Recycling struggling in America but NOT in Grand Junction

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Throwing everything into one large bin is called, “single- stream recycling” and it has seen tremendous growth over the past two decades. With the promise of increased public participation and material recovery rates, a rising number of municipalities have opted to implement single-stream programs.  However, the increase in rates has come at a high price to many of these municipalities. A lack of recycling education and larger bins has led to higher contamination rates in single-stream programs.  The resulting low quality materials have caused prices for American sourced recyclables to drop significantly over the past three years and now many of these programs are running in the red.

Here in Grand Junction we practice multi-stream recycling.  Keeping some items, like paper products, separate from other items, like plastics, aluminum and steel, is called “multi-stream recycling”.

“Where I come from you can just toss everything into one bin.  Why do we have to sort

our recyclables?”  This is a question that we often hear from our customers.

There are several reasons why we practice multi-stream recycling.  They are:

  • It is best for the environment
  • Eliminates contamination
  • Reduces wasted material
  • Maximizes revenue from the sale of material
  • Supports mills and the jobs they create
  • Keeps people informed about what is and what is not recyclable

Maintaining and operating recycling rigs is expensive.  Running equipment and paying

for the crews to pick up recyclables, only to have that material end up in the landfill is not good for the environment.  A recycling “rig,” whether a truck and trailer or single truck configuration is,   just like any motor vehicle, a generator of   greenhouse gases and noxious fumes. To minimize the number of rigs on the road and maintain efficiency, it is important that each recycling rig maximize the amount of material it transports by not wasting space on non-recyclable material.

Single-stream recycling provides ample opportunity to introduce contamination into materials that might be recyclable.  Paper products contaminated with spilled laundry detergent and sour milk become non- recyclable trash.  Glass mixed with other recyclables makes those recyclables useless to mills that are trying to produce quality products.  Single-stream recycling does not eliminate contamination, it encourages it. Co-mingled materials collected by single-stream programs often times cannot be competitively marketed to mills in the United States.  Instead the single-stream material is shipped to countries that typically have few environmental regulations, little to no employee safe guards, no child labor laws and no way to know if the material actually gets recycled.  Single-stream recycling is not a responsible approach to waste reduction.

Multi-stream recycling largely eliminates contamination. By educating customers about what can and cannot be recycled and then requiring some initial sorting on their part, customers are encouraged to be more responsible consumers. Because they are not being fooled into thinking that everything will be recycled, they are more likely to look for purchases in recyclable containers and to reuse what they cannot recycle. They are also less likely to buy heavily packaged and non-recyclable goods in the first place.   Our crews at GJ CRI go to great lengths to make sure that your materials do not get contaminated, get properly sorted, are not wasted and get recycled.  While up to 30% of the materials “recycled” in single-stream programs actually ends up in the landfill your local multi-stream recycling program (GJ CRI) recycles over 99% of everything that is collected.  The one percent that is not recycled is generally materials that customers mistakenly place in their containers thinking that they might be recyclable.  We maintain a nation-wide reputation for processing clean materials that meet or exceed the specifications of all mills, foreign and domestic.  Many brokers call us in the hopes of securing our contamination free material.  Consequently we are able to maximize the revenue from the sale of material which then reduces the total program cost. These are saving that you, our customer, benefit from every time you recycle.

The problems associated with the single- stream approach to recycling continue to climb.

What was once profitable for both municipalities and private businesses has become a costly venture. According to the Washington Post, the sanitation giant, Waste Management, lost $16 million from recycling operations using single-stream processing in the first quarter of 2015.  Approximately 2,000 cities nationwide that utilize single-stream recycling now have to pay mills to take their contaminated material. GJ CRI will continue to obtain revenue from the sales of recyclables to mills which will then be utilized to reduce the total program cost.

Some information for this article was obtained from an article which appeared in the Washington Post on June 21, 2015 by: Aaron C. Davis entitled “American recycling is stalling, and the big blue bin is one reason why”.  To learn more about the stalling trends in Americas recycling industry. Check out the link to that article:

To learn more about the differences between multi-stream and single-stream recycling click on the link