single stream recycling and the new economy

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Susan Hubbard

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Nov 20, 2008, 3:38:19 PM11/20/08
to GreenYes group, GreenYes digest subscribers
With the greatest respect for Eric and Helen and all our recycling friends,

Many producer responsibility advocates are recyclers so they may be busy
trying to keep their recycling programs going in this dire economy. I know
we are so it took us a bit to respond to this dialogue. We'd appreciate all
your best thoughts for the future of recycling not just for us but for all
the recyclers like us who are struggling right now.

We have both served on NRC's board and don't know much about it now. We do
know that NRC's board is loaded with single stream recyclers who continue
to say that single stream is less expensive and this is a good time to go
that way. We also know that every city in Minnesota that has gone to
single stream has experienced higher rates. It is complete bogus. If it is
cheaper then there is no savings passed on.

Luckily we didn't go single stream and we can still move our materials in
this market. We have gotten calls from other recyclers like ourselves in
our area but that they have gone to single stream and are asking for our
help as they are unable to even move the materials - let alone get paid. So
is this proof that the feedback loop from the mill is working? No.

This is the proof that what is theoretically possible and what is actually
happening in single stream are eons apart. The largest recycler in the
country is single stream and they have sway to land contracts with mills
that include floor pricing. Their "quality" of materials sets the national
price we all get for our recyclables. They continue to move their single
stream materials. This is the real world of single stream recycling. The
feedback loop only works with the small recyclers who are trying to compete
with the giants by going to single stream - they get the feedback for poor
quality at the mills. That was fine when the demand was high but not so much
now as they are currently shut off.

We aren't experts here - we have been recycling for a couple decades and we
talk with our mills. Ironically the mills in our country are older and can't
handle the dirtier paper so how do we support local mills - how do we keep
paper and other raw materials in our country? For now we keep it super
clean - not single stream. All of our material stays in North America. Our
residual rate at our MRF is less than 1% and that includes glass bottle
recycling into glass bottles not sand blasting medium or landfill cover. We
educate our customers - our drivers leave what isn't recycled in the bin.
They can see because it isn't in a big closed cart and our two stream
materials are handled with respect in our trucks and at our facility. Not
compacted to smithereens to "save money." Maybe this sounds arrogant but the
idea at Eureka Recycling was to demonstrate that it could be done...waste
could be prevented - environmentally sound, socially compassionate and
economically solid.

Ideally..... our community deals with discards by buying less and in bulk or
refillables. Then we purchase what is really recyclable not just swept off
the curb and discarded later. We compost their food scraps at home as much
as possible and then only what must be is actually driven off to a
commercial composting facility. We use the compost we create in their garden
or give it to our neighbor. The commercial compost goes to local farms. We
buy products from producers that understand their responsibility for their
manufactured goods. We support restaurants and businesses that do the same.
We stop justifying short term fixes like dirty single stream and demand
change - real change and we know that our vote - I meanour individual action
actually does count.

National minimum content standards are important so are partnerships. We are
always looking for good partners.


Susan Hubbard & Tim Brownell
Eureka Recycling
2828 Kennedy ST. NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413

651.222.7678

Waste is Preventable Not Inevitable



Justin Stockdale

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Nov 20, 2008, 7:38:33 PM11/20/08
to Susan Hubbard, GreenYes
I too have been watching this debate with great interest. Having spent
the better part of the last fifteen years in the dumpster I am convinced
that all recycling efforts offer little more than incentives to wasting.
We, as recyclers, give up our lives finding ways to excuse, or at best
accommodate, our community's consumptive behaviors. We are a reactive
industry, cleaning up the messes left behind by consumerism.
Single stream is just the most recent pandering to the whims of the
consumer...its more convenient for the customer and therefore must be
the preferred collection mechanism. Proponents talk about fewer job
related injuries (at the truck), collection efficiencies afforded by
automated trucks, increased tonnage based on convenience etc. The big
players in this industry, as Susan points out, are free from the
challenges presented by contamination and accept 30% (and higher)
residue rates as the norm. For these firms, single stream is cheaper,
clearly, or they would not promote it so vigorously. These are also the
firms who rely on export markets, where contamination is even less
important. My guess is these markets will be the last to rebound and
those that rely on them will be the hardest hit. I also foresee that
these market conditions will reignite the industry standard that
recycling is a financial loser and their existing efforts will begin to
contract or their fees will increase to cover the gap. Somebody has to
pay for the corporate jet, and if not the Asian markets, then Joe the
Plumber. The implications of the down market are not limited to the
little guys immediate financial woes, but will extend into the
"heartland" as the corporates shutter programs.
EPR is at least a preemptive tool to manage society's discards, but it
too ignores the root of the problem. Until we address the "regulatory"
subsidies to wasting, and deal with the reality that landfills are cheap
(even at $150/ton) relative to the permanent environmental damage they
cause let alone their potential to be every community's own Love Canal.
RCRA is our worst enemy. 30 year post closure care? Liner systems a few
millimeters thicker than a penny? HHW exemptions? These are not only
insults to the planet, they are direct subsidies for disposal. And as
long as waste is cheap and easy, it will be the preferred management
method for our discards.
While I admit to being less than optimistic, we all need to get past
picking up the mess and get on with preventing the mess in the first
place. Two bin, three bin, single stream, landfills, incinerators,
gasification are all vehicles for dealing with the symptoms of the
irresponsible behaviors of citizens, corporations and the global
population.
Lets all hope for a global depression, that'll stop waste in its tracks.
justin
knowaste.vcf

