Recycling: Greening Earth while Saving Green

Sep 17, 2013
Together, we have made a difference. By exercising “the Three R’s”, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, businesses and residents alike have shown flexibility to adjust to a green economy. Over the past few decades, manufacturing and production companies have felt pressure to use recyclable packaging for their products and they have successfully done so. We have also seen a tremendous increase in commercial, industrial and residential recycling in an attempt to reduce our carbon footprint as a society. In response to this demand for recycling, many material recovery facilities (MRFs) have invested in more sophisticated sort systems improving upon the ease and convenience of recycling which has led to record-high participation.

We all remember the days when we had to separate our fibrous material (cardboard and paper) from our comingled recyclables (glass, plastic and aluminum). Dual stream systems of years ago are rapidly being replaced at MRFs across the nation with state-of-the-art single stream recycling systems. This allows these facilities to accept greater tonnages and to sort at a far more rapid rate than ever before. To give an idea as to how much more, our local King of Prussia MRF, after investing $5.2 million in its single stream system, realized tonnage growth from approximately 65,000 tons using its dual stream process to more than 130,000 single stream tons last year. At 40 tons-per-hour, an increase of 22 tons-per-hour, it can bale approximately 370 bales of material per day. At a cost of between $40 and $50 per ton, not inclusive of the cost to run the facility, this is broken down as follows: 130 bales of cardboard, 100 bales of mixed paper, 104 bales of newspaper, 5-6 bales of aluminum, 16 bales of #1 and #2 plastics and 14 bales of #3-#7 plastics processed per day on average.

At the same time, the facility was able to consistently reduce its residual waste from 13 percent in 2008 to just 9 percent in 2012. This number is significant because municipalities receive 901 grants based upon the reported tonnage of clean recyclable material processed at the facility they use. Contaminated loads drive this residual number up so the key is for the contracted hauler to educate residents and businesses about its collection program based upon the limitations or restriction of the MRF it is using. Plastic bags, shrink wrap and Styrofoam, while recyclable in large volumes (such as for industrial accounts) are excluded from residential programs. Further, PA Act 108 mandates that all covered electronic devices be properly recycled and are therefore not collected with traditional recyclable items that will end up at a MRF. In addition to setting up household hazardous waste drop off and collection events, most counties have begun accepting electronic devices as well.

If you are like the rest of us, you may be wondering what more you can do to help the environment and recycle more. Start by surveying the packaging on the products you purchase and consider upsizing your recycling container. If you are using an 18-gallon bin, give yourself a 32-gallon can. If you already have grown into a 32-gallon can, consider a 96-gallon recycling cart and watch how quickly you fill it once you are not limited by its size. In doing so, many of our customers have been able to reduce their trash service from twice weekly to once per week, effectively reducing the cost of their program.

A green Earth is everyone’s job. For more information, contact your hauler and ask for details on their recycling program to make sure you are getting the most out of your program.

Suzanne Hansen is a Major Account Executive with Republic Services, a CAI member company specializing in trash removal and recycling. She can be reached via e-mail at:

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