Friday, July 15, 2016

No mixed feelings here.


https://wasteadvantagemag.com/mixed-feelings-on-mixed-waste-still/

This article in Waste Advantage Magazine discusses the idea of single bin collection (not to be confused with single stream collection). Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably they are vastly different (pay attention to context) and ask for clarification.

Single bins collection means that all materials that are leaving your home or business (garbage & recycling) will go in the same single bin. These mixed up, highly contaminated materials will go to what is known as a dirty MRF (Materials Recovery Facility) and the staff will be tasked with first sorting out food waste, dirty diapers, feminine products, coffee grinds, and lots of other highly unappealing items from the "recycling". After they've raked out whatever garbage they can they will attempt to salvage  "clean" recyclable items. Sorters will try to sort the paper, bottles, cans, & glass that remain so it might be clean enough to be reused.

It's been said that single bin collection is a great idea because:

1. It will increase recycling participation ... it's so easy anyone can do it.

2. It eliminates recycling "confusion".

3. It saves money on transportation & other program costs.

What do we say?

We say that single bin collection in an absolutely terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea! We heard the same type of claims made about single stream recycling. We were all told what a great impact it would have on recycling participation and program costs. We were told that it would be groundbreaking for the recycling industry. It was... unfortunately not in a positive way. As nearly every facility has transitioned to single stream recycling collection (demanded by the public) recyclers are struggling to efficiently sort highly contaminated products. End users are fighting their own struggle of how to effectively use material that although sorted still bares the battle scars of being all mixed up. Plastic processors combat removing tiny glass pieces, paper mills need to overcome small metal pieces, glass, and plastic.The intermingling of these materials can never quite be undone. These recycled raw materials have been less valuable and it happened at a time when fuel prices were low. The financial benefit of choosing recycled content ingredients for the manufacturing process was minimal (as it also became less consistent in quality).

Residential rates (the percentage of "recyclable material" that enters the facility which is contaminated and must leave as trash) has soared. Our own facility which maintained a residual rate of under 2.5% for all our years in operation (that's over 70 years) experienced a climb to over 6%.
Recyclers across the board are fighting to survive and residents, townships, businesses, and institutions across the board are feeling the trickle down effects. When it costs a recycling facility significantly more to sort and process the material there is only so much they can absorb before they are required to either pass the cost along or fail to be a successful business.  The troubling part is that the odds of turning back the clock and collecting material like we used to (paper with paper, commingle containers together) is nearly impossible once a community begins mixing it all together. The good news is that with a bit more effort on the end of the person placing the material in the bin we can salvage recycling and begin to again make a clean, desireable product. It'll take education and a little desire to make things better. So with all this being said,  you may be wondering why in the world did the industry decide that single stream recycling was a good idea?

Well, because some of the larger waste companies and others in industry had made some claims:

1. It will increase recycling participation ... it's so easy anyone can do it.

2. It eliminates recycling "confusion".

3. It saves money on transportation & other program costs.

Do you see the irony?


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Recycling Tip#4 - Please follow instructions!



We know that you've been hearing, seeing, and learning about the amazing amount of things that can be recycled into something new. It's such a waste to throw these recyclable items into a landfill when they could be used as a raw material. The idea of recycling excites us, that is what we do!

The downside to learning the capabilities of recycling is only hearing a portion of the story. While MANY, MANY items are recyclable (claims have been made recently that about 80% of all waste) it must be recycled correctly. Cigarette butts may be reuse able, juice pouches have been a raw material, Grocery bags can be made into decking boards, electronic scrap may become new components but if these items are received at our Hamburg, PA facility they will likely end up the same place they would've it you threw them away. Even worse than my last statement... there is a very good chance that a few cans, bottles, and jars may also be thrown away with them because they became contaminated.

We know this recycling thing can be super complicated. There is no one ruling body and since everyone has slightly different equipment, end users, licenses, processes, and technology the lists of what is and is not recyclable varies (sometimes greatly). The only solid thing that we can build the foundation of recycling on is knowledge. You may not know what the next town over can accept but know what your local site does. Know what is allowed in your bin and most importantly what is not. Getting the material in the bin (although essential) is only the very first step. More material in the recycling bin does not necessarily mean more material recycled... unless you are following the bin labels and program guidelines.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

"What is that big mountain??"





If you are in the area and have happened to drive by our Hamburg, PA location I am sure that you have noticed our mountain of "glass". It's not just normal glass, it has been processed and is ready for use. We take great pride in using every possible item to its fullest recycling potential. An unfortunate side effect of transporting recyclables is broken glass (of mixed colors a.k.a. mixed cullet). Most producers who are in search of recycled glass need it to be segregated by color and cannot use mixed broken pieces. Since there was no "real" recycling options we have a large piece of equipment that acts like a giant stone tumbler. This equipment helps to remove plastic and other contaminants while getting it to a uniform size and tumbling it to remove sharp edges. While this material has obvious limitations (you won't be building your home with it) it also has a lot of areas that it excels at. The  material tested and approved (and in use) as a filtering agent in sand mound septic systems (in place of standard stone or sand). The material has done well in trenching, fill, and other drainage uses. 


    




Another use that we are proud to have an example of at our site is the final picture. Glass aggregate was used to create character in the building bricks (found on the outside of our logistics building). So, you may not have known what our mountain was all about... or even what it was but we'd love for you to stop by and pick some up... if you have a use for it. Have more questions? Give us a call 610.562.8336 x210 and ask about our glass aggregate! 




