Following the paper trail of what happens to your recycling

01/06/2012 12:00 AM

01/06/2012 10:28 AM

The paper and cardboard in your recycling, including the newspaper where this column appears, ends up in party plates, the biscuit package you smack against the counter or the canister with neatly stacked potato chips.

And it starts in central Kansas.

Several weeks ago, we showed you the sorting process for single-stream recycling. Then we followed a literal paper trail to follow the recycling process. It led us less than 6 miles from the Stutzman sorting facility to the Sonoco paper mill in Hutchinson. There, manager Jim Kicklighter showed us how they take loose paper from your home, and cardboard boxes carrying shipments to Wal-Marts and Dillons around the area, and make it into paperboard that ends up returning to the stores for you to use again.

Kicklighter compares the process to making a milkshake. You follow a recipe: add so much newsprint, office paper and mixed paper to so much cardboard and put it in a blender with lots of water. The Sonoco pulper is 14 feet wide, but Kicklighter said you could do it on a smaller scale in a blender in your home. Kids, get permission from your parents before you go shoving cardboard into the kitchen blender — especially you, dad.

“It’s a great Cub Scout (or Girl Scout) project,” Kicklighter said.

Watch a video that compresses the two-hour process to 2½ minutes:

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