Have you ever thought of touring your local recycle transfer center?
I'm not talking about a free tour at the Museum of Natural History, but pretty close. I think of it often. I have scheduled my Mom's group to tour with our kids a few times, so we are regulars. I get emails asking "when can we do it again?" REALLY, you ask? And why? Well, it's very interesting to know "where and how" the trash you throw "away" goes. The centers show "history" in the days and the lives of everyday Americans.
At our local facility we get to see the garbage trucks dump single-stream system goodies (anything our city takes in our blue bins, separate from our dark bins) and the big shovels pick it up and dump it all on the belt. Kids love big trucks so this is very fun for them. The goodies then climb up the fast belt, where they meet up with the city workers who start the sort in front of us, seen thru big windows.
I highly recommend that everyone take at least one tour of any recycling center in the US. If you've ever dropped off your goodies, instead of using curbside pick-up, you may have been inside a facility. Because most cities now collect by single-stream, it leaves out local education. Most people cannot tell me, correctly, what materials their city takes and where to take the ones they don't. My neighbor's bins constantly hold the wrong items. Our tour guide has armed us with educational coloring books to pass out, as well as reusable bags and pencils that use to be tires, old jeans and money in previous lives!
The transfer centers are educational - you will find out what your recycling efforts come down to. They have to find a post-user buyer for each material. You will also find out that how you package (or not) your goodies will affect their after-use life. Our centers don't accept any plastic bags, so if you wrap ANY goods in bags, it gets tossed to the dark-side~ 'landfill belt', without a second thought. The plastic bags jam their belts and add costly and timely delays to get them out. Also, up until now they didn't take shredded paper for the same reason; but they DO have to be in clear plastic bags so they can immediately sort them.
Every time we visit, we bring back info to our own friends and family on where and how those resources are reused and how to protect them from being thrown to the dark-side. What's happening in your local recycling center?