Introducing Wes Muir, Director, Communications, Waste Management, Inc.: On "Single Stream Recycling"

Please welcome Wes Muir, Director of Communications for Waste Management, Inc. Wes will be joining us for a series of guest posts over coming months, delving into his firm's projects and explaining recycling trends. With America Recycles Day on November 15th, Wes chose, as his first topic, a recycling approach which has been gathering momentum in communities as well as in businesses across the country - single stream recycling.

"In 2007, it’s safe to say virtually everyone agrees recycling is good for our communities and environment. Nonetheless, recycling logistics can be a real challenge and recycling rates are far below what they could and should be. Meanwhile, the demand for consumer products with recycled-content is ever-increasing while supplies of raw materials are declining. Effective recycling of our waste will become central in our efforts to make society more sustainable over the coming years. As we celebrate America Recycles Day on Thursday, November 15th, it’s a great time for Americans to reflect on the impact our individual efforts can have on the drive toward a more sustainable future. Traditionally viewed as an add-on to existing waste collection services, an increasing number of American municipalities and businesses are beginning to recognize that recycling should be a core focus of waste resource management, with garbage constituting what cannot be recycled. Progressive cities and companies are taking the lead by developing innovative ways to maximize the amount of recyclables they reclaim from their waste.

One way by which communities and businesses can rapidly and dramatically increase their recycling rates is by switching to Single Stream recycling programs. These programs, pioneered by Waste Management and refined over the past decade, can provide the high-quality recovered materials demanded by manufacturers while streamlining collection and transportation of waste.

Single Stream recycling simplifies the whole process by allowing customers to deposit recyclable paper, plastic, glass, steel and aluminum materials into a single container for collection. Single containers allow conventional collection trucks to collect all recyclables, rather than requiring multiple specialized vehicles. At the recycling center, the mixed recyclable stream is processed into sorted recyclable materials.

More than 500 municipalities have already instituted Single Stream recycling collection programs. Switching to Single Stream collection offers a number of benefits to local governments, including increasing the volume of recovered materials, boosting the diversion rate from local landfills, and reducing collection costs. The City of Denver switched to an automated Single Stream recycling system and the city’s recycling rates went up by nearly 42%.

In the past, legitimate reservations about the quality of materials recovered through Single Stream recycling fueled skepticism among mills and manufacturers. However, technological developments have facilitated higher quality recycled products while maintaining the efficiency and high-load capabilities of Single Stream recycling. Readily available, high-quality recyclables result in cheaper, higher quality products made from recycled materials, which in turn inspires consumer confidence.

As the leading recycler in North America, one third of our current portfolio of recycling facilities nationwide uses Single Stream technology. From 2002 to 2006, the volume of material processed in our Single Stream recycling facilities nearly tripled, from about 722,000 tons in 2002 to more than 2 million tons in 2006. We recently announced that we plan to triple the amount of materials we recycle by 2020 and Single Stream technology will play an important part in achieving that goal.

The waste disposal and recovery cycle involves multiple participants, all of whom have an interest in recovering as much as possible from what we throw away. The success of recycling programs depends not only on efficient collection and effective processing, but also ultimately on the willingness of consumers to participate and buy products manufactured from recycled goods. Meanwhile, forward-thinking businesses and cities are taking the lead by switching to Single Stream recycling to simplify the process in the home and at the curbside, and that’s a huge step in the right direction."

Wes Muir is the Director of Corporate Communications for Waste Management, Inc.

Wes Muir
Director of Communications
Waste Management
713 328 7053 (P)
905 633 3940 (P)
905 483 3099 (M)

See also: Jasmin's sequential interview posts with Waste Management CEO, David Steiner, here, and here. Lloyd's post on America Recycles is here.

Please be sure to leave your suggestions and questions here for Wes. We're looking forward to learning more from him.

Image credit:: Waste Management, Inc.

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