Monday, August 31, 2015

The Recycling Industry

If you pay attention to the news I am sure that you have heard about the concerns associated with the current recycling markets. Company officials and representatives from a number of the large, nationally owned, waste management corporations have gone on the record stating that times are tough and profits are thin. If you are like me you may not have heard many of these interviews (they just don't play that type of news on Disney channel). I have a vested interest (as we all do) in the state of recycling markets so in this case I've actually made it a point to pay attention. There are lots of discussions of how the recycling markets got into the troubling state that they are presently in and although there is no single reason there is one huge contributor.

I've always hated the "I told you so" types so I'm going to tread lightly... okay, I may still sort of allude to "I told you so". If you scroll back in our historical posts you'll find us sharing our thoughts on the impending trend of single stream collection & processing (this goes a few years back). Being a company with a with a sole focus on recycling the highest quantity of the best possible quality material to be used as a future raw feedstock we value your recyclables.Others may look in the bin and see trash but we see the potential; the products they will become.

Thankfully it seems that the general public is educating themselves more and more and has come to understand that just because you are buying something with a recycled content doesn't mean that you have to give up quality. So many great companies are making wonderful products that are not only good for the consumer but also our environment. As the trend and demand grows companies try to incorporate green practices and eco raw materials more consistently. The downside to this is that at just about that time the single stream "trend" had become the standard. Nearly all curbside and municipal collection had decided that single stream was the easier, best choice for their community. Just as companies began to see the upside the working with a recycled feedstock the quality they started to receive dropped off. Once "trace" contaminants surfaced in higher percentages and new contaminants once unnoticed now clog screens and create production downtime. End users who had charted a path with goals of reaching higher recycled content needed to pull back the reins and slow down the percentage they could use without creating issues with their products. Many end users were left scratching their heads wondering what had changed.

In general recycling is a dirty business; glass bottles break, small amounts of liquid (even when "empty") will leak onto to paper, rain & inclement weather get bins and materials inside wet (and sometimes slimy).  With everyone's zest to recycle more some have decided to ignore the labels on the bins and just throw items in that they "know" can be recycled. They have watched the news or saw a face book feed that spoke of someone making a new product out of an item so they think that at a materials recovery facility they will know what to do with it (plus they don't have time to run to a separate collection site). The solution to some is to mix all the yucky stuff together to make it easier but we've found it just makes it a yuckier mix... for all those who have to try and sort it or reuse it. There may not be a straight path back to dual stream but at the very least we can  do our best to keep the materials that we are recycling clean and contaminate free. Following bin and recycling program instructions are instrumental to a successful program. Just because the items can be recycled doesn't mean the facility that you are taking it to is equipped to handle them. Please do your part and recycle, but do so with care!