Tips for Winter Driving

Winter and winter driving. We all have a little bit of a love/hate relationship with it. The movies make it look like a magical time while our experiences often say otherwise: roads with no lanes, snow-covered stop signs, black ice, a dead car battery, or accidents. It’s even worse if you’re a first-timer to wintry weather and driving conditions. As a result, we’ve compiled a list of must-dos for winter weather and winter driving.

Pack a Roadside Emergency Kit

Include the following items:

  • Jumper cables
  • Flares, reflective material, or reflectors
  • Kitty litter/salt/sand for traction or ice melt
  • A flash light (and extra batteries)
  • A small snow shovel
  • A first-aid kit

Pack a Personal Emergency Kit

In this kit, you should have:

  • Extra medication
  • Food and snacks such as mixed nuts, crackers, or granola bars
  • A warm blanket
  • Bottle of water
  • A portable phone charger
  • Hat and gloves
  • Hand warmers

Pack an Ice Scraper

  • Snow Pro Tip: scrapers with long handles, a blade, and a brush are most useful!

Get Your Car Tuned-Up

Whether you do this yourself, or you take it to a mechanic, perform the following checks on your vehicle:

  • Tire Tread
    • The U.S. Department of Transportation recommends replacing tires when they reach 2/32” depth of tread at the most. If you’re at this or even close to it, consider replacing your tires.
  • Tire Pressure
    • Maintain your tire pressure at the manufacturer recommended PSI.
  • Vehicle Fluids: Oil, Antifreeze/Coolant, Windshield Wiper Fluid
    • Refill these if they are low and/or perform a fluid change, if needed.
  • Battery
    • Inspect your battery. Is there wear and tear or corrosion? Did you have troubles with it last year? It might be time to clean it or get a new one.
  • Wipers & Wiper Blades
    • Check that the wiper blades are in good condition and work well to clear your window. If not, replace them. Snow and ice are harder to clear than rain.
  • Brakes, Heater, Defroster, Belts, Hoses, Lights
    • A general check of these to ensure they are in good condition and working as they should will go a long way to keeping you free of freezing on the side of the road, wondering what in the world is wrong.

Consider Roadside Assistance

  • Check to see if you already have this through your insurance or secure it through AAA (Triple A). Then put the phone number in your phone to ensure you have easy access to it, if you need it!

Once you’ve done all that and winter hits, keep the following items in mind:

  • Plan ahead. Give yourself more time when traveling somewhere. Rushing is hazardous to yourself as well as the others on the road.
  • Check the weather before you go. Being aware of what you could encounter helps you plan before it happens.
  •  Don’t let your tank go dry. Try to keep at least ½ a tank of gas in your vehicle at all times.
  • Don’t use cruise control.

With all that said, below are helpful links for even more tips & tricks on winter driving:

 

About the Author

Picture of Kim Mooney

Kim Mooney, Technical Manager & Coach

How It’s Done – Recycling

How is recycling done?

A reader of our How It’s Made articles asked if we could share our knowledge about recycling. As a result, we adapted our How It’s Made article this month to an article titled “How It’s Done”. In recognition of National Recycling Day on November 15, this edition will focus on what happens in a recycling facility.  Before (or after) you read on, check out an earlier article we posted to help you understand just What Can Be Recycled.

As you read through the process below, keep in mind that states and cities vary in their abilities to recycle. However, the general process outlined here can be followed for mixed material recycling centers.

Step 1: Collection

  • Recyclables are collected from curbside or drop-off locations then delivered to the recycling/recovery facility.

Step 2: Facility Arrival

  • The trucks unload recyclables into a yard or storage area.
    Recycling Truck

Heavy equipment pushes the material onto a conveyor belt or into a hopper which then feeds a conveyor belt.

Step 3: Presort

  • In this area, workers manually remove materials that are not recyclable or would damage the facility equipment.
    • Examples include: dirty paper/cardboard, scrap metal, plastic bags, bulky & oversized plastics, e-waste, hoses, toys etc.

Step 4: Screening

  • Throughout the entire process, large rollers screen out materials.  These rollers are essentially augers with blades. The build, size, and spacing of the blades pushes forward desired recyclable materials and undesired materials downward.
    • Often, the first material screened is large cardboard. These screens can also filter out materials considered too small for recycling.

