Is single-stream recycling better?

Single-stream recycling may be the cheapest and most viable way to start the long road to waste disposal in certain locations, even if only a percentage of the materials collected are ultimately recycled. One of the main criticisms of single-stream recycling is that it has led to a decline in the quality of recovered materials (which is important for people who buy bundles of recycled material and convert them into new products).

Is single-stream recycling better?

Single-stream recycling may be the cheapest and most viable way to start the long road to waste disposal in certain locations, even if only a percentage of the materials collected are ultimately recycled. One of the main criticisms of single-stream recycling is that it has led to a decline in the quality of recovered materials (which is important for people who buy bundles of recycled material and convert them into new products). Studies on single-stream recycling compare it to double-stream recycling, since most curbside programs use one of these methods. Single-stream recycling produced the highest rate of loss at the processing stage, basically, most of the things that were placed in the recycling bins that couldn't actually be recycled.

Oregon programs collect glass containers separately from other materials or do not include glass in the road collection program, and choose to collect glass through recycling depots or some other method. The State of Connecticut and DEEP encourage municipalities to develop collection and recycling systems that increase participation and that result in an increase in tons of recycled material to manufacture new products. For example, limiting the amount of garbage that people can throw away or charging them for garbage bags that go to landfill, but not for recycling bags. Part of what made single-stream recycling so good was the contaminated Chinese recycling market.

DEEP strongly encourages communities to consider implementing a unit-based pricing structure when making any changes to the recycled materials collection program, in order to increase recycling recovery efforts in Connecticut. With few exceptions, municipalities across the country that have implemented single-stream collection report not only dramatic increases in the quantities of recyclable materials collected, but also an improvement in participation rates. Whether or not your municipality should have a single-stream recycling program depends on several factors. In some cases, Connecticut recycling facilities may not be “recycling” glass collected from municipal recycling programs.

Single-stream recycling is a system in which all recyclable materials, including newspapers, cardboard, plastic, aluminum, junk mail, etc. The benefit of greater participation and, therefore, of more material submitted for recycling may have been outweighed by the cost of non-recyclable recyclable materials.

Joni Loera
Joni Loera

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