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 and issues.
These morning panels were intended to give the Roundtable
group a common foundation of information to build on in the afternoon
PANEL 2 - CHALLENGES PRESENTED BY SINGLE STREAM
Moderator: Richard Gertman, Environmental Planning
Local Government - Peter Slote,
City of Oakland (PDF)
In 2005, Oakland switched its 95,000 single-family households
from 2-bin recycling to one-cart single stream recycling, and
later this year will introduce single stream to 55,000 multi-family
units. The selection of single stream happened in the context
of a number of necessary changes to the residential program, including:
the addition of food scraps to yard trimmings collection, the
change to weekly yard trimmings collection from bi-weekly, and
fleet reconfiguration. Many jurisdictions' decisions to single
stream or not to single stream are similarly intertwined with
other program issues.
The possible downsides of single stream for local governments
depend on the particular program configuration. For example, if
a jurisdiction collects and processes its own material it would
be exposed to product quality claims and the potentially restricted
markets that single stream materials can be sold into. Likewise
if a jurisdiction uses a contracted hauler/processor and has a
risk- and-or reward-sharing arrangement with the contractors,
then the jurisdiction would be similarly exposed to product quality
problems and potentially limited markets.
If Oakland processed its own materials in a municipal processing
plant, the classic arguments for ensuring high quality product
- greater assurance of access to markets during difficult times,
and greater flexibility to ship to different markets - would have
changed the political calculus of the choice of single stream.
Peter believes that single stream's impact on product quality
(the amount of glass in a bale of paper, for example) is affected
less by contamination of non-program materials by residents, than
by cross contamination of acceptable program materials during
single stream processing. While a local jurisdiction can have
an effect on contamination at the curb through education and contract
management, it has less influence on the processing side when
its tons flow into large, regional single stream facilities that
process tons from multiple jurisdictions.
In the larger picture, single stream supports the off-shoring
of value-added manufacturing. An argument could be made that industrial
practices such as single stream recycling support the trade deficit.
If residential recycling were treated as an industrial practice,
local governments would recognize single stream's impact on local
and regional domestic manufacturing infrastructure, jobs and tax
revenues. But single stream is so appealing that local governments
are disconnected from some of the larger potential outcomes of
Audience Question: How can you tell how much residue is
Peter replies that you can't determine that for sure when you
share a processor with several other jurisdictions. You have to
accept the joint residue rate.
Local Government/Processor -
Donna Perala, City of San Jose (Powerpoint)
San Jose, the 11th largest city in the U.S. with nearly one million
residents, has been nationally recognized in the past for its
high-quality, multi-sort recycling program. Its transition to
single stream on July 1, 2002 was challenging, but yields a number
of valuable lessons.
With the new program, the city was unequally divided between
two different collection companies - one providing service to
75% of the single family homes, and the other serving the remaining
25% plus all the multi-family units in the city. Each of the contractors
also operates with significantly different business models.
San Jose was proud of the many collection categories it had been
able to introduce in its previous program and did not want to
remove any of them for single stream collection. So, in addition
to the common single stream categories of glass, paper, plastics
and metals, San Jose residents also recycle plastic bags, aseptic
packaging and textiles. These additional items present their own
challenges in single stream collection.
After a difficult start-up the first year - including a nearly
five-fold increase in its residue rate (hitting an average of
30%) and an actual decrease in diversion - San Jose is now able
to say its program is on its way to meeting its performance standards.
The city has seen single-family recycling tonnages increase by
25%, and diversion by 11.5%, above that which was achieved under
the prior source-separated system. San Jose's residential diversion
rate is now at an all-time high of 49.5%.
Donna reported on some things San Jose has learned in its transition
to single stream:
- The Pay As You Throw system can encourage some residents to
put extra garbage in their recycling carts in order to avoid
additional garbage fees.
- Large recycling carts may provide contamination opportunities
when drivers cannot see the materials as they could with open,
- The trade-off for collection efficiencies and convenience
is higher contamination and a greater need to sort materials
effectively at the MRF.
- San Jose's commitment to highest-and-best-use goals with regard
to paper have been compromised, and some paper shipments have
- With single stream, outreach to targeted audiences is more
critical than ever in order to educate residents about what
goes in each cart.
- The collection and processing companies' business models can
present some significant challenges as well as opportunities.
By comparing the impact of the different business models of San
Jose's two service providers, Donna showed the critical difference
that business configurations and contract options can make in
achieving a program's goals.
Business Model #1, in which the collection contractor
owns and operates its own MRF, motivates the contractor to maximize
diversion in return for potential contract extensions, bonus payments,
reduced disposal costs, and avoidance of solid waste fees. In
FY 2003-04, this contractor diverted 41.6%, with 7.6% residue,
installed new sorting equipment, started a garbage composting
pilot program, and paid to recycle difficult materials.
