We began with three panels designed to hear from each recycling
system sector about the Benefits of single stream and then
from each sector about the Challenges. Since people overwhelmingly
said they do not know much about manufacturing, our third panel
brought manufacturers together to give insights into their processes
These morning panels were intended to give the Roundtable
group a common foundation of information to build on in the afternoon
PANEL 1 - BENEFITS OF SINGLE STREAM
Moderator: Delyn Kies, Kies Strategies
Local Government - Lynn France, City of
Collector/Processor - Richard Abramowitz,
Recycle America/Waste Management
Manufacturer - Tamsin Ettefagh, Envision
Local Government - Lynn France,
City of Chula Vista (Powerpoint)
Lynn France, Conservation Coordinator for the City of Chula Vista,
CA, has many years of previous experience working for both a local
government processor and an independent collection company. Her
presentation highlighted how California's AB 939, which mandates
local governments to achieve a minimum of 50% diversion from landfills,
changed recovered materials' market signals. Prior to AB 939,
manufacturers could control the volume of material recycled through
pricing and quality requirements. Lower prices led to reduced
volumes, while higher prices increased volumes.
But once AB 939 and curbside collection programs were implemented,
volume was continuous, with no reference to price signals. The
resulting lower, and sometimes even negative, values undermined
processors' concern for the quality of materials delivered to
end-users (manufacturers) and the diminished revenues increased
the cost of curbside programs. That's why, she said, the solid
waste industry looked for ways to redesign and retool for greater
efficiencies in collection and processing.
In 2002, Chula Vista converted its source separation curbside
recycling program to single stream with automated collection.
It also changed to a variable rate structure. The collected commodities
remained the same as the previous program - paper, bottles, cans,
and plastics, with yardwaste collected separately in the resident's
own standard trash can or a special greenwaste cart.
Among the benefits are:
- Residents like not having to separate, bag and tie their materials.
They put more recyclable materials out, in part, Lynn believes,
because the considerably larger carts convey the message, "Hey,
the city really does want your recyclables!"
"You get what you telegraph you need," she says.
- Less litter on the streets on collection days
- More materials that previously had gone into the trash, stimulated
by the new rate structure
- 100% increase in recycling volume. (Interestingly, the amount
of trash remained the same. Lynn attributes that to the improving
economy, so people have more to discard now than before the
new program began.)
Chula Vista's single stream program has a 7% contamination rate
(trash, nonrecyclables) compared to a 2% contamination rate for
the previous source-separation program.
Lynn pointed out that converting to a single stream program requires
a major public education campaign, but this revitalizes recycling
participation and awareness. Also, in order to adequately process
the single stream materials, Edco, the MRF that Chula Vista delivers
to, needed to do considerable retooling of both its collection
and processing operations in order to maximize efficiencies and
minimize contamination of commodities.
Audience Question: Chula Vista made three changes at the
same time: 1) automated, 2) single stream, and 3) changed to unit
pricing. So why does Lynn attribute all the benefits to single
stream? Aren't many of them because of the automation?
Lynn answers that she thinks it's best to make this set of changes
all together, and to her it really isn't important to know what
percentage of benefits is tied to one or the other.
Collector/Processor - Richard
Abramowitz, Recycle America/Waste Management (Powerpoint)
"Diversion is King!" exclaimed Rich Abramowitz at the
start of his presentation. Should it be? This began a theme for
many discussions throughout the day.
Waste Management/Recycle America Alliance (RAA), California's
largest recycler of municipal solid waste, operates 24 recycling
facilities in the state, 11 of them single stream. It markets
half a million tons of materials from California each year, not
including glass, and has invested over $25 million in single stream
technology for California alone.
