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Re: [GreenYes] RE:the automated MRF ahead...

I have been involved with MRF's (designing and running)
for over 15 years, and I have "visions" at night....
I am a big fan of automating MRF's in the USA, and
I am a fan of the wet/dry two sort future.

First, let me say that the "single stream" one-can trash
system is the source of the cultural problem on why we
view garbage as waste vs resource.  Thus, I don't see the
"mixed MSW composting plants" as having any future.
Add to that the dismal operating experience of these plants
in the 1990's.  They are, in my opinion, a scam to present to
society the "appearance" of being environmentally responsible,
while allowing industry and government to stay on the path of
traditional single-vendor waste management systems that in the end
only marginally increase landfill diversion rates.  The truth is that
the "compost" they pretend to create is so bad that it ends up
in the landfill as "landfill cover".  But, this email isn't about
MSW composting ... I want to respond to my visions of an
automated MRF.

From what I have seen over time, and what I see happening
as recently as two months ago, here's what I see in the future:
A "dry" stream of discards going over a hand-picking line to grab
the "oversize" and "strange" items that could jam or hurt the machinery. organics are in here...and if the "dry" stream
seems too radical for you, then substiture "single stream recyclables".

Next, the material goes over a "star screen" which automatically
separates the large cardboard from everything else.  These machines
are well known and used lots of places (we have one).

Next, the material hits an automated system that separates the
"rounds from the flats" or "2-dimensional from the 3-dimensional".
These systems already exist today under various names, and they
are not extremely expensive while performing at about a 90-95%
efficiency level of separating bottles from papers.

Next, the paper moves into an automated optical sorter that separates
the "brown" grades from the "white" grades of fiber.  This system now
exists through a company named AST which is a joint venture of
Weyerhaeuser and MSS (Tennessee).  I have seen the system work
very well on mixed office paper, and just recently a new line was
opened in Sweden that is sorting a curbside mix of all papers at a
rate of 15 tons per hour with no sorters!  The video of this system was
shown on the floor of the NRC Seattle conference, and I have been
in personal communications with the facility manager.  It sounds like
it is working and will pay itself off within five years...that is real progress!
There are stable markets for both white and brown fibers, but not if
they are mixed together.

Next, the "3-dimensional" items (cans, bottles, tennis shoes, etc) go
into automated systems that are widely used already (I have one in
Boulder) and use magnets, air knives, eddy currents, shaker screens,
optical sorters for glass and plastics, etc etc ... these systems exist,
are a little pricey (but not compared to a landfill or burner!) but have
a proven track record.  There would still be a few hand sorters in this
system to grab the tennis shoes and other potentially useful things before
they went into the trash compactor.

So, now we have taken care of the "dry" side, and if your "wet" side
is handled correctly, a quality compost product is made ... and in the
end only about 5-10% "residues" get sent to a landfill.  But, before
anything is allowed into the ground, it will be processed in a surface
system that stabilizes the organics and removes, as best as possible,
the toxics.

Call me a nut, but I think the technology to fulfill this vision is here today,
and that the real challenges are with the politics of making such a huge
change away from the national policy of using landfills.  I think we'll see
faster progress in those parts of the world that are just entering the
consumer society and don't have landfills yet (just a dump on the edge
of town).  Those countries can "leapfrog" the USA by investing their
first dollars in the "correct" and modern diversion systems, which are
utimately less expensive and more beneficial to society (more jobs and
less pollution) than either landfills or incinerators.  I think the only thing
that would retard this development would be the allure of buying a
"modern" landfill for millions of dollars, and the opportunities for corruption
that such a system creates.  I've been around the world and seen this
dynamic in action ... only grassroots open-society activities can solve that

Anyway, I look forward to reactions (positive or negative) to this vision.

Eric Lombardi
Executive Director
Boulder, CO

Doug Koplow wrote:

