What is mixed recycling? How it works and recycling tips

Mixed recycling, or single-stream recycling, is the system in which all plastics, metals, papers and other recyclable materials are mixed together in a single collection truck. This means that residents do not need to sort these recyclables beforehand; they are sorted when they arrive at a material recovery facility (MRF).

The simplicity of this system – just put all your recyclables in one bin – makes it all the more appealing to residents. However, mixed recycling is not without drawbacks. In this article, we’ll look at the process of this recycling system, some pros and cons, and how it compares to other forms of recycling.

How mixed recycling works

Single stream recycling started in the United States in the 1990s as a low-barrier entry into recycling; it was slowly adopted by communities across the country.

Combined recycling programs vary from canton to canton. Many accept recyclables in the following categories:

  • Plastic products (Townships can only accept plastics with specific resin identification codes.)
  • Newspapers
  • Paper and cardboard products (may include magazines, cereal boxes, clean egg cartons, etc.)
  • Glass products (may include clean food and beverage bottles, jars, containers, etc.)
  • Metal products (may include clean aluminum foil, etc.)

Treehugger Board

In order to determine if blended recycling is available in your community, it is best to contact your county or municipality. Also, check I want to be recycledwhich can help you determine how items can be recycled within your community.

Once the recyclable materials have been collected, the truck then takes them to the floor of an MRF, where the sorting takes place. At many facilities, materials are first placed on a conveyor belt where MRF personnel manually remove any non-recyclable items. Any items that can be recycled are then transferred to a series of deck screens, allowing the heavier items to fall onto the lower screens, leaving lighter items, such as paper and cardboard, on the deck. upper screen.

The heaviest objects are placed under a magnet which removes all the metal. Workers will check that no item is misclassified. They then sort the items on the top screen into separate containers for paper, cardboard and newsprint.

Once all recyclable items are in the correct bins, they are shipped to their respective recycling facility to be transformed into new materials.

Double-stream or single-stream recycling

While single-stream recycling involves putting all of your recyclables in one bin, dual-stream recycling uses two separate bins. In most cases, plastic, glass, metal and other materials go in one bin, while paper products are collected in another.

Dual-stream recycling requires a little more work on the consumer’s side, as they have to sort their recyclables before collection. Although it may seem like a small task, it can deter people from recycling or doing it carefully and correctly.

Advantages and disadvantages of mixed recycling

Is mixed recycling more efficient than double-stream recycling? Like anything, there are both pros and cons.


The main advantage of mixed recycling is that it is relatively easy for consumers to participate in curbside recycling programs. Similarly, mixed recycling is also less expensive for the consumer because he only has to buy one recycling bin and the items are picked up by one truck. As a result, this system is receiving greater public approval in many states, such as New Jersey.

The inconvenients

The most significant disadvantage of mixed recycling is the increased risk of contamination among the recyclables. Contaminated materials can include items that are not clean (such as used food or beverage containers) or glass that has broken during transport to a facility. Contaminated items cannot be made into a new recycled product or the new product is of lower quality.

In addition, contaminated recyclables can damage MRF equipment, which can be costly for municipalities and facilities.

Mixed Recycling Tips

Overall, recycling has its share of environmental drawbacks. Still, if you participate in a mixed recycling program, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing your part to get your recycled items handled properly. Here are our top tips:

  • Make sure all recyclable containers (glass, plastic, metal, etc.) are clean.
  • Check that each bottle and container is empty before placing it in the trash.
  • Read the labels on any items that have other recycling guidelines.
  • Contact your municipal recycling department for any specific questions about materials, collection of recyclable materials, etc.