Visiting a garbage recycling plant seems to be an unusual field trip designation to many, but on 10/19/2015, six out of ten FIRST LEGO League (FLL) teams from Livingston Robotics Club (LRC) took such tour of a recycling plant in preparation for the 2015 “Trash Trek” research challenge.
Each year, as part of the FLL competition, there is a different global challenge theme for children ages 9 to 14 to conduct a real-world research on identifies a problem in the community and finding an innovative solution to improve upon a current solution or situation. This year’s challenge is about solid waste management such as recycle, compost, electronics and hazardous waste management, etc.
With the help of Livingston Recycling & Reclamation (R&R) Committee, on a beautify Saturday morning on September 19, LRC members visited Giordano Company in Newark, NJ, which accepts co-mingled and dual stream recyclable materials from surrounding towns including LRC’s home town of Livingston.
Approximately 20 elementary and middle school age team members plus their adult coaches got a firsthand look at how our trash is being recycled, from collection to shipment.
After an informative introduction at the plant’s weighing shed, Ms. Tiffanie Nyzio of Giordano Company provided reflective jackets for everyone before starting the tour at the sorting facility.
Each day, recyclables were collected throughout the nearby towns and disposed at the recycling plant’s intake conveyor. Materials are then sorted along the sorting line into many categories, separate out paper/cardboard, metals, glass and plastic.
Team Spongebot immediately noticed: “The plant takes great care to ensure the cleanliness and thorough sorting of the paper, glass, plastics, and metal that pass through. However, we were all very surprised by the amount of hard work required of the human sorters that must separate the items as they travel down the line”.
Upon seeing this massive operation, team Robodevils praised Livingston’s recycle collection practice: “It is fortunate that Livingston Township has a waste collection program where the comingled (plastic and metal) are separated from paper and cardboard. This actually helps the trash to be sorted much easily than towns where all recycles trash are mixed and collected together”.
Once the trash was sorted, a machine then compresses each similar type of materials into bales. Each bale weights around 2,000 lb, which are then loaded on to trucks and send to the end customers that include both domestic and foreign buyers. Paper and cardboard are typically exported to India and China, while plastic and metals are sent within the United States.
After the 1-hour long tour, team Teknado from Florham Park reflected: “Our trip to the recycling plant was a wonderful learning experience for us. To see what happens when our garbage leaves our homes is truly amazing.” Coach Allissa Getts who grew up in Livingston added: “The kids were engaged during the tour and I think they all came out of the plant with new knowledge”.
Coach Sandra Bohrer also reflected: “The management at the plant went above and beyond to make this tour a great experience for our students. Team Robobuilders had an amazing time and learned so much about recycling. The students will use their knowledge gained from this experience to help them with their presentations for the First Lego League Competition”.
Besides conducting the research on waste management, the FLL teams are also busy building and programming their Mindstorms robots to perform a series of missions related to the challenge theme. Livingston Robotics Club provides a series of expert speakers and field trips for teams within the club to maximize the learning opportunity.
The FLL competitions for north Jersey qualifiers will be held on November 21, 2015 at various locations throughout the State. All events are free and open to public.