You Ask, We Answer: How recycled materials get a new life

This is a recurring recording of WBNG's 6am Morning Newscast.
Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 2:29 PM EDT
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BINGHAMTON (WBNG) -- For this edition of “You Ask, We Answer,” 12 News spoke to with Broome County Director of Solid Waste Debra Smith to learn more about the county’s recycling process and where it goes once it’s collected.

The question from Patricia D. says, “Every week city employees pick up materials that are to be recycled. Where are they taken? What is the process?”

Smith said once the recycling is picked up curbside, it’s going to one of two facilities. These facilities are known as “recycling centers,” but officially called “materials recovery facilities.”

After materials arrive, they’re put onto a conveyor belt to be sorted by using multiple methods, including mechanical screens and workers.

The main goal here is to separate different materials like paper, plastic, metal, cardboard and more, and remove any contaminated objects.

From there, facilities send materials to end markets to be fully cleaned and recycled.

“It can be made into plastic pellets that can be made into new things like toys, frames or other plastic items, or it can actually be made into a fiber. So, this can be used to make anythings from scarfs, to rugs, to hats and coats. It is going through the full process and getting made into new items.”

Smith said one of the biggest things the facilities struggle with is contamination, which is items that can’t actually be recycled.

These items include plastic bags, Styrofoam, and throwaway plastic utensils and cups.

If you’re unsure about what you can and cannot recycle, follow this link here.

If you have a question or concern about our community, send us an email to or contact WBNG’s Maci Cosmore at

Then, tune in to You Ask, We Answer on Wednesday’s at 6 P.M. on 12 News.