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RE:[GreenYes] Why Dallas' recycling program is a $17 million joke
This story about Dallas is troubling to me in more than one way.  I think the reporter for the Dallas News really hurt his own credibility by quoting outlandish and unsupported statistics saying that it is common for 40-60% of what is collected curbside to be thrown away.  I know some single-stream collection programs and MRFs have problems, but I have never heard disposal figures anywhere near as high as these.  In Oregon, we have a comprehensive reporting system that tracks recyclables from collection through processing to the markets or export, and it is clear that almost all of what is being collected is ending up in our paper mills, glass plants, and other recycling facilities.  It helps that Oregon has a law requiring that material collected for recycling must be recycled, but even without this law we wouldn't be throwing away all that much collected recyclable material.  It just doesn't make economic sense to pay to dispose of that much material when you have already paid to collect it, and net processing costs (processing cost plus revenue from material sales) are less than disposal costs.  

The allegations of high disposal are attributed to "Angela Logomasini, director of risk and environmental policy at The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a non-profit Washington D.C.-based think tank critical of government mandated programs like recycling."  The Dallas program reports 5-7% residue rate from collected materials.  I don't know the type of collection program offered in Dallas.  If it is single-stream commingled, then the residue rate would probably be a little higher, but if they are keeping the glass separate from the paper then 5-7% residue is quite believable.

The damage to recycling's reputation by allegations of fraud in this one companies practices is troubling.  More damaging to recycling's reputation though would be if reporters like Charles Siderius convince the public of things that are not true - such as that most of the material we put out for recycling ends up being thrown away.

Peter Spendelow
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

Date: Tue, 21 May 2002 10:24:19 -0500
From: Philip Fredericks <>
Subject: [GreenYes] Why Dallas' recycling program is a $17 million joke

                    On January 4 at Community Waste
                    Disposal's recycling center off
                    Northwest Highway, driver Israel
                    Esparza pulled his truck onto the scales,
                    fresh from his route in the Walnut Hill
                    area with a load of bottles, cans and
                    newspapers retrieved from the city's
                    loyal recyclers. He used a keypad linked
                    to a computer and the scales to punch in
                    his truck number and route.

                    The computer spit out a ticket. It said his
                    load weighed 2,580 pounds. It also
                    showed the time, 5:32 p.m.

                    Two minutes later, at 5:34 p.m., Esparza
                    and his truck were back on the scales
                    with another load. This time, the
                    computer's scale ticket showed that his
                    truck contained 2,440 pounds of

                    That's pretty fast work for a city
                    contractor, or anyone else for that
                    matter. Not counting any curbside stops
                    for the second load, and being generous
                    with the roughly 10-mile round trip to
                    Walnut Hill, his truck would have had to
                    travel at 300 mph just to get to the border
                    of his route and back.


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