Mammoth recycling center opens on Sunset Park waterfront

Mammoth recycling center opens on Sunset Park waterfront
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Brooklyn takes trash from nobody — but soon it will be taking recyclables from throughout the city and beyond.

An new 11-acre, $110-million recycling center opened at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal that will eventually handle all the recyclables collected in the city, and will likely import more from elsewhere for processing.

The city is touting the facility — which brings 75 full-time jobs to Sunset Park — as the first major investment in the borough’s industrial waterfront in decades, and a catalyst for further development.

“The state-of-the-art Sunset Park Material Recovery Facility will continue the reactivation of New York City’s working waterfront, bringing innovative industries, economic activity, and jobs to the Brooklyn waterfront,” Kyle Kimball, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, said at the opening.

The vast recycling center has the capacity to process 1,000 tons of material a day — 37 percent more than the Department of Sanitation collects — allowing for lots of excess capacity even if the city’s curbside haul grows in the future.

But bringing in all that material won’t mean more trucks rumbling though the neighborhood. Most of it will arrive by barge, with the sorted commodities exported mostly by train along a newly renovated freight rail line.

In fact, by centralizing the city’s recycling and diverting transportation onto water and rail, the new Sunset Park facility will eliminate approximately 240,000 miles of sanitation truck travel from city roadways every year, according to the operator, Sims Metal Management, the largest metals and electronics recycler in the world. The company has a 40-year contract with the city.

The facility has taken almost a decade to design and build, and includes several eco-friendly flourishes — including an on-site stormwater-runoff management system and a 600-kilowatt solar power plant, one of the city’s largest. Next year Sims plans to add a 100 kilowatt wind turbine. In 2010, it won the NYC Excellence in Design Award.

“The Sunset Park facility has been nearly 10 years in the making,” said Tom Outerbridge, general manager of Sims Municipal Recycling. “We think the result is something everyone can be proud of.”

One Brooklynite who was especially proud was Borough President Markowitz, who declared at the opening: “Here in Brooklyn, when we green it, we mean it!”

The facility, run by Sims Metal Management separates out waste materials like these plastic bottles and exports them as commodities to become raw materials for new products.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham