MSW Management September/October 2015 : Page 30

PROCESSING Let’s Get Honest . . . MWP Has a Place in the Big Pond With All the Alligators! Criteria to consider in evaluating the place where MWP and recovering more recyclable materials from residential MSW streams may be applicable (Part 3 of 4) BY BOB BRICKNER AND BRAD KELLEY n Part 1, “If at the End of a Diving Board . . . Should You Take the Next Step?”, we raised the question of how to increase materials recovery rates and at what cost. Part 2, “Drowning in Non-Collected Recyclables . . . Where’s the Life Vest?” identified how waste can actually move around, and true cost data from residential waste collection, includ-ing the current costs/ton for existing residential curbside waste diversion levels achieved. Here in Part 3, the authors will identify criteria to consider in evaluating the place where mixed waste processing (MWP) and recovering more recyclable materials from residential MSW streams may be applicable. The next article, Part 4, will pull the highpoints of the three previous articles together, and include a look at the preliminary economics a Single-Stream (S-S) materials recovery facility (MRF) versus a MWP facility (with a “one bin” collection program). I Swimming Against the Tide Recycling is not free, and source-separated recyclables are not clean. How better to begin a poten-tially controversial article than to provide cover for the authors by quoting other leading industry “movers and shakers” recent remarks to help set the stage. Let’s begin by looking at an excerpt from the recent Earth Day 2015 release of Sharon Kneiss, President of the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA). NWRA is the trade association that represents the private sector solid waste and recycling industry. On Earth Day, she took part in 27 media interviews reaching 25 local television and radio markets as well as two national news feeds. In her discussions with reporters from across the country, she summarized her reactions by stating: “. . . it was amazing to me to hear just how surprised so many of them were about the true cost of recycling. Too many Americans think that recycling is free and are under-informed about their role in making recycling both ecologi-cally and economically sound. . . .” So was Kneiss just reinforcing that old adage that “there is 30 MSW MANAGEMENT [ SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2015 ] “Too many Americans think that recycling is free and are under-informed about their role in making recycling both ecologically and economically sound. . . .” no such thing as a free lunch”? In the middle of the S-S recycling world, ReCommunity is one of the leading processors of residential recyclables and operates 32 S-S MRFs, which is about 13% of the US total. On August 27, 2014, they published a “QUALITY ALERT.” Their press release, issued by Jeff Fielkow, Chief Sales and Market-ing Officer, was titled: “ReCommunity Says Recycling Quality Must Improve.” He concluded the press release with the statement that “. . . non-conforming materials are inundating facilities nationwide.” With those two positions clearly stated, the authors of this article are in complete agreement with the comments. The point of recy-cling cost vagary made by Kneiss was clearly highlighted in Part 2, with information providing several examples to illustrate what S-S residential curbside recycling programs actually cost. For example, the City of Fayetteville, NC, budget information indicates that their overall S-S residential program, including S-S collection and MRF processing for about 60,000 households, costs a staggering $250 per ton of curbside recyclable materials collected. That cost even includes the City sharing in a small materials revenue stream. If one were to assume a 10% residue rate from the S-S MRF, the actual cost for each recovered and diverted ton would approach $275 per ton recycled. This kind of cost publically defeats many alternative waste management programs! Who in the industry is talking about those types of costs for curbside recycling programs? Is this the range of numbers Kneiss was really talking about? Well, Part 2 of this series did. But, if you happen to have missed it and want to, do a look-back! And yes, the reporters alluded to by Kneiss think that this activity, and our chase for increased recycling to meet mandated diversion goals, is free . School Is In...MWPF Class 101 Primer for One Credit From the early days of developing MSW processing techniques in the 1970s and ’80s, the need for energy recovery outlets for the large energy-rich fraction of the MSW stream was apparent. In fact, in the early days of the technology when recyclables had less value to such systems, the main market being considered was Refuse Derived Fuel. Now, with federal and state-mandated recycling or diversion goals,

Let's Get Honest...MWP Has a Place in the Big Pond With All the Alligators! (Part 3 of 4)

Bob Brickner and Brad Kelley

In Part 1, “If at the End of a Diving Board . . . Should You Take the Next Step?”, we raised the question of how to increase materials recovery rates and at what cost.

