed together in the truck. Why separate?"
Well, Jim Place from Penacook, we would have gotten back to you sooner but we were busy dividing up our empty eggnog cartons from our bare bottles of rum. And when we weren't doing that, we were drinking the said eggnog and rum.
Sick of the creamy spiked beverage, we got back to work and consulted Patrick Winn, solid waste program manager for the city's general services department.
According to Winn, Bestway Disposal (the company that takes care of the city's curbside, residential container and downtown collections) typically uses two different recycling trucks. One is what Winn calls a side-load recycle truck with a split body. On this truck, there are two compartments on the side, one for containers - which includes glass, plastic, tin and aluminum - and the other for paper and cardboard.
The second truck is called a recycle rear-load split body. Bestway loads that truck from the back, putting comingled containers on one side, and paper and cardboard on the other. A partition makes it so the paper products don't get comingled with the, uh, comingleds.
On most days, these two trucks do the dirty work. However, when a truck breaks down or there are scheduled DOT-required maintenance, a spare truck is used.
Winn explained that there's also two different kinds of spares. Much like the first truck we mentioned, one loads from the side. However, instead of keeping things separate, comingled containers and paper and cardboard are all dumped into one big compartment.
The second spare works the same way, except it's a rear-load truck. There's no partition - just one spot for all your recyclables.
Once the spares get to the Bestway facility in Belmont, cardboard and paper and comingleds are split up there.
On a typical day, your recyclables are actually staying separated - it may just not look like it unless you get up close and personal and see that there is, in fact, a partition. When your binoculars tell you otherwise, rest assured that your paper and aluminum will break up once they get to Belmont.