> If you ignore his sarcasm on the idea of tolls as sacraments (though cruising by a long toll line with an automatic toll transponder could be close...), Tierney does raise one point worth further discussion.  I think it is probably true that increased automation in materials separation could make a huge difference in the economics of materials recovery.  Does anybody on this list have insights as to the progress (or lack of progress) in increased and expanded automated sorting?  What are the current technical capabilities of the so-called "dirty MRFs" that take commingled trash and recover recyclable materials from the waste stream?  What are the major technical constraints towards breakthroughs in recovery of recyclables from normal MSW streams?
> _______________________________
> Doug Koplow
> Earth Track, Inc.
> 2067 Massachusetts Avenue - 4th Floor
> Cambridge, MA  02140
> Tel:  617/661-4700
> Fax: 617/354-0463
> E-mail:
> >>> "Steen, Terri - Contractor" <> 02/20/02 09:17AM >>>
> Ah, John "recycling is garbage" Tierney strikes again!  I believe in freedom
> of the press, but this guy.... Can't somebody educate him, or muzzle him, or
> discredit him?? Something??!!
>  -----Original Message-----
> From:   Reindl, John []
> Sent:   Monday, February 18, 2002 9:49 AM
> To:     BBAN; ''
> Subject:        [GreenYes] RE: [BBAN]: Recycling article in today's New York
> Times
> Given the subsidies to virgin materials, as well as un-internalized costs of
> landfills (a European estimate in December 2000 put this cost at about $16 a
> ton for new landfills, largely due to methane emissions), any evaluation of
> the economics of recycling vis--vis landfilling seems spurious to me.
> John Reindl, Recycling Manager
> Dane County, WI
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: David Markert []
> > Sent: Friday, February 15, 2002 5:00 PM
> > To: BBAN
> > Subject: [BBAN]: Recycling article in today's New York Times
> >
> >
> > Article below excerpted from today's New York Times.  I
> > especially like the
> > part about using the recycling budget to urge New Yorkers to
> > pick up litter
> > instead of for recycling.  Hah!  Does this guy even live in
> > New York?  That
> > strategy doesn't work anywhere else in this country, and it DEFINITELY
> > wouldn't work in New York.
> >
> > ******************************
> >
> > February 15, 2002
> > Rethinking the Rites of Recycling
> > Environmentalists may not like Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's
> > proposal to
> > suspend the recycling of cans and bottles. But it could be
> > their best chance
> > to save their reputations and do some good for the environment.
> >
> > The recycling program was sold to New Yorkers nearly a decade
> > ago with the
> > promise that it would save money. It did not. If New York had instead
> > shipped all those recyclables to out-of-state landfills, the
> > city would have
> > saved more than half a billion dollars, and that figure
> > doesn't even include
> > the biggest costs, which are the labor and storage space that
> > citizens are
> > forced to donate to the cause.
> >
> > Recycling newspapers makes a certain amount of sense, because
> > used newsprint
> > often has economic value and people often have special bins for their
> > newspapers anyway. But why clutter the city with bins for
> > stuff that's less
> > than worthless? The city pays extra to collect and dispose of
> > the bottles
> > and cans, and then 40 percent of the stuff ends up in
> > landfills anyway.
> >
> > Could this sort of recycling ever pay for itself, as
> > environmentalists are
> > still promising? Maybe, but only if its devotees abandon
> > their passion for
> > hand-sorted trash and their belief that we're running out of natural
> > resources. They've expected recycling to become profitable as
> > raw materials
> > become more expensive, but they're on the wrong side of two historical
> > trends. For thousands of years, the costs of natural
> > resources have been
> > falling in relation to the cost of labor.
> >
> > Recycling might someday pay if the sorting were done not by
> > hand but by
> > machines. Miners and oil drillers have used computerized technology to
> > extract small concentrations of materials that would once have been
> > unprofitable. Maybe robots will one day profitably sift
> > garbage for minerals
> > and plastics.
> >
> > But many environmentalists don't like this vision. In some
> > cities, they've
> > fought plans to use automated sorting equipment because they
> > wanted people
> > to have the hands-on experience. Here in New York, one of the
> > most expensive
> > labor forces on the planet is being forced to sort materials
> > that third
> > world peasants wouldn't waste their time saving.
> >
> > Recycling has become a sacrament of atonement for buying too
> > much stuff -
> > for secretly loving stuff too much, as James B. Twitchell
> > explains in "Lead
> > Us Into Temptation," a study of consumer passions. "While we
> > claim to be
> > wedded to responsible consumption," he writes, "we spend a
> > lot of our time
> > philandering. Trash is lipstick on the collar, the telltale
> > blond hair."
> > Recycling is our way of saying, "I'm sorry, honey."
> >
> > Sinners have every right to repent, but in this country
> > religious sacraments
> > are not supposed to be legally mandated or publicly
> > subsidized. Recycling
> > bottles and cans next year would cost taxpayers more than $50
> > million. Why
> > don't its devotees find another ritual of atonement that
> > might help the
> > environment and save the city money?
> >
> >
> > SUPPOSE that all the time and money spent exhorting children
> > and adults to
> > recycle were spent instead urging each New Yorker to pick up
> > one piece of
> > litter each day. Millions of pieces of trash would disappear;
> > street-cleaning bills would plummet.
> >
> > Perhaps guilty consumers could get used to paying for their
> > sins with cash.
> > Environmentalists could urge the end of free trash
> > collection. If people had
> > to pay for each can of trash they produced, they'd find ways to reduce
> > waste, and the city budget would benefit.
> >
> > Or suppose environmentalists channeled their zeal for
> > recycling into another
> > political cause: putting tolls on the East River bridges.
> > These tolls would
> > have economic virtues (more on that in another column), while
> > also reducing
> > air pollution and fuel consumption by easing traffic congestion. The
> > recycling program, by contrast, increases local air pollution and fuel
> > consumption by putting extra trucks on the roads to collect
> > bottles and
> > cans.
> >
> > Could the act of paying a toll be turned into a sacrament?
> > Could children
> > and adults be trained to regard the toll as penance for the
> > extravagance of
> > owning a gas- guzzling, polluting machine?
> >
> > Some recycling devotees might not be satisfied. Paying a toll
> > on the East
> > River bridges might seem too simple, too antiseptic, too easy
> > by comparison
> > with the mortification of sorting garbage. For these
> > ascetics, maybe the
> > best ritual would be for them to get out of their cars
> > altogether and walk
> > across the bridges, possibly on their knees. For extra penance, these
> > pilgrims could carry sacks filled with old bottles and cans.
> >
> > ******************************
> >
> > David Markert
> > Container Recycling Institute
> > 1911 N. Fort Myer Drive, Suite 702
> > Arlington, VA   22209
> > Tel:  703-276-9800
> > Fax:  703-276-9587
> > E-mail:
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > bb-action-ntwk mailing list
> >
> >
> > To unsubscribe, email with
> > your request.
> >
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