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Recycling company to upgrade its sorting facilities on Spokane's West Plains

WM says it is installing more automated technology to allow machines to do a greater amount of the work of sorting recycled materials.
Courtesy of WM (Waste Management)

WM, formerly known as Waste Management, is also improving two western Washington plants.

WM, the company formerly known as Waste Management, says it is renovating its West Plains facility near Spokane's waste-to-energy plant to be able to process more materials for recycling.

“It’s really about advancing our recycling technology, becoming more efficient, creating more capacity for recyclable materials and, for the communities we service and partner with, it’s about reducing landfill waste and making sure more recyclables have a chance to be made into more products," said Rob Jones, the director of recycling operations at WM.

He says the company will spend about $15 million to update its Spokane Materials and Recycling Technology Center, or SMaRT. Jones says the project will help the company do more work with automation and they allow the company to make progress in solving a labor problem.

“These are jobs that have become increasingly challenging to fill. The turnover and filling these jobs as we need to process the recyclable materials has become more and more challenging," he said.

The West Plains remodeling project is scheduled to start next year and be done in about a year.

Jones says WM is spending $56 million overall to improve its three Washington facilities.

The largest project is in Woodinville, north of Seattle, where WM plans to do a major rebuild.

"A lot of the equipment there is first-generation equipment. It's the same layout and design that's been there since 2003," he said.

Jones says that $34 million project will add some of the most technologically-advanced scanners and allow the facility to significantly increase the amount of material it can handle.

"An optical sorter essentially scans the material as it's coming down the line and then it's able to separate with air, scan by weight and size and you can have it separate the materials. It's extremely efficient and consistent and reliable in the sorting process," he said.

He says the Woodinville plant currently has one of those sorters, but will receive about 15 more with the revamping of that facility.

Jones says the company has already spent $7 million to upgrade its recycling plant in Tacoma.

Doug Nadvornick has spent most of his 30+-year radio career at Spokane Public Radio and filled a variety of positions. He is currently the program director and news director. Through the years, he has also been the local Morning Edition and All Things Considered host (not at the same time). He served as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network, based in Coeur d’Alene. He created the original program grid for KSFC. He has also served for several years as a board member for Public Media Journalists Association. During his years away from SPR, he worked at The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Washington State University in Spokane and KXLY Radio.