Business Model #2, in which the collection contractor
subcontracts out the processing of recyclables, provides minimal
incentive to maximize diversion because the subcontractor has
no direct relationship to the City and is not involved in many
contract issues. Any bonuses go to the hauler, not the processor.
Conversely, the hauler, not the processor, pays for disposal of
residuals. This has resulted in minimal incentive for the processor
to maximize material recovery, invest in new processing technology
or to innovate, resulting in 31.6% diversion and 17.3% average
residue in FY 2003-04.
In order to inform residents about using the new programs, San
Jose has spent over $2 million on single stream transition outreach
and another $350,000 per year on on-going outreach, including
going door-to-door to 2000 households in targeted areas last year.
Haulers are also issuing non-collection notices to households
not meeting standards for clean recyclables.
Donna cautions that contract incentives can help make single
stream effective, but cities should work closely with their contractors
in establishing the terms of any subcontracts. In particular,
make sure appropriate incentives are in place and that procedures
have been established to maintain control of the materials stream.
And yet . . . despite their difficulties, San Jose still believes
that single stream is worth the trade-offs because of reduced
labor costs, fewer worker injuries, increased participation and
diversion, and increased tonnages of recyclables. They believe
that updated technology and ongoing education will help address
material quality issues.
Manufacturer - Jay Simmons, Norpac/Weyerhaeuser,
NORPAC is a joint venture between Weyerhaeuser and Nippon Paper
that produces over 2000 metric tons of newsprint per day on three
world-class paper machines. It began deinking #8 ONP (old newspapers)
in 1991 and currently consumes over 250,000 tons per year, including
from California. Jay is the Deink Process Engineer.
Because NORPAC's customers are intensely focused on quality,
the mill has had to implement one of the most intensive raw materials
sampling and testing programs in North America. Samples of approximately
300 pounds each are sorted for Outthrows (fiber-based contaminants,
e.g. the wrong type of fiber delivered to the mill, such as OCC
at a newsprint mill) and Prohibitives (non-fiber contaminants
such as plastics, glass, metals).
As more suppliers have shifted to co-mingled collection and processing
systems, the overall quality of NORPAC's ONP has declined significantly,
with Outthrows that had been at no more than .5% now increasing
to nearly 6% and Prohibitives going from zero to 1.3%.
Comparing different suppliers shows even more dramatic impacts.
The Outthrows in one supplier's bales jumped to over 21% when
it switched to co-mingled processing and its Prohibitives added
another 3.5% even though it kept glass separate. This means that
the mill was having to landfill nearly one-fifth of the recyclable
materials it had bought to make its products and then buy replacement
fiber as well.
Glass at first appeared to be a very small .2% but Jay made clear
that with the mill's 700 tons per day of ONP consumption, glass
quickly adds up to 2800 pounds that must be removed daily.
NORPAC has seen a number of problems develop from the use of
- Increased dangers to employee safety, including glass shards,
airborne fine glass particles, and hazards such as hypodermic
needles, rotting food and personal care products
- A four-fold increase in annual maintenance costs
- An 800% increased yield loss at the pulper from inappropriate
fiber and Prohibitives that must be sent to the landfill, coupled
with an 8-fold increase in additional fiber that must be purchased
to replace the rejects at an annual cost approaching $2 million.
Click Here for a picture
of the huge amount of plastics lost to recycling after going
through the newsprint mill's drum pulper.
- Increased "stickies" (adhesives) in the pulp, mostly from
OCC (old corrugated cardboard) that should not have come to
a newsprint mill, which can create the potential to shut down
the paper machines. Dealing with the increased stickies has
cost NORPAC an additional $2/ton in operating costs.
Jay presented a number of potential solutions:
- Work with suppliers to improve their ONP quality, as Portland
- Develop economically viable processing and sorting equipment
that can consistently produce ONP #8
- Develop economically viable mill processing equipment that
can more substantially remove the contaminants, helping to reduce
maintenance costs (although still not reducing disposal and
displaced fiber costs)
- Improve the whole recycling industry's focus on getting each
recyclable material into its correct recycling stream. When
the wrong recyclables end up at a pulp mill, they go to a landfill
and increase the costs of producing a finished product.
Audience Question: At what point does virgin material
come into play, given higher costs for recyclables?
Jay replied that recycling recycled fiber at NORPAC has always
been more expensive than virgin fiber but he needs to keep the
deinking plant running to maximize the mill's economics and provide
fiber to all three paper machines. Therefore, while he can shift
to using some additional virgin fiber, he can't shift to a major
He emphasized, though, that this answer is specific to his particular
mill. Someone from a different paper mill might give a very different
answer, depending on the specific facility and the products that