With the greatest respect for Helen and all dedicated producer
responsibility advocates … I have waited to respond to this to see what
sort of emails might surface from others. Unfortunately, not many…
Helen, I hear you, but I don’t see a 3-Bin World being
incompatible with an EPR World. If the industrial designers of the
world redesign everything to be either reusable, recyclable or compostable (our
goal, ya?), then we’ll still need a discard collection system from homes
and businesses. Any packaging or product that isn’t Zero Waste
compatible would then go into the Landfill Bin, sent through a Residue Process
that would then “identify” the villain and a big tax is slapped on
them. If you want to get glass bottles out of the recycling bin and
into the refillables box, then go for it!
As for the big stuff like e-scrap, appliances, etc etc …
then EPR is much easier there. That stuff doesn’t go in the 3-Bins
My question to you is that if you don’t like the “3-Bin
with EPR” World, and you don’t like what Germany has created …
then what do you like and has anyone done it yet? Please paint us a
picture of how your ideal community deals with discards …
GreenYes@no.address [mailto:GreenYes@no.address] On Behalf Of Helen
Sent: Monday, November 17, 2008 10:51 AM
To: greenyes greenyes
Subject: [GreenYes] Re: market downturn
With the greatest respect for Eric and all dedicated
recyclers, I have to insist that single-stream recycling is a snare and a
Eric, waste is not a technological problem, to be solved by optimizing MRF
speed. It is a social problem, arising from people's assumption that there are
simple, convenient solutions that will be almost as easy as wasting. I have to
insist that your "3-Bin Discard Collection World" is not my vision of
the future. Three bins is almost as great an oversimplification as One Bin. The
more we try to put in that recycling bin, the more it looks like a garbage can.
But the most dangerous thing about single-stream recycling is the way it protects
producers from responsibility. ARBoone writes:
I am not aware of any markets anywhere for
post-consumer mylar although I have seen rolls of pre-consumer mylar film trim
in plastics recycling plants. Mylar is 30% of my non-recyclable discards.
Here is what Germany's much-vaunted producer-responsibility program
for packaging looks like -- full of mylar headed for the incinerator. The
European "Green Dot" recycling system has become a waste-of-energy
system (they even had to amend the Packaging Directive for this) because
single-stream collection gives producers of non-recyclable packaging cover.
When I lived in Colorado for a year it broke my heart that I had no choice but
to dump 14 glass micro-brew beer bottles that George and I drained each week
into a big dumpster with a recycling symbol on the side. What a waste. I sure
miss the Boulder Flatirons in the sunrise... but I sure like living in a
place where I can get any domestic beer in a refillable bottle.
At 03:16 PM 11/14/2008, Eric Lombardi wrote:
Single stream is not the big
bad monster here folks. As Biddle said in his last email, there are
different qualities of single stream out there. The key is the technology
and how many tons an hour you run through it.
In the early history of SS, the markets did not enforce or reward quality, thus
the MRF's didn't get the pricing feedback that said "clean it up
stupid"... instead, the world has been buying everything at an increasing
price!!! Because the collection cost savings are real (and this is
the most expensive part of the ZW system), and because less trucking equals
less GHG, the technology for automated sorting of mixed recyclables just keeps
on getting better. And that is good, because hand sorting recyclables
is not a great job. So, we're at the point now that if you run the SS
technology really sloooowwwwllllyyyyy, then you can get a really good quality
sorting job done and the mills will love the quality of the stuff.
But if you run the system too slowly, then your throughput rate is too low, and
you won't make any money. Thus, the conflict over who is going to
make any money ... the MRF's or the Mills? Because I've been told by a
big name expert on paper mills (Bill Moore) that the new cleaning screens on the new mills in Asia are much much better
than ours here domestically and they CAN clean up the dirtier SS fibers they
are getting. Proof of that is the increasing price and demand for fiber
over the last five years while quality declined!!
