In his recent Boston Globe op-ed “Get Excited About Recycling? Not Me,” Jeff Jacoby shared concerns about his town’s decision to adopt single-stream recycling. With his description of the required process, I can understand his lack of excitement.
Unfortunately not all single-stream programs are created equal. Each service provider’s capabilities widely vary from broker/dealers, to firms collecting and processing materials themselves. These services have a direct result in what can easily be tossed into the recycling bin. Having implemented single-stream in commercial buildings, the best advice I can give to anyone interested is to first choose a company that best suits your requirements. This will result in an easier and hopefully less expensive process.
Secondly, be sure to address the user base. Over-educate participants and create direct incentives. The City of Everett is a great example. In 2008 they rolled out a cost effective residential program offering gift cards relative to resident’s participation.
Jacoby also notes that commercial single-stream programs unlike residential programs are cost effective because the tons of recyclable materials at each site far exceed encountered costs. As a service mostly adopted by the commercial industry in the last three years, the related technologies for processing materials are still being perfected. Year over year I have seen improved understanding and greater participation in the single-stream process, resulting in lowered overall waste costs. My hope is that in time residential single-stream recycling will meet the same success we have seen in the commercial market.