Part 2, “Drowning in Non-Collected Recyclables . . . Where’s the Life Vest?” identified how waste can actually move around, and true cost data from residential waste collection, including the current costs/ton for existing residential curbside waste diversion levels achieved.

Here in Part 3, the authors will identify criteria to consider in evaluating the place where mixed waste processing (MWP) and recovering more recyclable materials from residential MSW streams may be applicable.

The next article, Part 4, will pull the highpoints of the three previous articles together, and include a look at the preliminary economics a Single-Stream (S-S) materials recovery facility (MRF) versus a MWP facility (with a “one bin” collection program).

Swimming Against the Tide

Recycling is not free, and source-separated recyclables are not clean. How better to begin a potentially controversial article than to provide cover for the authors by quoting other leading industry “movers and shakers” recent remarks to help set the stage. Let’s begin by looking at an excerpt from the recent Earth Day 2015 release of Sharon Kneiss, President of the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA). NWRA is the trade association that represents the private sector solid waste and recycling industry. On Earth Day, she took part in 27 media interviews reaching 25 local television and radio markets as well as two national news feeds.

In her discussions with reporters from across the country, she summarized her reactions by stating: “. . . it was amazing to me to hear just how surprised so many of them were about the true cost of recycling. Too many Americans think that recycling is free and are under-informed about their role in making recycling both ecologically and economically sound. . . .”

So was Kneiss just reinforcing that old adage that “there is no such thing as a free lunch”? In the middle of the S-S recycling world, ReCommunity is one of the leading processors of residential recyclables and operates 32 S-S MRFs, which is about 13% of the US total. On August 27, 2014, they published a “QUALITY ALERT.” Their press release, issued by Jeff Fielkow, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, was titled: “ReCommunity Says Recycling Quality Must Improve.” He concluded the press release with the statement that
“. . . non-conforming materials are inundating facilities nationwide.”

With those two positions clearly stated, the authors of this article are in complete agreement with the comments. The point of recycling cost vagary made by Kneiss was clearly highlighted in Part 2, with information providing several examples to illustrate what S-S residential curbside recycling programs actually cost. For example, the City of Fayetteville, NC, budget information indicates that their overall S-S residential program, including S-S collection and MRF processing for about 60,000 households, costs a staggering $250 per ton of curbside recyclable materials collected. That cost even includes the City sharing in a small materials revenue stream.

If one were to assume a 10% residue rate from the S-S MRF, the actual cost for each recovered and diverted ton would approach $275 per ton recycled. This kind of cost publically defeats many alternative waste management programs!

Who in the industry is talking about those types of costs for curbside recycling programs? Is this the range of numbers Kneiss was really talking about? Well, Part 2 of this series did. But, if you happen to have missed it and want to, do a look-back! And yes, the reporters alluded to by Kneiss think that this activity, and our chase for increased recycling to meet mandated diversion goals, is free.

School Is In...MWPF Class 101 Primer for One Credit

From the early days of developing MSW processing techniques in the 1970s and ’80s, the need for energy recovery outlets for the large energy-rich fraction of the MSW stream was apparent. In fact, in the early days of the technology when recyclables had less value to such systems, the main market being considered was Refuse Derived Fuel. Now, with federal and state-mandated recycling or diversion goals, the primary objective is generally to recover recyclable materials, while potentially producing a cleaner, higher heating value fuel-equivalent product is a distant second.

Many readers know that the first MSW processing facilities aimed at materials recovery in the ’90s were frequently referred to as “dirty” MRFs. That was intended to create “feedstock contrast” with the “clean” MRFs that had recently emerged at that time. Now the more modern facilities that process MSW are typically referred to as Mixed Waste Processing Facilities (MWPFs). The phrase “Mixed Waste Processing Facility” is a better description of the evolution of these facilities, even though most S-S MRF advocates will never use that expression and wrap their semi-emotional dialogue around the more sensational “dirty MRF” analogy.

