When Rumpke Waste & Recycling announced plans to build a $50 million Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Columbus, Ohio, much attention was paid to the advanced technology that would be incorporated into the MRF. , with Rumpke officials calling the MRF “the most technologically advanced recycling”. center in the United States.
Cincinnati-based operator MRF designed the Columbus facility to accommodate the changing stream of recycling, with technology to process as many products as possible. But just as important as recovering recyclables were the company’s community partnerships.
Rumpke’s recycling manager, Jeff Snyder, said that in developing the Columbus facility, called the Rumpke Resource Recycling Center, the company wanted to focus on environmental and sustainability initiatives as well as education, not just for consumers, but also for those looking for a career in the recycling industry. or those currently studying its impact.
He describes Rumpke’s efforts in Columbus as a three-phase approach, noting partnerships with neighborhood organizations, The Ohio State University (OSU) and the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) – an interactive science center that opened its doors in 1964 to offer educational resources and hands-on. -on learning for people of all ages.
The first phase involves the creation of a research and development (R&D) center in collaboration with the OSU, allowing students and professors to have a space inside the MRF to work on site and undertake research projects. R&D, engineering, sustainability and green economy, among others. .
As the installation progressed, Snyder met with officials from OSU’s Sustainability Institute – a collaboration between the university’s academic and operational units that aims to establish OSU as a leader in research and sustainability applications – to determine the direction of the partnership.
“It can range from communication to how brands can make products more highly recyclable. We can provide space for capstone projects,” he says. “Ohio State has a huge engineering department and a robotics department, [and] we have robotics today so how can we integrate artificial intelligence [with] what does the state of Ohio know? And [how can we] integrate this into the current manufacturing or sorting of recyclable materials? How can we better sort out who we are today? »
Snyder adds that Rumpke felt it was “extremely important” to partner with OSU in the development of the Columbus MRF and to use the research being done in his own neighborhood.
Continuing its commitment to education, Rumpke is also developing a retraining resource center focused on career development. Snyder says the center will provide job training for various environmental careers and internships and other training opportunities.
“Maybe they want to be in the scrap metal business [or] be CDL [commercial driver’s license] driver. …maybe they want to better understand the end users of recycling [or] how products are transformed into new products,” he says. “It could be material marketing and getting research and development. I think all of these things are all part of this development education center.
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Finally, Rumpke is partnering with COSI to create a 2,500-square-foot education and awareness center onsite that will give people the opportunity to learn what happens to materials “from the moment they put an item on. recycling in the trash until it is transformed into a new product [and] what happens in between,” Snyder says.
He adds: “Being able to walk through this training center and understand how the equipment works, how an eddy current works, how a ballistic separator works, how a magnet works, how an optical scanner works …to understand that and then also understand the end markets… that’s the center of education. It’s not just about walking in and saying, “You know, recycling is good. It really gets to the heart of what the process is, which is critically important to me and to Rumpke.
MRF tours will not be program specific in which people can come to the facility at any time during office hours and walk on a platform around the building, starting at the beginning where the material arrives and following it through the operation until it is baled and ready to be put on a truck. “To be able to see this whole process from start to finish and be able to walk through the entire setup…is pretty special,” says Snyder.
He promises that a lot of work goes into Rumpke’s Columbus Education Center “to get it right”, adding that the company wanted to make sure this facility stands out as a way to help people understand the recycling process.
“I still get asked, probably every week, ‘You don’t really recycle [the material], Do you?’ … A select few really know what happens after he leaves their house,” Snyder says. “We hope it can help educate those people, and we’re going to get it out there where people know they can come see it.”
Snyder puts a lot of emphasis on promoting the public accessibility of the Columbus MRF in hopes that the more visibility residents have into the actual recycling process, the better the recovery rate will be. “I don’t know of any MRF in the country doing this today,” he said. “If people start to believe in recycling, maybe that can increase that level of participation…even better than where we are today, especially in central Ohio.”