An Overview of Single Stream Recycling

An Overview of Single Stream Recycling

The production of waste is a fact of life. Whether from home or at the workplace, even the most green-minded among us creates waste. Fortunately, recycling is a lot more prevalent and possible than ever before. One innovation in the recycling industry that has made the process easier and more effective is single-stream recycling.

Easy, Efficient, Effective

For single-stream recycling, Chicago and other cities rely on a system that allows all recycled items from a business or residence to be co-mingled together for collection. This is an alternative to methods that require pre-sorting by clients in different receptacles, with categories such as plastic, paper, aluminum, glass, etc.

Instead, the mixed recyclables are sorted using specialized technologies at the recycling facility. Methods used for sorting include older techniques involving screens, magnets and conveyor belts. More modern processes utilized involve air jets and infrared readers. Each group of materials is then bundled or baled and sold for reprocessing or refining in order to create recycled products.

The advantages of single-stream recycling versus dual or multi-stream recycling include:

Easier for Clients

The lack of need for lots of sorting makes it easier for clients to recycle and also frees up more space in their homes or businesses for the storage of recyclables.

More Efficient and Affordable

Single-stream methods help to reduce costs since collection via single compartment trucks is cheaper than with multi-compartment trucks. The collection crews are also able to move more quickly, so collection times are more efficient. Single compartment trucks also have a larger collection capacity than trucks that have multiple compartments.


If a decision is made that new materials are going to be recycled, they can be immediately added to the existing recycling program. There is no need to add additional compartments to the collection vehicle.

Contributes to More Recycling

Recycling that is easier for clients makes people more willing to participate. Because of this, a greater percentage of the waste stream is recycled.

Some of the most common items that are recycled using single stream recycling methods include the following:

  • Paper
  • Cardboard
  • Food cartons
  • Plastic bottles
  • Aluminum cans
  • Aluminum foil and disposable bakeware
  • Glass bottles
  • Tin and steel cans
  • Batteries

Some items are mistakenly recycled by business owners and residents because they believe these items fall within the appropriate parameters. However, the following items should not be recycled:

  • Decorative glass
  • Crystal
  • Broken glass
  • Dirty glass
  • Dishes
  • Ceramic bakeware
  • Pyrex pans and containers
  • Window glass
  • Mirrors
  • Light bulbs

If you have items from your business or residence that are not on either of these lists and you think they might be recyclable, give us a call. We can offer guidance on the best course of action for the item so that it is disposed of properly.

Lakeshore Recycling Systems offers single-stream recycling Chicago can count on. We’ve been committed to preserving the environment since 1999, and single stream recycling Chicago trusts is a highly effective way that businesses and residential clients can do their part.

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