“Does my material really get recycled? Doesn’t it sit in big stockpiles? Nobody really uses that, do they?”
Yes, they do.
Your school’s paper and cardboard are in high demand. The cardboard is often manufactured into new boxes. The paper may be made into office paper, but it can also become boxboard or toilet paper and other tissue products. All the paper in Mercer County is taken right to the Homasote company in Ewing. You can visit their website and see how they use old paper to make an insulating wallboard. Plastic bottles may become new bottles but they may also become car parts and carpet. Aluminum cans can become new cans, but they may be used to manufacture automobiles. Tires are hard to recycle, so many are shredded and used as fuel in industrial furnaces. Some are ground up to make playground surfacing. Some shredded tires are mixed with asphalt, to make soft, durable roads. Computers are disassembled to reclaim the metal parts, and even the plastic shells can sometimes be recycled. Old televisions and monitors are melted down to make new optical equipment, light bulbs, and tiny spheres that are mixed with paint to make the reflective paint that marks the lanes on highways.
Many recycling facilities in New Jersey are operated by counties, but the majority are operated by private businesses, and together they employ over 30,000 people.
If you can’t believe that all the items in the bin can be separated, search on line for ‘single stream, video’, and you’ll find plenty of waste companies and county facilities proudly showing how they return those items to the marketplace.