Friday, October 16, 2009

Single Stream Recycling Comes to Broward

Broward County Recycling Manager and T2T friend Phil Bresee is featured in this Miami Herald article on Broward County's conversion to single stream recycling.

Phil notes that single stream will ``make it more convenient for customers,''. I'll note how lazy people are. The County even developed a video to show people how to bring their recyclables into one big happy place.

The reality is that this is a system driven by consumers and waste haulers. People were mixing their paper with cans and bottles anyway which made one of them useless if they got into the wrong bin on the truck. Haulers like it because they don't have to purchase recycling specific vehicles.

Participation and volume in recycling programs almost always goes up with the introduction of single stream recycling. How much is due to just conducting an education campaign will be determined in the future.

What often isn't reported is the drawbacks of single stream. Mixed recyclables have to be unmixed. Thus, the cost to separate the material at the recycling facility costs more. Check out Waste Management's video on the process. Also, the value of the material is less. There is more likelihood that your beer bottle will get crushed, caught up in some paper, and then shipped to the recycled content toilet paper manufacturer.

That means the toilet paper company is willing to pay less for that material and in recessionary times might not even buy from single stream facilities. This also results in more of the material being unmarketable than through other processes and thus is sent to a landfill.

This results in less dollars back to your community for the material collected. It should be noted that Broward County has done a great job of negotiating a fair price per ton for recyclables delivered. It is such a good price it won't be surprising when Waste Management tries to change the terms of the agreement if the recession continues for any length of time.

Two of the largest unserved markets for recycling should gain the most with the conversion to single stream recycling-multifamily and commercial.

Apartments and condos have less space than single family homes which leaves less storage space. Less sorting will make them more likely to participate. Now is the time for Broward cities to take action to start or reinvigorate their multifamily recycling programs.

The paper laden commercial sector could virtually eliminate their garbage by combining containers with paper. Since Florida does not allow for the franchising of commercial recycling, the private sector could rush in and provide this service but the County's agreement with Waste Management is just for residential.

It would not make sense to lose business to competitors by allowing them to use the Waste Management recycling facility so it is up to Waste Management to lead the way. Will they?

There is no evidence that this is in their strategic plan. There is money to be made either way so why rock the boat. The demand is not there in part because of bad service in the past from a variety of vendors. So the result is that businesses will continue to be underserved until the market demands it and the private sector responds.

No comments:

Post a Comment