From a technological standpoint, a MWPF can be designed to accept MSW and also process co-mingled recyclables, if an S-S collection system exists. Many national manufacturers of material separation equipment are recognizing the potential opportunities of MWPF systems and openly tout their MSW processing and recovery experience on their websites and in their brochures.

The modern MWPF incorporates equipment and advanced technology to sort and separate materials, regardless of whether handling S-S material or mixed MSW. Nearly all modern MWPF designs have a pre-sort to eliminate bulky and prohibitive materials, contain a method to open plastic bags, and include screens to remove the small “fines” material. Nearly all incorporate eddy current separators and magnets to recover metals. More automated facilities also have a density separator to remove heavy objects, and a 2D/3D separator to split flat items such as paper (a two-dimensional object or 2D) from those with shape such as containers (a three-dimensional object or 3D). The most sophisticated plants also incorporate near infrared optical units to recover recyclables from the split streams.

Greenwaste Recycling in San Jose, CA, combines the container streams from both a MWP line and an S-S recycling line into one container stream that uses an optical unit for PET, manual sort for HDPE, and another optical unit for mixed plastics. The Greenwaste facility touts a recovery rate of 98% from the S-S feedstock. With a 75% recovery achieved on their MWP line, a total facility diversion is noted as 88%, which includes recovery of organics, such as yard waste and food waste ( Greenwaste.com ).

The large Newby Island facility in Milpitas, CA, (Figure 1) combines the container streams off of 2D/3D sorters from S-S materials and commercial waste into one highly automated optical sorting line. Many of the new facilities, both S-S and MWPFs, have guarantees for both recovery rates and purity rates of the recyclables destined for markets.

Concern for the ability of MWPFs to produce clean, useful commodities for users of these materials is one of the biggest issues facing these newer facilities. The facilities at Newby Island, Greenwaste, and the privately owned-operated MWPF in Montgomery, AL, owned by Infinitus, all have been selling all of their recovered recyclables, including fiber. It was recently indicated by Infinitus that the fiber price is “hi-side,” especially for containers and metal (REW Conference 2014).

During the past year, GBB conducted specific week-long, field sorts at several locations with two municipal government programs specifically conducted to measure the amount of recyclables still in the trash stream, even with both communities having S-S curbside recycling programs. In the most recent residential waste/recyclables sort, almost 25% of the trash consisted of easy-to-recycle materials, and 22%, by weight, of the S-S recyclables setout was actually “not recyclables” and hence trash.

So the toss-up question for the class on the final exam will be: Are many of the original S-S MRFs really becoming MWPFs?

MWPF Class 102: “Show Me the Money” Through Commodity Revenues—for One Credit

Regardless of whether you are considering the business implications of an S-S MRF or a new MWPF, it is critically important to understand the potential value of the backend materials revenue stream. This is the key revenue stream that will help pay, in part, for the invested capital and O&M of the facility, plus generate a profit if one is a private owner/operator. Even in down markets, the value of the traditional recyclables per ton is much more than just the processing cost per ton of the facility.

Table 1 illustrates the value of each recoverable commodity in the Southeast region as a five-year average, as well as the pricing as of April 2015. As no surprise to those in the industry, this indicates a significant drop in the recent market value of recovered recyclables materials.

Using different sort data from carts of recyclables, and the low values found in the current commodity markets, a modern S-S MRF could potentially create a revenue stream from the sale of recyclables of from $85 per ton, to over $125 per ton of recovered S-S materials sold. However, if the incoming S-S material had a 15% residue, due in part to non-recyclables in the cart setouts and equipment inefficiencies, the net average value for all materials processed at the S-S MRF would only be from $73 per ton, to less than $110 per ton. If the residue cost $50 per ton for hauling and disposal, a 15% residue would further increase costs and decrease the net market value income by almost $10 per ton of the recycled materials actually marketed.

