Single-stream recycling debated by association

This summer, the Northeast Resource Recovery Association (NRRA) met with its member cities, towns and businesses to discuss single-stream recycling. The open forum included over 85 members with 38 communities represented and was meant to help members evaluate whether this program would be beneficial to their communities or businesses.

The single-stream recycling concept has been around for many years but is just starting to be considered in New Hampshire. Single-stream recycling allows residents to put all recyclables in one bin where it is then transported to a facility to be sorted. This program increases the recycling rate but also limits the income that communities receive for their commodities. Some single-stream recycling programs have estimated that they pay between $10 and $15 a ton for mixed recyclables delivered to the single-stream facility. Currently, Goffstown, New Hampshire is successfully running a curbside single-stream program.

Dave Kirsch, member of NRRA’s board of trustees and recycling manager in Swanzey, New Hampshire, shared his cost analysis of how single-stream recycling would affect his program. While the single-stream program would cut the town’s operating costs by $30,200, overall the program would cost the town $19,100, partly in lost revenue from not selling the recyclables at a higher price.

In addition to current single-stream recycling programs, NRRA also offers several other options that may work for members, including a Consolidation Program and a Dual-Stream Recycling Program. The Consolidation Program bundles small quantities of processed recyclables from multiple municipalities to bring the goods to one central location. This reduces storage requirements for members and obtains maximum revenue by shipping the largest loads possible.

NRRA has successfully completed five pilot consolidation runs of OCC (cardboard), aluminum cans and steel cans. Twenty-five different communities participated and helped NRRA refine the program to better serve each municipality. This allowed NRRA members to capture high market pricing, as well as achieve full and heavier loads. For example, members who participated recently received $.18 more per pound for aluminum cans and $130 a gross ton more for steel cans by consolidation.

The Dual-Stream Recycling Program is an alternative avenue as well. NRRA has offered this program since 2004 and residents sort the recyclables into two bins: paper (cardboard, mixed paper, newspaper and junk mail) in one bin and commingled containers (plastics #1 - #7, aluminum and steel cans, jars and bottles) in the other bin. Thirty-eight members currently use this dual-stream program and many achieve tandem hauls on a regular basis. This program brings revenue to members based on weights and markets.

NRRA member pricing for July 2008 was between $75 and $80 a ton for paper and between $37 and $20 a ton for commingled containers.