From tin cans to rebar, here's what Whatcom County's recycling is made into

A bale of aluminum cans, weighing about 1000 pounds, is shown at Northwest Recycling, Inc. in Bellingham.
A bale of aluminum cans, weighing about 1000 pounds, is shown at Northwest Recycling, Inc. in Bellingham. evan.abell@bellinghamherald.com

Ever wonder what happens to your recycling after it has been picked up from your home?

First, it goes to Northwest Recycling Inc. center at 1419 C St. in Bellingham, where all of Whatcom County's curbside recycling from residences and businesses go.

That's because Sanitary Service Co. and Nooksack Valley Disposal and Recycling sell recyclable plastic, paper and newspaper, tin, aluminum and glass to Northwest Recycling, which is in the commodity recyclables business — meaning the company sells the items it collects at the going rate, which fluctuates.

Here are the new things that your recyclables are turned into and some of their destinations, according to Marty Kuljis, operations manager for Northwest Recycling.

Where they go domestically and overseas is based on market conditions, Kuljis added.

  • Aluminum cans are turned into more aluminum cans for beer and soda. Cans collected in the county are sold to Constellium in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. There, the cans are melted into aluminum sheets and made into new cans.
  • Glass bottles and jars go to Strategic Materials in Seattle where they're sorted by color. From there, they go next door to Saint-Gobain, which smelts the glass to create new bottles and jars.
  • Newspaper goes to Wenatchee, where Keyes Packaging Group transforms it into fiber trays that are used to protect apples for shipping and display in the supermarket.

  • Corrugated cardboard heads to KapStone Paper and Packaging Corp. in Longview, or sometimes to China, to be made into more corrugated cardboard boxes.
  • Mixed paper, such as empty cereal boxes and junk mail, goes to a number of places domestically and overseas, primarily China, Vietnam and Malaysia. It's made into new paper and cereal boxes.
  • Plastic containers are shipped to Vietnam and Malaysia, now that China is no longer accepting them, where they're sorted by type. Pralumex Inc. out of Walnut, Calif., brokers the plastic to the makers of a number of products, including polar fleece, stuff for your house, toys and car consoles.
  • Tin cans, which actually are made of steel, go Nucor Steel mill in Seattle, where they're melted down with other metals to make rebar.
Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea
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