MSW Management June 2014 : Page 44

RECYCLING How Do Our Cities Recycle? Is it change, or status quo? BY ELIZABETH RICE ore than a year ago, news seemed to surface weekly of major US cities modifying their recycling collection systems for recyclables to expand the range of acceptable materials, deliver carts for automated single-stream collection, increase the frequency of service, or take other steps to increase the availability of recy-cling opportunities to residents. Although many of these system changes continue, 2013 saw fewer of these announcements, which has generated a couple of ques-tions. Have most of our large cities already made their recyclables collection changes? Has a major shift in the way recycling services are provided already occurred, with the adoption of some of these “best practices” saturating the marketplace? Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc. (GBB) has completed a recent assessment that has shown that the answer is “No” to both questions. While regional differences dictate that different municipalities select system configurations that best suit their unique local conditions, the number of residents that are able to participate in well-designed curbside collec-tion programs is consistently increasing, and cities large and small are continuing to look for ways to expand recyclables collected while improving services. As a result of collecting information about the practices utilized by our nation’s largest cities, emergent trends and regional variations in how fast cities adopt new service methods can be identified. GBB maintains a database regarding waste and 44 MSW MANAGEMENT M recycling collection services in cities through-out the US with populations over 100,000. The data has yielded information and trends about recycling collection features including collec-tion frequency, bin or cart size, whether setouts are single-or dual-stream, whether service is provided by public or private entities, and how services are billed. Through looking to identify trends in the recycling collection industry and throughout municipal service departments, we can see the views of communities regard-ing recycling and diversion, responsibility for public education and outreach efforts, and the density of infrastructure that is required to support major changes in service levels or processing capacities. Information about the cities’ current recycling collection programs was gathered through information on local government websites, their solid waste management plans, news articles, calls placed directly to local government representatives, contracted haulers, 311 information lines, and other industry contacts. The resultant data showed significant variation. On one hand, we find cities that mandate that every resident receive waste, recycling, and organics collection (both yard-waste and foodwaste) weekly (with pay-as-you-throw pricing and multiple cart options). On the other hand, we see cities that provide no recyclables collection services, deferring to a regional solid waste authority’s or county’s recycling program, or requiring city residents Table 1 -Residential Recyclables Collection Service Provider, by EPA Region EPA Region 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Total City Contract(s) 40% 27% 13% 27% 70% 33% 27% 27% 61% 64% 128 43% City Services 56% 60% 53% 54% 24% 50% 33% 13% 32% 27% 121 41% 5 2% 4 1% 5% 1% 9% 27 9% 5 2% 6 2% 2% 15% 6% 2% 40% 60% 13% 33% 2% County Contract(s) County Services Private Haulers 4% Through Regional Authority Self-Haul [ ELEMENTS / JUNE 2014 ]

How Do Our Cities Recycle?

Elizabeth Rice

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