Single-stream recycling is a system in which all recyclable materials, including newspapers, cardboard, plastic, aluminum, junk mail, etc. These recyclable materials are collected in a single truck and taken to a material recovery facility (MRF) to be classified into various product streams and sold in markets, where they are processed and converted into raw materials that can be used in the manufacture of new products. The City of Springfield is a single-stream recycling community. Single-stream recycling refers to a system in which residents place all types of recyclable materials, such as plastics, paper, metals, glass, etc., in a single container.
Once recyclable materials have been collected, they are transported to the Springfield Material Recovery Facility (MRF), where they are sorted and processed. Single-flow or mixed-flow recycling refers to putting all recyclable materials in one container. Many companies and municipalities are opting for mixed recycling. There is significant evidence that the quality of the resulting waste material (and, therefore, revenues) is lower in the case of single-stream collection than in a dual-flow system or in systems such as containerized tanks, in which materials are kept separate.
While collection costs are lower in single-flow systems, the processing costs and costs associated with the disposal of contaminated materials are higher. In short, since the increase in processing costs and the loss of total revenues far outweigh the savings from collection in most cases (and zero in collection every other week), in general, recycling in a single stream does not show the cost advantage that was originally envisaged. Single-stream recycling emerged in several California communities in the 1990s as a barrier to entry to barrier-free recycling. While recycling has come a long way in the last decade, it remains to be seen if new technological solutions can maximize consumer convenience, volume recovery and material quality through a single-flow process.
This is different from single-stream collection programs in much of the rest of the country, which collect all materials, including glass, mixed together. An advantage of the single-stream approach is that consumers, or depositors, do not have to separate and sort recyclable materials on their own. The most notable disadvantage of single-stream recycling is that it has led to a decline in the quality of the recovered materials. Single-stream recycling is a system in which consumers place recyclable materials of all types (including plastics, paper, metal and glass) in a single container next to the sidewalk.