I just opened a bottle of champagne (cheap Costco champagne). It has a plastic cork, but it still has the traditional twisted wire retainer holding it in. I open the bottle and throw the retainer in the recycling, so now I'm wondering will it really get recycled, or is this more stuff for the landfill? We've got mixed recycling here, where you can dump paper, metal and certain kinds of plastic. Glass and motor oil are collected separately as is yard debris. As an aside, garbage is collected weekly here in Washington County, but every other week in Portland. Recycling is just the opposite. Here they alternate between yard debris one week and recycling the next. In Portland they collect both every week.
So, I throw the wire retainer in the mixed recycling. I wheel the container out to the curb Monday evening. Tuesday morning a big garbage truck comes by and picks it up with it's robot arm and dumps it in the back along with all the other stuff he's collected. When the driver has finished his route, he drives to the transfer station and dumps his load. Okay, this is the part I'm not clear about. Somebody is driving trucks to the landfill and and the main recycling center. Are they just driving the garbage trucks? Or are they repackaging the material for hauling on semi-trailers? I dunno, maybe if the landfill is less than 100 miles away, just driving straight there might be cheaper.
The material that gets dumped in the recycling bin eventually makes its way to the giant recycling center, which I think is in northwest Portland in the industrial district. I imagine some rudimentary sorting is done there, blown air can separate the lighter stuff like paper and plastic from the metal, magnetics can pick out the iron and steel. You might be able to use water to separate the paper from the plastic. I dunno, but I wonder about all the metal that's left after everything else gets shunted aside. You should be left with copper, brass, and some stainless. Then again, the amount non-magnetic heavy metal might not amount to a hill of beans. It's what's left over after all the easy pickin's have been picked up. It might be that a man with a broom sweeps up at the end of the day and dumps it in the trash.