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Re: [greenyes] Trashed Recyclables and the Big Picture
Re: education, enforcement, residue and glass:

Education is fundamental to any recycling program but the enforcement
stick will only work in mandatory programs.  Voluntary programs must
rely on non-collection of recycling bins or other passive punitive
actions to convince program abusers to cooperate.  Even then, if get
frustrated over the number of missed collections due to their own
ignorance, they may choose not to particpate any longer which eliminates
any recycling potential for that citizen.

In most, if not all, fully automated recycling programs, the drivers do
not act as the inspector but instead sit ensconced in their truck,
which, as Gary Liss pointed out, retains the efficiencies of the
automated system.  To compensate for this lack of driver/operator front
end quality control, many fully automated recycling programs utilize
solid waste inspectors who perform routine, random inspections of
recycling carts in advance of the recycling truck.  When fully automated
recycling programs are put in place with this type of inspection system,
it represents yet another cost of the system - call it front-end quality
control.  So, the savings from fully automated efficiences are partially
offset by having to hire additional staff to perform quality control
inspections. 

On the operational side, the time required to inspect a recycling cart
is much longer than the time it takes a driver to empty one into the
truck so there is a constantly diminishing window of opportunity for the
inspectors to perform inspections before the truck completes the route. 
Some automated trucks can easily collect recyclable materials from
450-500 homes in 2-3 hours before having to leave the route to unload. 
It would take an inspector at least five times as long to inspect as
many carts.  Even if the inspectors get started far ahead (time-wise) of
the driver on the route, the window rapidly closes on them if they work
an 8 hour day.  Add the time needed for inspectors to leave
non-collection notices and make personal contact and they are hopelessly
outnumbered (unless they have a staff of inspectors that outnumber the
drivers).  The best that these types of inspection programs can do is
identify those areas of routes that have the most egregious violators
and focus on them with a 'three strkes you're out' system to finally
eliminate repeat and malicious offenders.  But, then, this is nothing
more than an admission that the educational component of the system
failed.

In Greensboro we developed a QC system to 'grade' the contents of a
recycling cart based on the amount and kind of contamination found by
the inspectors.  We defined two types of contamination: structural -
mostly caused by the improper preparation of acceptable materials or
materials that could easily be mistaken as being recyclable, and, gross
- caused by a complete lack of understanding of the program guidelines,
language barriers, mix ups in carts (brown or green), malicious and
willful contamination.  Using these definitions, we gave each cart that
was inspected a 'grade'.  The grades were for internal use only because
we didn't want to imply our citizens were 'in school'.  The purpose of
the grades was to allow us to perform some statistical analysis of the
quality control program over time by comparing grades within routes and
at specific addresses.  (You can imagine the kind of database we had to
maintain!)  Remedial education was targetted at those routes and
addresses that received lower grades.  One-on-one conversations
conducted by inspectors with the citizens were the single most effective
tool to positively affect contamination, both structural and gross.  We
also found that giving kudos to citizens that did a good job, kept their
grades at or above the initial grade they received.  Passive notices
left on the carts or on the doors had the least effect on changing
behavior in this kind of collection system.  Citizens figured out that
the inspectors couldn't always follow up the next week on notices that
were left the previous week.

Regardless of how much education is performed to instruct people on the
proper materials and preparation steps, there will always be honest
mistakes and occasional purposeful violations of the guidelines
resulting in contamination.  Unless the inspectors reach 100% of these
program abuses each and every time they occur, the need for quality
control at the MRF will remain.  And this brings up the residue issue.

There is another dimension to the residue issue,  regardless of the
reputation of the MRF operator.  Residue is usually measured by the MRF
operator and calculated as that fraction of total materials received
that are not sorted and sent to the landfill, regardless of whether they
are contaminants delivered by the collector or not.  That is, even
recyclable material that doesn't get properly sorted may by included in
residue.  Unless contractual penalties or incentives are put in place,
lousy market prices for commodities and high throughput demands on MRF
operators can pressure them to sort materials less thoroughly than they
might otherwise.

From the previous discussions about glass contamination and residue
resulting from mixed broken glass, I would still advoacate removing
glass from single-stream, fully automated recycling progarm.  This would
do three things.  It would eliminate the jurisdiction or collector of
paying for every ton of mixed broken glass that they delivered to the
MRF.  It would greatly reduce the amount, by weight, of residue coming
from the MRF.  And it would send a strong signal to the glass
manufacturers that glass risks being dropped from programs that are
attempting to become more efficient on the collection side.  Their
reaction to this would depend on how much they wish to retain their
'glass recycles' reputation.

>>> Gary Liss <gary@no.address> 04/16/03 01:31PM >>>
I wholeheartedly agree with Joan about the importance of BOTH education
and 
enforcement.

The use of non-collection notices should be a key tool to educate
residents 
over time about what is acceptable or not to include in recycling 
containers.  That's one of the reasons why I generally prefer 
semi-automated collection vehicles over automated.  With automated,
drivers 
generally will not see non-recyclables and just dump them in with the
rest, 
and will rarely get out of the truck and leave a non-collection notice,
as 
that would defeat the "efficiency" of the automation.  With
semi-automated 
collection, drivers are able to spot-check before dumping in the truck,
and 
leave non-recyclable materials behind with a non-collection notice
easily.

Gary Liss

At 12:01 PM 04/14/2003 -0400, Jerecycl@no.address wrote:
>While I agree completely with Gary Liss that there should be much
better
>municipal contractual guidelines for and oversight of MRF's utilized
to
>process commingled recyclables from single stream curbside programs,
these
>guidelines alone will not keep residue rates at 5%.  The reason is
"garbage
>in, garbage out".  When localities and/or haulers ignore the
importance of
>educating residents on what is/is not recyclable in any given program,
the
>price they pay is high residue and this residue cannot be controlled
by the
>MRF.  The City of Los Angeles is an excellent case in point.  They
have
>contracted with some highly respected recyclers who have excellent
marketing
>track records and have invested in state-of-the art equipment.  But
residue
>rates have remained at 20-22%  for years because City staff has not
>implemented effective education programs to correct this problem. 
Residents
>want to recycle but are not provided with a credible and consistent
>educational program detailing what materials should be placed into the
"blue
>bins".  As a result, residents place all sorts of items into the bins
in the
>mistaken impression that they are helping recycling.  Similarly, there
is no
>substantive program to correct deliberate misuse of recycling bins
through
>placement of refuse in these containers.
>
>Joan Edwards

Gary Liss
916-652-7850
Fax: 916-652-0485


 






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