Thursday, May 12, 2016

This is worth saving

I  can't think of a more fitting way to motivate others to recycle than to highlight (with just a few pictures) the stunning beauty all around us. Sometimes (heck, most times) we forget to take it in; just like the most special people in our lives we sometimes take for granted. This is really worth saving, my children adore the outdoors and all that it entails we need to keep it beautiful for them (and all of your future generations). 











Thursday, March 17, 2016

Confusion

The recycling markets have been in the spotlight lately for being in a tough spot and that's good because they are. Fuel & oil prices as well as the state of foreign markets play a large role in the current state of recycling and material recovery facilities but the single largest obstacle that MRF's battle every day is contamination. The best part about this is that unlike fuel prices and foreign markets the people recycling have a direct hand in this and can change it.

I think for the most part, we are all pretty bright people who have come to understand that recycling is important for the future of our planet yet the results are still so ugly, why??


Recycling is confusing! It's not so much that the process itself is all that complex but there are just so many variables.

1. The numbers on the bottom of the bottles aren't always a true indicator of what the bottle is made of (at least completely).

There is no real "ruling body" that sets regulations or policies (to police who is placing what numbers on the bottom of each plastic container). Without rules, manufactures decide what they want to put on their bottle. They may have a  bottle made of 98.5% #1 (PET) with a remaining amount of "other" material(s) but they choose to place a #1 on the bottom of the bottle, creating recycling issues.


2. Just because there is a number on the bottom doesn't mean it can be recycled.

Recycling is amazing for our environment (and essential) but it is also a business and needs to make economic sense for the facility doing it. If there is no demand for the material by an end user it is likely that the collection site or materials recovery facility may opt not to accept that particular material because without an end user they may need to landfill the item or hold it until a user is discovered. Many times the commodity markets vary and something that was once in demand may become hard to sell - many recyclers will weather the storm and store the material until the markets return. If it takes too long for the market to recover, incoming material is too little (takes too long to gather a full load), or too large (huge amounts of material are received and storage space becomes exhausted) the facility may need to make the choice to stop accepting the item. Items that cannot be resold for recycling and can no longer be stored would need to be land filled which no true recyclers would want to do.

3. Different places can accept different things.

Many recycling facilities and collection sites look alike but can be quite different. Depending on the equipment they have installed some items may be easier or more difficult for them to process; some materials require special permits, specific recovery steps, and specialized equipment. Many businesses and residents alike think that even if the processor says they can't accept it that they'll throw it in the recycling bin anyway... "they're a recycling center they have better resources to recycle it then I do". The truth is that because so much material passes through the facility there just isn't adequate space to store every type of material indefinitely; if the material doesn't has potential to move consistently or doesn't make financial sense it will likely be cut from the accepted list.

4. Different places like to receive materials in different  ways. 

Caps on, caps off, rinsed, unrinsed, bottles flattened, cans crushed, glass broken, glass whole, paper in bags, paper bundled, and the list goes on and on. Equipment setup will greatly affect the way that a facility wishes to receive recycling based on how they can best process it. Some facilities prefer it in a opposite way of another which makes sense to their operation but confuses those who have read contradictory postings.

5. Just because it can be recycled doesn't mean it can be recycled everywhere.

It is so inspiring to see so many items that can now be reused and recycled. Items we never thought could be salvaged; cigarette butts, juice boxes, waxed cartons, batteries, e-waste; to just list a few. The issue is that although some items IN THE CORRECT PROCESS (that are specifically set up to accept and process special items) can be recycled does not mean they can be recycled universally. A standard materials recovery facility is not equipped to handle any of the above listed "special" items and their inclusion in your recycling will lead to land filling and could contaminate other "true" recyclable items.

6. New materials and copolymers create confusion

In response to plastic litter and waste concerns a soft drink company decided to address the issue by creating a plant based bottle (that was said to not only help reduce the amount of raw materials used to create it but also the ability to be biodegradable). The idea was great, in theory, but unfortunately the idea of recycling this item became extremely complex.  It was labeled like any other plastic soft drink bottle, with the same recycling number but it was clearly not made from the same materials. The attempt to do something good for the environment caused a recycling nightmare which could have been eliminated if they were properly labeled (differently than the standard bottles).


So, 6 reasons for confusion spotlighted but where does that leave us... confused?? The only way to understand what your local materials recovery facility or drop off center can take is to ask. They may refuse things that one a few blocks away does not but there is likely a reason. If you are concerned with a specific item that they will not accept inquire both with the MRF as well as looking online for other area locations that may be able to recycle it. It may be a pain and more work but it's our waste and our environment, it's up to us to be sure that it's properly recycled.

Are there areas of recycling confuse you that I didn't touch on? Feel free to comment and we can try to answer your questions.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Recycling Tip #2.5

No Plastic Grocery Bags... Please.

You know how your vacuum cleaner feels about the random shoelace or blouse string you may encounter? That about sums up how our single stream equipment feels about plastic grocery bags. PLEASE recycle your grocery bags! Please DO NOT place them in your standard recycling bin. While out shopping let your used bags ride along and drop them in the retailers bin (typically as you enter the store). Don't know where to find a collection center for bags?? Visit www.abagslife.com