Newton Recycles tours WM Recycle America

Tour of WM Recycle America
Billerica, MA
  October 23, 2013
Wonder what happens when your green recycling carts are picked up curbside?

Recyclables are picked up curbside in Newton and brought to one of Waste Management's Recycle America processing facilities.  Currently, Newton's recyclables go to the Recycle America plant in Avon, MA.  Recently, we visited the new plant in Billerica to see how recyclables are sorted.

To see an overview on a materials recovery facility (also known as a MRF), please see this animated video put together by our friends at

How does a Materials Recovery Facility Work?

Recyclables are emptied onto the floor of the MRF and then are loaded onto conveyors to begin the sorting process

Straight from the tipping floor, cardboard is separated from the other recyclables using an automated screen which are basically giant rollers, but it then goes through another manual screen to ensure no contaminants

Cardboard sort


At WM Recycle America in Billerica, which just opened October 2013, there are 30 employees that work the sorting lines. There are plans to increase the number of workers and add a 2nd shift as the facility finishes its retrofits to the former Boston Globe Printing facility.

Trash and other contaminants are removed manually from the recyclables.

(Yup, that's a bowling ball.  Nope, it's not recyclable in the curbside program)

Plastic bags can jam the sorting equipment and cause the lines to be shut down multiple times per day.  Please keep plastic bags OUT of your recycling cart.
See it in action:

Pre-sorting Process

Paper is separated from the heavier materials using a screen that forces the lighter paper up onto a conveyor for additional sorting, while the heavier items fall below.

Paper screen

The heavier recyclables fall below into their own conveyor

Commingled sort

 Magnets are used to pull out the ferrous items, optical sorts separate plastics, and an eddy current pulls out aluminum containers

Eddy Current

Additional manual sorts are used to further separate other recyclables from the paper after the screen





Once the recyclables have been sorted into their individual commodities, they are baled and sold on the market.

What can you do?
  • Recycle only what is accepted in Newton's curbside program.  Unsure? 
    • Check out the City of Newton's single stream curbside recycling guide 
    • You can also see what is accepted for drop-off at our Recycling Depot at Rumford Ave,                we take items such as Styrofoam, rigid plastics, and textiles, which aren't accepted in the cart.                The Depot is open to all Newton, MA residents, proof of residency is required.
    • View our Recyclopedia, an A-Z guide
  • Bring your plastic bags and other plastic film back to the grocery store for recycling
  • Close the loop!  Buy recycled!  Recyclables are only valuable if there is a demand for recycled-content products.

City of Newton Recycling Depot, 115 Rumford Ave, Newton, MA 02466



City of Newton - Division of Environmental Affairs
                    Newton, MA