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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Single-Stream Recycling: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

On July 21 the U.S. EPA Sustainable Materials Management Web Academy presented the webinar, Single-Stream Recycling:  The Good, the Bad & the Ugly.  With the largest waste hauling companies embracing single-stream as their recycling option, the timing is impeccable to address the effectiveness of a system designed for ease of collection.

Three industry experts presented debate-style the pros and cons of single-stream recycling and offered tips on how to run an effective program.  Richard Gertman with Cascadia Consulting Group gave an excellent overview of the rationale in developing single-stream recycling system along with comparisons to duel stream.  

In his PPT presentation Best Practices in Single-Stream Recycling, which is available on the webinar page, Richard explains the importance of maintaining integrity in the recycling process and to not be misled by diversion rates.  Here are few on-target quotes from his PPT:
"Collection" is not the same as "Recycling."  There is no market for some collected items.
Recycling is making new products from recovered materials.
Glass:  Bottles are not the problem, broken glass is!  Glass is broken during processing
"It's Good Enough" is not good enough
It is inspiring to understand others are promoting the importance of Recycling Integrity.  See the ZWZ Blog post, Recycling Integrity @ IFSS, where Ei|ZWZ introduced the focus as integral to zero waste initiatives.

Richard's PPT is a wealth of information on recycling collection and processing and a recommended read for those ready to ensure integrity of their collected materials final destination.

Jennifer Grace of Strategic Materials PPT presentation Single-Stream Glass Contamination has some excellent photos of glass contamination as a result of single-stream collection and processing.  The final PPT presentation Comparison of Green House Gas Impacts by Jim Marcinko of Waste Management Recycle America seems to address the GHG impact from a linear viewpoint and does not address maintaining material value and the impact of contamination.

It is important for the corporate consumer to educate themselves on the integrity of their hauler's offered recycling program.  Consumer demand for collection systems that maximize material value and result in recycled products is essential to stop the mass implementation of single-stream recycling underway.

Kudos to the EPA for hosting the webinar!  Visit the SMM Web Academy page for the 2010 - 2011 Recycling and Solid Waste Management Educational Series.  Prior webinar PPT presentations are available and registration links for future webinars are on the page.


  1. Recycling is one of the finest ways for you to have a positive impact on the world in which we live. Because Recycling save our environment for the population and protect us for the disease.
    recycle cartridges

  2. @ jsjullia, thank you - you are so right!

  3. We are a PA recycler .. and we're sharing our opinion on single stream recycling and our reaction to the public opinion.

    1. Thank you Tiffany - I appreciate you sharing your opinion and appreciate the link to your well-documented stand on recycling. Please continue to comment on Zero Waste in ACTION Blog posts as we encourage dialogue with diverse opinions. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!