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What is a material recovery facility (MRF)?

Like any industry, the waste and recycling sector has its own key terms and acronyms, and "murf" is one of them.

A material recycling facility (MRF), sometimes called a material recycling facility or a material recycling facility, is a factory that separates and prepares single-stream recycled materials for sale to final buyers.

As more and more cities and municipalities in the United States switch to single-stream recycling, MRF is an important part of any urban residential and commercial single-stream recycling program. In fact, a survey conducted by the Recycling Partnership in 2016 found that 82% of roadside recycling programs are now single-stream.

This shift to a single stream puts residents and business owners responsible for sorting their recyclables and has proven to be a boon in increasing the absolute amount of recyclable materials diverted from landfills. The 2018 Harris poll found that two-thirds of Americans agree with the statement "if a product is inconvenient/inconvenient for me to recycle, I may not recycle it". In other words, over time, the work of material recycling facilities will only become more and more important.

What is the classification of material recycling facilities?

Material recycling facilities classify various recyclable materials, including but not limited to:

Plastic cardboard (OCC) paper, including newspapers, magazines, office paper, mixed paper and other glass bottles and cans and metal containers, including aluminum cans and steel cans cartons

This is a short video from Recycle More North Carolina that describes how to sort these recyclable materials (and the equipment used at each step) from the moment they are brought into the material recycling facility The process until they are packaged or otherwise ready to be sent:

As the video points out, unlike other materials that are sorted and packaged, glass is crushed — once crushed, it is called cullet — and placed in a container, which is then sold to the manufacturer for manufacturing The merchant remelts the broken glass and turns it into a new glass product or uses this raw material to insulate. Generally, glass is distinguished by color. Transparent, green and brown glass are more valuable than other colors in the commodity market.

Clean MRF and Dirty MRF

There are two main types of material recycling facilities: clean and dirty.

Clean MRF

In short, the cleaning material recycling facility only handles residential or commercial single-stream recycling; that is, the recyclable materials you put in the curbside recycling bins will be picked up every week or so.

The recovery rate (the percentage of materials that enter the clean MRF and actually end up being recycled) of the clean material recycling facility is considered to be higher than that of the dirty MRF. That being said, the recovery rate of MRF may be difficult to interpret because many facility owners do not want to share this information, which makes it difficult to determine the exact recovery rate.

Dirty MRF

Dirty material recycling facilities process residential or commercial waste in order to capture recyclable materials that have been mistakenly thrown away as garbage. When combined with clean material recycling facilities, the advantage of dirty MRFs is that they allow greater overall recycling of recyclable materials, while the disadvantage is that they are generally more expensive to run because they require more manual labor to remove the garbage. And any soluble recyclables that are easily contaminated, such as mixed paper and OCC.

There is also a third type of material recovery facility, called wet MRF, which is essentially a dirty MRF in which water is present to separate and clean the recycling stream, and in some cases, it starts to biodegrade certain organic matter. Prepare them to enter the anaerobic digestion facility.

How to improve the efficiency of material recycling facilities

There are many ways you can help improve the efficiency of local material recycling facilities and the communities they serve.

The first way to help these facilities is not to pollute your recycling load by "recycling" plastic bags and straws. Today, one of the biggest challenges facing material recycling facilities is that plastic bags, straws and other small but flexible plastic parts are clamped by sorting equipment.

Generally, MRF can only capture items that are at least 5 inches in size in any direction. Smaller items (such as plastic straws) and extremely flexible materials (such as plastic bags) tend to clog the machine or fall between cracks and be covered by dust, grit, food waste, broken glass, wine corks, bottle caps, and any other Smaller items are then sent to the landfill.

Since the materials entering the material recovery facility are manually sorted as they pass on the conveyor belt, the greater the number of contaminants in a particular load, the greater the possibility of manual sorting.

To learn more about Rubicon's work to change the entire waste and recycling category, be sure to download our first Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) report.

If you have any questions, or if you are interested in learning more about Rubicon's sustainable products, please contact Rubicon's sustainability team directly at, or call (844) 479-1507 Our sales team.

Meredith Leahy is Rubicon's waste transfer manager. To stay ahead of the new global partnerships and cooperation announced by Rubicon, be sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, or contact us immediately.

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