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[GreenYes] Re: market downturn

Thank you for staying with this important conversation, Eric. I offer responses below:

At 10:31 AM 11/19/2008, Eric Lombardi wrote:
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. 

The challenge, Eric, is that it is unlikely that there will ever be a single "discard collection system" that is capable of dealing with "everything." Theere is so much diversity in "everything." Each thing has particular requirements in handling. The model of "discard collection from homes and businesses" was invented with a homogeneous stream in mind. It works better for homogeneous materials -- paper products, for instance -- but as soon as you start broadening the stream problems begin. The practicalities of managing this diverse stream in a "mass transit" system are unsurmountable. I remain convinced that we need a different model for recovering discards.

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!  

I'm with you here. How about if we develop a "checklist" of essential policy instruments for Zero Waste - things that a community that adopts a Zero Waste Resolution can do to measure progress towards Zero. The first thing on the list would be disposal bans and economic penalties for wasting recyclable products.

As for refillable glass, this option can't compete against publicly subsidized wasting programs (which in my opinion include recycling as well as landfill disposal: single-use glass has the highest environmental footprint of any beverage package.) We need to withdraw the subsidy for single-use glass by refusing to provide public collection programs. These should be subject to mandatory deposit/refund systems, and the producers who use one-way glass should be required to pay a Pigovian tax reflecting the environmental cost of this choice.

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 anyway.

The question will always be: what does go in the 3-Bins? How about empty lipstick tubes? Old running shoes? That electric blanket?
We have a huge job ahead of us chasing after all these pieces of the problem because they, collectively, add up to the Big Stuff. The limits of the 3-Bins looms sooner than we think.

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 ?

NOW you're getting down to brass tacks! You are absolutely correct to challenge me with this question, Eric. This is exactly the challenge that we are going to start working on here in Vancouver. I think we have the incinerator salesmen in the run here. In our candidate survey in the recent civic elections there was an overwhelming (95%) rejection of incineration - including by the new Mayor of this city and 9 out of 10 of the Councillors (the 10th didn't respond to the survey, but is an avid composter).

What we need to do for our elected officials and our citizens is create a "picture" of what we can do instead of building incinerators. I think the current economic collapse is going to create the perfect storm for testing out a lot of the new possibilities. Dan Knapp's "scavenger" model is closer, I think, than the current 3-Bin model. I'll chime in from time to time with thoughts and look forward to brainstorming with the list....

From: GreenYes@no.address [mailto:GreenYes@no.address] On Behalf Of Helen Spiegelman
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 delusion.

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. ARBoone

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 and burning. 

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.


From: "Helen Spiegelman" <hspie@no.address>
Sent: Friday, November 14, 2008 3:40 PM
To: "greenyes greenyes" <greenyes@no.address>
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.

Helen Spiegelman
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. Thoughts?

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 materials.
? 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 slowing.
? 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 considered carefully.

? 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 economies;
- 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; and
- The cost to process recyclables is typically less expensive than disposal costs.
? 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.

Amy Perlmutter
Perlmutter Associates
23 Avon Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Strategic planning, partnership building, communications, and program design for a sustainable future



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