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Friday, July 15, 2011

The Recycling Integrity Journey

Zero waste is more than diversion of material from the dumpster or compactor; zero waste is about the integrity of the material's final destination.  Many factors influence a material's destination: contamination at the collection point, commodity market prices, availability of manufacturing plants using recycled raw material, to name a few.  To further complicate matters, each community is unique requiring recycling systems customized for local infrastructure and logistics.

In her July 12, 2011 article, Are Your Recyclables Really Being Recycled?, Alison Lara sums up community diversity nicely:  ... each community has its own constellation of processing plants within reasonable trucking distance from its MRF (Material Recovery Facility) that limits what can be recycled and how – upcycled, downcycled, repurposed or reused, which further complicates ....

A holographic approach is essential to creating effective recycling programs, taking into play the energy, whether labor, transportation, water or electricity, required to recycle material.  Zero Waste Zones Director Holly Elmore is quoted in the article addressing the energy component,
 “There’s a point at which finding a higher end use is more expensive, more energy-intensive depending on what equipment is in place and what manufacturers are there.   
Glass, for example, could be recycled into new glass, or downcycled into asphalt for construction.
If you don’t have a glass recycling plant for 1,000 miles around you, end uses might be perfect for you,  Each market is different…what’s your infrastructure, what’s available to you?”
Plastic Film Ready for
Recycling @ Hilex Poly Plant
Photo Credit:  Holly Elmore
Staying positive and enthusiastic is imperative to motivating communities and industries to implement comprehensive recycling programs. Alison ends the article with another Holly quote,Keep it positive, keep it inspirational,. It’s important to phase things in in baby steps.” 

Kudos to Alison for taking the time to understand the current recycling scenario and explaining there is no one answer to developing recycling systems with destination integrity.  It is an exploration and journey with pioneers enthusiastic to create effective recycling pathways.  

Stay tuned for adventures from the journey!

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