When recycling took off in the United States in the early 1990s, the environmentally conscious were instructed to sort their recyclables into separate bins. Paper went into one bin, plastic in another, glass sorted by color into another bin. By the end of the decade, however, technology that allowed single-stream recycling was developed. At last, even the laziest among us had no excuse to avoid recycling.
Under the single-stream recycling system, all recyclables go into a single bin. At the recycling plant, recyclables are loaded onto a conveyer belt and pushed off in response to certain stimuli: Metals lift iron-based metals from the belt; puffs of air blow paper from the line, and so on.
Single-stream recycling has made curbside recycling a cinch, but getting your recyclables to the curb in the first place can be a chore. When it's 10 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit or otherwise), who wants to take an empty can to the recycling bin? Trash is easy enough to handle; we have trash cans in our kitchens to take care of that. Why don't we have recycling cans? It's no problem to buy a plastic bin or to use a bag to hold recyclables until you're ready to haul it to the curb. Like all trash bins, though, these containers can fill up pretty quickly.
Enter the all-in-one-recycling system. These bins accept every recyclable imaginable into one several-gallon bin -- glass, paper, plastic, cans and more. Much of the recycled material is crushed into a compact size, which keeps you from having to run to the curb in your robe when it's cold out or living in a kitchen overflowing with evidence of your eco-friendliness.
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