Alan Muller

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Nov 20, 2008, 8:34:10 PM11/20/08
to Susan Hubbard, GreenYes group, GreenYes digest subscribers
Our old friends the Delaware Solid Waste Authority have converted to
single stream--effectively converting the state to single stream. I
haven't looked into it enough to be able to prove it, but have a
strong feeling that a big motivation for them is to be able to divert
to their dumps. That is, with already-separated stuff, they don't
have much excuse for dumping it, and are in danger of people calling
them out on it. Whereas, with a single commingled stream and them
controlling the separation processes, who is going to watch them
carefully enough.....? One might say, are they going to charge
themselves the tipping fee.....? No, but they reported a couple of
years ago that their real internal cost of dumping was on the order
of $12/ton. At the least, they don't have much motivation to find
and keep markets.

am

Helen Spiegelman

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Nov 20, 2008, 8:28:07 PM11/20/08
to Alan Muller, Susan Hubbard, GreenYes group, GreenYes digest subscribers
This is a serious concern with publicly-owned disposal facilities, as we have here. When the tipping fee is way higher than the actual cost (here it's $68 versus $20) there is a powerful incentive to maintain good flows across the landfill scale.

And make no mistake about the link between single-stream and WTE: the incentive is all the more powerful if you can claim to be making "energy from waste."

H.

Susan Kramer

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Nov 26, 2008, 1:31:06 AM11/26/08
to Susan Hubbard, GreenYes group, GreenYes digest subscribers
Just heard that there is a problem with getting cardboard shipped from
recyclers to mills.
Have been out of town, not sure if this is something local or if this is a
widespread problem with recycling centers?
Susan Kramer
Pinedale, Wyoming

Ken McEntee - The Write Company

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Nov 26, 2008, 12:12:55 PM11/26/08
to GreenYes
Justin. I assume you were joking when you wrote:
"Lets all hope for a global depression, that'll stop waste in its tracks."


Justin Stockdale wrote:
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The Write Company
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Helen Spiegelman

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Nov 26, 2008, 1:57:20 PM11/26/08
to GreenYes
Justin wrote:
<
we all need to get past 
picking up the mess and get on with preventing the mess in the first 
place. Two bin, three bin, single stream, landfills, incinerators, 
gasification are all vehicles for dealing with the symptoms of the 
irresponsible behaviors of citizens, corporations and the global 
population. Lets all hope for a global depression, that'll stop waste in
its tracks.>


You'll find the same message from David Korten, "Beyond the Bailout," YES Magazine
http://yesmagazine.org/article.asp?id=3139


"... On the positive side, the financial crisis has put to rest the myths that our economic institutions are sound and that markets work best when deregulated. It creates an opportune moment for deep change...."

Helen.
6191a65.jpgThe Write Company

Division of McEntee Media Corp.
· Public Relations
· Professional Writing
· Newsletter Production
9815 Hazelwood Avenue
Strongsville, OH 44149
P. 440.238.6603
F. 440.238.6712
E. k...@thewriteco.com
W. www.thewriteco.com

Visit McEntee Media Corp.,
publisher of
RecyclingSTUFF.com
Composting News
The Paper Stock Report
Recycled Paper News
Paper Recycling ONLINE
Waste Reduction Tips
at www.recycle.cc
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