Friday, November 18, 2011

The future of Dual Stream Recycling??

The Cougle family has been involved in recycling since the 1940's. They have a bit of experience under their belt and have perfected the way recyclables are most efficiently processed. Since CRI is a recycling facility with no landfill affiliations the idea of increasing the residual or waste generated from collecting and processing recyclables is a scary proposition. The concept of decreasing the quality of the finished product coming out of the facility, for a company who has built a superior reputation for clean material is also met with disdain.

In a multitude of current news articles local communities and industries are switching to single stream recycling for three main reasons; to make it easier, increase participation, and save money. I’m pretty confident that I can disprove those statements or at least show how silly they are.

Easier: It is significantly easier to throw everything in one bin or heck we could even trash it. We recycle to keep material out of the landfill and to be environmentally responsible. The idea of throwing all recyclables in one bin sounds great unless you want to make a finished product out of one of the commodities in the bin. As the bins are jostled to the curb or during transit a small amount of the glass jars will be broken. Ever watch your recycling be dumped; maybe we could edit that and say a good amount of glass jars and bottles will be broken. Add in to the broken glass, plastic bottles, paper, aluminum & tin cans as well as moisture from the containers being washed out or not completely emptied out and you end up with plastic & cans wallpapered with glass sprinkled paper.

Increase Participation:  The news clips often speak of the increase in recycling rates at the curb but they typically do not further analyze and determine how much material actually ends up being reused or what finds its way to a landfill. Not only does less make it out of the materials recovery facility to be reused but processors have expressed time and time again that single stream material is much more difficult to work with. Users have had to decrease the amount of recycled content they use and increase the virgin feedstock due to the contamination.

Cost: Transportation costs tend to decrease when mixing all materials together but the rebates or value of the materials being mixed greatly declines. Materials that could once be quite valuable when mixed become worth very little or nothing. Prior to deciding if the cost is really cheaper you have to weigh all the possible rebates you could be missing out on if the material was kept clean and separate. If those numbers don’t show that you aren’t saving anything then you have to ask yourself what the value of the planet and your children’s future?

It’s unfortunate that despite logic the growing popularity is demanding single stream be the wave of the future. They had hoped it would pass but it’s hanging on and the popularity is growing. There is a point that you have to jump on the wave or you just get lost floating on your raft of righteousness. The good news is that technology is increasing and single stream sorting and separation systems are helping to create better quality products (still nowhere near what dual stream can do but I mean who’s comparing).  I hope there is a need to process dual stream materials in the future and that people learn just because it’s easier doesn’t mean its right. Well, that’s just my humble opinion please feel free to provide your own.

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