Historically, 25% of the residential materials stream has been
recycled while 75% has gone to disposal. RAA sees recycling trending
towards flipping those percentages, moving towards goals of recycling
75% of residential materials. It also sees that the formerly grade-specific
commercial recycling system is changing to one that is grade-indifferent,
with OCC, SWL and SOP mixed together for commercial single stream
RAA has seen these single stream changes result in:
- Higher participation rates
- Higher recovery rates (20-30% in California)
- Reduced unit costs (time per stop, trucks on street, processing
costs per ton)
- Reduced collection and MRF employee safety risks
- Reduced total recordable incidence rates (TRIR)
- Reduced employee turnover
- Reduced worker compensation rates
- Optimized fleet utility
- Increased recycling opportunities
- Improved aesthetics and convenience
- Making residential recycling economical and sustainable
- "Securing" and growing the residential fiber stream
MRF equipment, while expensive ($1-6 million), can increase processing
production to 30-40 tons per hour. Screening and optical equipment
has been improving auto-separation of materials. Improving MRF
operations makes sorting easier for line workers and creates flexibility
in meeting market changes.
But there are still challenges:
- Residue rates for single stream processing facilities run
6-8%, compared to a typical 2-stream MRF that runs about 4%
blended residue of fiber and containers. RAA can reduce their
single stream residue to 4% with no-sort glass and plastic technologies
that separate materials categories by optical sensors.
- Typically, about 50-60% of glass breaks in the curbside collection
process. The percentage generally increases to 60-90% with single
stream, depending on vehicle and compaction ratios. RAA is tackling
this problem through greater use of optical sorting and better
- Quality can be an issue on fully-automated collection routes.
RAA is improving quality through manual and semi-automated routes
and checking set-outs.
Rich quoted Pat DeRueda, RAA's new President who attended the
Roundtable, in pointing out one of the biggest challenges facing
recycling: "We've got to make sure that what's going into the
bales is meeting the specs of the mills."
Manufacturer - Tamsin Ettefagh,
Envision Plastics (Powerpoint)
Envision Plastics began in 2001 when it bought two plastics recycling
plants from FCR and Union Carbide, said Tamsin Ettefagh, Vice
President of Sales and Purchasing. Its second plant is located
in Chino, CA. The company has 60 employees and processes 4.5 million
pounds of HDPE plastics per month.
Envision grinds, washes, and sorts approximately 2,500,000 bottles
each day, then extrudes them into pellets. It then sorts close
to a million flakes per minute into 250,000 different colors,
which in turn are used to make bottles for familiar consumer products
such as Gain, All and Downy.
Tamsin gave a brief history of recycling collection trends, noting
that in 1997 there were four single stream recycling systems in
the U.S., while today there are 95. She saw as advantages of single
- Lower collection cost - as just one example, automation averages
pick-ups from 800-1000 homes per day, compared to 400-600 for
manual pick-ups with driver and helper
- Easier recycling for residents - wheeled containers have
over 5 times the room of bins and are easier to get to the curb,
lids keep materials dry and contained (Tamsin believes that
increased participation rates have more to do with the convenience
of the carts than with not having to sort)
- Increased recycling rates - when the East Valley District
of the City of Los Angeles went to single stream in 1998, net
recycling tonnage increased from 1900 tons per month to 4500
- Innovation in recycling equipment
- Increased tonnages for MRFs to process, which lowers unit
However, there are also weak points to single stream:
- Processing costs are higher because, with all commodities
mixed together, more labor is required to sort it; sorting systems
are much larger and require more MRF space; and initial sorting
equipment investments are high. An AF&PA study reports that
systemwide expenses increase $3/ton for paper collected in single
stream systems. While curbside collection costs average $15/ton
less than previous systems, processing averages $10/ton more
and manufacturing averages $8/ton more
- End products are more contaminated
- Inadequate public education and the wrong equipment in place
can result in millage loss increases (materials that were collected
for recycling but could not be used because of contamination
or being sent to the wrong type of mill) at the MRF and the
- Paper mills say that 39 million pounds of plastics were sent
to their mills because of poor sorting at single stream processors
- Glass cullet has increased wear and tear on paper mill equipment
- Mixed colors predominate in glass cullet from single stream,
which makes it harder to market
Nevertheless, Tamsin favors single stream for plastics recycling
because the #1 problem for plastics recyclers is lack of raw material
(specifically PET and HDPE bottles). Despite an increase in pounds
of plastic generated each year, recovery rates for plastic bottles
are declining. Yet 96% of plastic bottles are PET and HDPE.
Education and follow-up are key to a successful single stream