November 18, 2004 | General

Single Stream Developments In U.S. Cities

BioCycle November 2004, Vol. 45, No. 11, p. 46
San Antonio and Philadelphia take steps to launch new collection approaches to reduce operational expenses and improve recovery.
Rose Ryan and David Hess

SAN ANTONIO, Texas has transitioned into single stream recycling effective August 1, 2004, when it entered into a new processing agreement, with Vista Fibers, Inc., for curbside recycling materials. We are currently collecting recyclables manually, but this new agreement puts us in a good position to investigate automated collection for our recycling materials. So far, the transition from dual stream processing to single stream processing has allowed us to reduce our operational fleet and personnel 12.5 percent, while still collecting the same amount of recyclable material.
The first year savings from operational efficiencies will be approximately $800,000, and about $400,000 each year thereafter.
We are presently conducting a pilot for automated garbage collection (effective June 1, 2004). The pilot is going exceptionally well and we hope to have citywide approval for automated garbage collection by Council this January when our surveys/reports are presented. So far, transition to our automated garbage collection has been self-funding, as we used our current truck replacement schedule, the salary savings from matching the positions displaced by automated to the attrition rate (to prevent layoffs), and potential work comp savings to fund the change to the new automated equipment (trucks and carts). After January, if the program is implemented citywide, we will then be in a position to look at the feasibility of automated collection for our recycling materials.
Meanwhile, we are continuing to collect recyclables manually with an 18 gallon bin, which we know is not as efficient as automated collections but automated collection needs to be embraced citywide before we can investigate it for recycling operations.
Beginning this October, about 6,000 homes in the Germantown and Chestnut Hill sections of Philadelphia will test a recycling approach designed to earn them “hard cash.” Blue Mountain Recycling and RecycleBank are teaming up with the city to introduce single stream recycling to residents plus an incentive program that gives them dollars off grocery bills, movie rentals, etc. based on how much they recycle each week.
In the first phase of the pilot, bottles and cans (also plastic for the first time) will be placed in a recycling container; newspaper and cardboard will be separately bundled. The next phase (beginning November 15) will have paper and cardboard in a new container provided by the partnership. Each container will have special “tag codes” so that recycled materials can be tracked to each household. New technology being pioneered by Blue Mountain Recycling will separate recyclables at its processing plant under their existing contract with Smurfit-Stone.
In phase two of the pilot, residents will each get a RecycleBank account that keeps a running total of the materials they recycle. Their account is credited with “dollars” coupons redeemable at local participating grocery, restaurants, video, retail stores and sponsors like Home Depot and Coke. RecycleBank dollars can also be donated to local nonprofit and community groups.
Each household will receive a monthly RecycleBank statement to track their recycling along with reminders and special coupon offers. Households can “earn” up to $300 a year through the program (about 40 pounds of recyclables a month) and get access to their account and redeem coupons on a special website or over the telephone. Blue Mountain Recycling and RecycleBank are underwriting some of the costs of the pilot program. The sponsors hope to increase the recycling rate from about five percent (the current city average) to about 40 percent, pulling more tons of material out of the waste stream and increase participation rate from 27 to 50 percent.
For each ton of material recycled, Philadelphia will save $52 by not having to take that waste to a landfill. Next year dumping costs are expected to increase under a new waste disposal contract. Savings expected by avoiding dumping costs above the cost of the program will be kept by the City.
City residents will get a simple recycling program that recycles many more materials than they have in the past in a way that directly rewards them for their efforts.
The San Antonio report was prepared by Rose Ryan, Solid Waste Manager in city’s Environmental Service Department. The Philadelphia pilot approach was prepared by David Hess, who is with Holston & Crisci of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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