Step 5: Sorting

  • Workers manually sort non-recyclable products from mixed materials. Workers will also pull out any materials that are difficult for equipment operations.
Recycling Sort

As a result, we have sorted various products into specific materials. These products are now moving on a series of conveyors to specific places within the facility. Those products include:

  1. Newsprint
  2. Mixed Paper
  3. Cardboard
  4. Plastic

So, what else is left? Glass and Metals.

Step 7: Metal Magnification

  • Giant magnets pull tin cans, iron containers, or steel containers from the conveyor belt. After this, another conveyor belt takes these containers to a specific area of the plant. Plastic, aluminum, and glass containers continue down the line.

Step 8: Screening

  • In this step, screens break the glass and separate it from plastic. A conveyor takes the broken glass to the glass processing department. This department breaks the glass down even further for additional processing or shipment out.

Step 9: Eddy Current Separator

  • This sorts aluminum from the mixed product through the use of an electric current. In addition, a conveyor takes the aluminum product to another area of the plant for processing.

Step 10: Sorting

  • More manual sorting by operators within the facility occurs here to gather any other products which are not recyclable.

At this point, plastic containers and small pieces of paper or film are all we have left.

Recycling Conveyor

Step 11: Optical Sorting

  • In this area, machines determine different types of unsorted materials. The machines identify different materials based on how light reflects from the material’s surface. This step determines the material type, color, and shape. Air pulls recognized material downward (or upward) onto another conveyor belt.
    • This step uses optical sorting machinery. One sorter will target paper. Another sorter will target plastic film. Upon completion of optical sorting, we should be left with just plastic containers. Therefore, each type of product or material has been sent to its own storage area. For instance, plastic bottles and containers are in one area. Similarly, cardboard is in another area.

So, what happens next?

Step 12: Baling

  • Baling machines operate with very high levels of pressure to compact materials into bales. Yes, like hay bales but made of different materials and square in shape. Wire wrapped around ensures the bales stay together.
    1. Fun fact: these bales can weigh as much as 1 ton!
Recycling Bale

 

About the Author

Picture of Kim Mooney

Kim Mooney, Technical Manager & Coach

How It’s Made – Mystery Flavor Candy

I’m sure you’re well aware of the tiny but iconic lollipops called Dum Dums. You might even have a favorite flavor, including the curious  “Mystery Flavor”. What exactly is a mystery flavor, though? I’ll answer that question in this edition of “How It’s Made”.

How is Candy Made?

First and foremost, let’s talk about the general process for making candy. The base of candy is sugar and water. The type of candy determines other required ingredients such as brown sugar, corn syrup, fats, or acids, and a variety of flavorings.

After mixing comes heating at temperatures as high as 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In general, hard candies are heated at higher temperatures and soft candies are heated at lower temperatures. The heated mixture then moves through molding, cooling, wrapping, and packaging machinery. This process and the equipment used to perform these tasks is similar to the process and equipment used in the production of hygiene products. Check out PMG’s How It’s Made post on hand sanitizers to learn more about the equipment.

It’s simple, right? Mix, heat, form, cool, and package a combination of sugar, water, ingredients and flavorings. But there isn’t a flavoring called ‘Mystery’. So, what is the mysterious process behind mystery-flavored candies?

Where does the “Mystery Flavor” come from?

The mystery flavor in candy is the combination of two separate flavors. To create efficiencies in production and limit downtime, candy makers made the decision to combine flavors. When a batch of a specific flavor (let’s say strawberry) is complete, rather than shutting down the equipment for a thorough cleaning and losing valuable production time, candy manufacturers simply start the next flavor batch (let’s say vanilla). What we get in the end is a small number of candies that contain the flavor of the first batch (strawberry) and the flavor of the second batch (vanilla), producing a strawberry vanilla candy.

This process produces so few strawberry vanilla candies (and the company cannot guarantee the combination of the two flavors again), that creating specific packaging for the combined flavor increases costs and decreases benefits. These mixed batch flavors become the new “Mystery Flavor” to keep costs low and production high.

This process creates endless possibilities for flavor combinations. Well, maybe not endless. Let’s use Dum Dum Suckers as an example. There are 16 standard flavors of these suckers. This makes 256 different combinations possible to form one ‘Mystery Flavor’. With that number of combinations, the next time I try the Mystery Flavor Dum Dum, I’m not sure I’ll be able to determine what two flavors came together but it’s a challenge I’m willing to accept!

 

About the Author

Picture of Kim Mooney

Kim Mooney, Technical Manager & Coach