I am not advocating dirtier recyclables, but I am saying that single stream
collections is a key piece of transforming our world into a 3-Bin Discard
Collection World, thus putting a stake through the heart of the 1-Bin Trash
World... and if we win this single battle of creating a "source separated
world", then we will also have killed the economics of landfilling
The real issue before us now is to understand why China was able to bring us
all to our knees like this? One reason is because we have let our
domestic recycling industry die, and the only way we will fix that is to create
bigger markets here at home for recovered resources. The way to do that
is called "national minimum content standards" for everything
manufactured or imported into the US. The NRC discussed this in
1994, but when the markets exploded in 1995 and suddenly the recycling business
was profitable... well ... we all just went to work. But NOW is the
time to bring this issue back... even if Chindia (China and India) are going to
keep buying everything we throw away, we should still be looking local and
using our discards ourselves.
Sent: Friday, November 14, 2008 3:40 PM
To: "greenyes greenyes" <email@example.com>
Subject: [GreenYes] Re: market downturn
Hi all ~
I share Amy's concerns. Here in Vancouver (CANADA) we are trying to head off a
shift to single-stream. See a recent
post to our Zero Waste Blog on the issue.
Zero Waste Vancouver
At 02:16 PM 11/14/2008, Amy Perlmutter wrote:
I just saw this in NRC"s
e-newsletter. I was surprised about the 2nd point under 'what to do.' I would
think that the quality of material from single
stream programs would make those materials harder to market at times like this.
Georgia Recycling Coalition Releases Advisory on Impact of
Commodity Values on Recycling Programs
Earlier this week NRC Affiliate, the Georgia Recycling Coalition (GRC), in
conjunction with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and several
industry representatives, released an informative advisory and analysis
summarizing the factors that influenced the recent drop in recycling commodity
values along with a set recommendations for "weathering the storm":
• Market prices for recycled commodities were at historic, unsustainable
highs - this market correction was expected but exacerbated by the world wide
credit crisis and global recession.
• The number of recycling programs in the country has grown, thus
increasing the overall supply of recovered materials.
• As the economy slows the manufacture and sale of new products has
slowed thus lowering the demand for paper products and other recyclable
• Asian markets may have over reacted to the Financial Market crisis by
ceasing paper and other recyclable commodity imports.
• When the Asian markets ceased imports, a significant "new"
sup ply of recyclable materials was available in the U.S.; however with a
sluggish economy demand for the existing supply of recyclables was already
• Demand for recyclables, although reduced in a sluggish economy, will
continue; however they will be more localized to the end markets using the
materials - transportation is a major factor impacting the market price of
recyclable commodities. (In the long run, this may make recycling more
sustainable by linking where materials are collected to the users)
• Lower oil prices have had an impact on recycled plastic commodity
prices but may ease the need for recyclable revenues needed to offset high fuel
prices for recyclable collection.
Impact to local governments - what to do..
• Don't over react! Just like the financial markets, now is not the
time to sell. Need to stay in the "market" for the long-haul. Markets
are cyclical - the cost to restart versus maintaining a recycling collection
program during a sluggish recyclable market is significant and should be
• Minimize collection costs. The collection and transportation of
recyclables are a major cost of recycling. Single-stream collection programs
will minimize collection costs and as market values drop, single stream
collection programs will continue to off-set time, labor, and cost intensive
manual source separated collection programs.
• Minimize processing costs. Identify stable; efficient recycling
processors. Automated, efficient processing recycling centers will be key in lowering
processing costs while still maintaining a degree of high quality of materials
for end markets.
• Some local companies may look at this as a feasible time to make
upgrades to facilities in order to streamline their operations toward higher
efficiency; this should be construed to be a positive move toward future
operations, although it may seem inconvenient for the short term
• Hold the course:
- Recyclables delivered to local end users support local business, jobs, and
- Recycling conserves water and energy, resulting in manufacturing savings thus
building stronger local economies;
- Recycling is a strong component of any livable/sustainable community index;
- The cost to process recyclables is typically less expensive than disposal
• Consider short-term collection contracts. If you are considering, or
have a long-term contract, include or add a provision to share in commodity
processing costs and/or revenues depending upon the market conditions;
understanding that recyclable collection is a service many residents want or
have come to expect in their community.
• Remember, commodity prices are subject to supply and demand. Market
prices have been at an all time high for the past few years, when making
decisions on program changes look at a three-year (3) average (at a minimum) of
market prices before conceding to renegotiate revenue sharing contracts or
modifying a recycling collection program.
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