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“We are going to take recycling to a new level.” That was the word from Bob Gallagher during a ceremony Wednesday morning, Nov. 15, at the Scott Area Recycling Center at 5640 Carey Ave. in Davenport. Mr. Gallagher, chairman of the Waste Commission of Scott County and the mayor of Bettendorf, was one of more than 50 people gathered at the center to celebrate the addition of $5 million in new technology and machinery aimed at improving local recycling efforts. That new machinery includes three new optical sorters, an artificial intelligence (AI) system for the residue line, and a conveyor to make baling cardboard easier. Optical sorters use infrared technology to recognize and sort materials at a rate of 600 to 900 items per minute, while a person can sort about 35 to 50 items per minute. The upgrades have increased the system’s sorting speed from 10 tons-per-hour to 11.5 tons-per-hour, according to information from county-wide waste commission. The new machinery also helps the recycling center capture more recyclables, such as polypropylene. That material is the type of plastic in items like yogurt containers, butter tubs, and cold beverage cups. The $5 million in new machinery was funded by a zero-interest loan from Closed Loop Partners along with grants from the Recycling Partnership and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “The Waste Commission of Scott County has been an asset to the Quad Cities community since 1972,” Mr. Gallagher said in a news release issued before Wednesday’s ceremony. “This $5 million project will benefit not only the City of Bettendorf or Davenport but our entire region by maintaining affordable user fees and reducing the impact to our local landfill.” The ceremony included a Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce ribbon-cutting ceremony and tours of the recycling center facility for visitors to see some of the new equipment at work. Much of the event centered around giving thanks to the many people, groups and government entities that have helped the recycling center and the waste commission. Bryce Stalcup, the Waste Commission of Scott County’s new incoming executive director, delivered most of those thank you messages – including thanking Kathy Morris, who will retire as executive director later this month. During the ceremony, Mr. Stalcup also pointed out that this is an unusual day for the recycling center as it often keeps a low profile in the community. “We usually want to be the group that flies under the radar and makes your recycling disappear,” he added. The facility’s first optical sorter – installed in 2019 – helps in the work of sorting the type of plastic that makes water and soft drink bottles. The facility accepts material from as far as two hours away and processes 40,000 tons of material each year. The new equipment will make it possible to manage 1,665 tons more recyclables each year. That's enough to fill 333 recycling trucks, according to the information from the recycling center. Mr. Stalcup said most of that material stays in the Midwest and is turned into new products. After all the sorting is done, many of the items that go through the recycling center are sent on to companies that use them as raw materials to make new products. The Waste Commission of Scott County is a 28E, inter-governmental agency that was established in 1972 and reorganized in 1990. Its members include 17 communities and Scott County. For more information about the commission, call (563) 381-1300 or visit www.wastecom.com.