We recently got lucky and were given a tour of Padnos Recycling in Grand Rapids, Michigan! They recycle industrial and commercial plastics, metal, paper, even whole SCHOOL BUSES and give them a chance at a second life. It is such a cool place. There are giant, powerful (loud!) machines that grind anything they put into them into tiny bits and pieces.
We started in the plastic recycling facility where we saw everything from furniture parts, ends of toothbrushes, packaging, house siding and automotive parts (we saw whole interior car DOORS) ready to be ground up. Once big bins were full, samples were taken to a test lab where super skilled people melt it, stretch it, burn it, and break it to figure out what kind of plastic they have to work with. Big machines – super cool to see these millions of parts being reused instead of ending up in the landfill!!!!
Next stop – the metal yard where they can take whole CARS and SCHOOL BUSES and grind them up into BITS. You read that right. Whole cars – flattened, but still, they’re whole! A machine loads the heavy parts on a conveyer belt – up, up, up to the top of this machine, where they reach their DOOM! Down the ramp and into the mouth of grinder! AAAAAHHHHHHH!!! Ben, who just started working there recently, had full control of a claw that could clear any jam of parts that got stuck. We were IMPRESSED with his skill! And that machine – Careful – for REAL!
There was a school bus at the back of a pile that we waited to see go into the machine, but it was going to be too long before the pile was cleared, so we just had to imagine it. On the good side, we saw 2 cars, a refrigerator, 4 bicycles, a high chair and countless other parts fall into that machine. It was WILD!
A big thank you to all of our tour guides for taking the time out of their day to show us around. As Olive says – it was imagination-landia! We talked for days about what we could create with all those parts :0)