Republic Recycling Services: One of Las Vegas’ Most Interesting Free Attractions

Reader Contribution by Kurt Jacobson

Las Vegas is known for some of the best entertainment options in the world. Now, there is a very different free attraction sure to please and educate those who take the time to explore the world of automation and recycling.

Most Americans have heard it’s important to recycle, yet few know how to do it properly. With the opening of Republic Services recycling center in northwest Las Vegas, visitors will get useful information how to recycle properly. This secret world is revealed as you step inside the Learning Center overlooking the floor of a cavernous building. This Willy Wonka-like factory churns out up to two million pounds of paper, plastic, glass and aluminum per day. All of these products have a chance for a new life thanks to state-of-the-art technology at work.

Opened in December of 2015, this fun factory of machines-versus-waste is a modern marvel. Nowhere else in North America can tourists, school children, and other interested citizens view this mysterious process. Once visitors arrive in the Learning Center several educational displays tell the story of what happens here and how to recycle more efficiently at home. A live-feed set of three TV screens show the action not visible from the Learning Center.

For hands on fun there is a Real recycling truck cab in the room. In this cab kids of all ages can sit in an authentic Republic Services truck seat grasping the steering wheel or the joystick that controls the boom in a full-sized truck. All the switches, gauges, and doodads are real. They even included the horn in the truck until too many kids honked too often driving the staff next door a bit crazy. The solution was to pull the fuse, rendering the horn silent.

Debunking Recycling Myths and Mysteries

I thought I knew a lot about proper recycling but learned even more from my visit. There are so many myths about recycling in our single-stream age. I learned how combining certain containers in your home recycling can render them useless. When well intentioned consumers put steel cans, paper and aluminum in a large plastic container, like a gallon sized pretzel jar, the result is trash. It turns out that when this combined mix hits the compactor in the truck it traps the other products inside the gallon sized jar making it too time consuming for the workers to separate.

Some of the key points I picked up at the Learning Center are:

• Tin baking containers and aluminum foil are recyclable
• Flower vases and mason jars are recyclable
• Leaving lids on plastic containers is okay if they too are plastic
• Republic’s Vegas plant is the biggest recycling operation in North America
• 75 percent of the building was constructed with recycled metal
• Managers can use a tablet to control most every machine in the complex whether they are onsite or offsite
• 1776 solar panels on the roof provide 15-20% of the complex electricity
• Recycled plastics become, backpacks, carpeting, furniture, shoes and several other new products.
• Recycled glass becomes asphalt aggregate for roads, flooring, home insulation, etc
• Even electric power cords and extension cords can be recycled

Toward the end of my visit general manager Len Christopher took me to the catwalk leading to another glass-walled room. In this other room, I could see virtually the whole inside of the complex. I saw conveyor belts full of plastic being “blast sorted” into separate conveyor belts. I saw tons of cardboard bundled for transport to a processing facility, and workers on a manual sorting line separating items the automatic sorters missed.

It’s encouraging to see this modern technological complex helping us remain a sustainable culture. It’s obvious that more at-home and businesses recycling is needed. Without increased recycling we would be facing a tremendous amount of trash pilling up in landfills for future generations to deal with. It is also vital that consumers learn to buy these recycled products to insure a bright future for our world. Thanks to Republic Services the future looks good.

Kurt Jacobsohas been a chef for 40 years and, after being schooled in the U.S. Coast Guard, he trained in many restaurants under both kind and maniac chefs. Kurt is starting his fourth year of container and raised-bed organic gardening and is volunteering at Wilbur’s Farm in Kingsville, Maryland, to learn real organic gardening. For this and other recipes using garden greens, and more fresh veggies check out his food blog. For tasty travel ideas check out Kurt’s travel blog, Read all of Kurt’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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