You Asked: What happens to recyclables after they arrive at the transfer station?

Posted at 1:12 PM, Oct 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-27 15:12:56-04

HELENA — MTN viewer Trinka Michelson wanted to know what happens with recyclables after they arrive at the transfer station in Helena. We got the answer, and it turns out a lot of those recyclables actually move on to other places for processing.

The transfer station and recycling spots throughout the city of Helena and Lewis and Clark County accept glass, paper, cardboard, tin aluminum and plastic. Transfer station staff monitor recycling bins in the city and county, and collect them when full.

“We’re the first stage,” city of Helena sustainability and recycling coordinator Miranda Griffis said. “Then we have contracts with Pacific, Momentum and Helena Recycling.”

Glass goes to Momentum Recycling out of Salt Lake City.

“They come and pick up our glass and it is turned into fiberglass insulation,” Griffis said.

Pacific Steel and Recycling handles the city’s cardboard, newspaper, tin cans, aluminum cans and tin products, like appliances.

“We package it, process it, put it in the right category, bundle it and then we sell it to a mill,” Pacific Steel and Recycling general manager Richard A. Farrow said.

Those mills can be anywhere in the country, so a cardboard box recycled by the Canyon Ferry Mini Basket in East Helena could end up thousands of miles away, where it will be turned into another cardboard product.

Like cardboard, Farrow said other recyclables get made into new products.

“Appliances can come back as another tin product or steel product,” he said. “Cans usually always come back as aluminum cans, paper (comes back as) paper.”

The transfer station accepts some additional things you can’t recycle at the recycling spots throughout the city and county, like yard waste.

“So trees, tree branches, grass, leaves, grass clippings—everything like that,” Griffis said. “It’s turned into compost which we can sell back to the community.”

Each item recycled means one less item in the landfill.