One of GBB clients is Kent County Michigan (Grand Rapids area). With a publically owned and operated MRF, their 2014 budget assumed an average recovered commodity sales value of about $110 per ton. However, they are only estimating to receive $84 per ton in 2015 for the average income on recyclable materials sold. This is a 24% drop in the average market value for all of the commodities sold from this Upper Midwest MRF. With no long-term material market agreements, this illustrates the general marketplace volatility in which we are currently trying to do conduct “more recycling.”

Thus, with falling market prices on recyclable materials, it is even more critical that communities obtain the maximum amount of recyclables available within the residential MSW stream for recovery. Any investment in space and equipment is sensitive to “economy of scale.”

MWPF Class 103: Material Recovery Opportunities at a MWPF

Different than the S-S setouts in a community where targeted materials receive homeowner intervention, the percentages of commodities that can be recovered from MSW at a MWPF are variable, depending on the incoming material, the type of equipment installed, and the level of automation incorporated into the design. However, recent publicly available information has indicated that highly automated MWPFs can provide good material recovery rates. These potential rates of recovery are shown in Table 2.

As introduced in Part 2, to understand the potential evolution and expansion of diversion from residential MSW going into landfills, three scenarios are reviewed in Table 3. As noted in Table 3, the yard waste fraction is typically not part of any of the curbside S-S recycling or MWPF programs, and typically is a separate collection system in a community with processing occurring at a separate yard waste composting facility, for example.

All MRFs and MWPFs have an inherent efficiency of recovery with mechanical equipment. Thus, not all the recyclable material can actually be recovered. Additionally, the age of the MRF, and equipment installed and utilized at the time of design/install, will also impact recovery rates and residue rates. The modern automated systems generally have a very high efficiency, and many equipment vendors are guaranteeing these recovery percentages, although they are commonly not published due to competitive advantage.

In general, a highly automated S-S MRF will have greater recovery efficiency than a modern MWPF, mostly due to the feedstock being a concentrate of recyclable commodities that was placed at curbside by the homeowners versus their MSW. For illustrative purposes, the higher recovery efficiencies presented in Table 2 are used to estimate the recovery from a S-S MRF. In actuality, modern MRFs should achieve slightly higher efficiencies, especially for fiber. Thus, for this article, the fiber efficiencies of a S-S MRF versus MWPF were increased by five percentage points to represent a more realistic recovery amount. However, and as will be explained in Part 4 in this series, the real issue should be the “overall amount” of recovered materials and their gross revenues, and not recovery rates for less total product.

Scenario 1 in Table 3 establishes a baseline with an approximate setout of the level of recyclable materials recovery for a S-S MRF. Scenario 2 assumes the community is not happy with the Scenario 1 baseline recovery rates and puts significant annual funds (potentially up to $2 per household per year) into an aggressive public relations (PR) program to help boost a higher S-S curbside setout rate. Finally, Scenario 3 in Table 3 illustrates the “one-cart (bin)-for-all” collection system with a MWPF.

The “one-cart (bin)-for-all” MWPF system assumes the residential MSW stream, that is the trash plus any and all recyclables, remain as one mixed stream for curbside collection. It is also noted that depending upon the availability and use of residential kitchen sink disposal units like Insinkerator units, certain food waste, might still find its way into the combined residential MSW stream as a mixed organics component with yard debris.

Both Scenarios 1 and 2 are subject to significant human decision-making and intervention. Once the homeowner decides what quantity and type of recyclables are placed in their recycling cart, no other upfront “diversion ability” enters into the program. However, with Scenario 3, the entire residential MSW stream (exclusive of the yard waste cart) is subject to a series of mechanical separations with only human quality control review of products after the extensive processing steps for commodity recovery.

Within the MWPF, 100% of the setout waste materials are subject to inspection and potential recovery as recycled material. Adjustments in near- and long-term material markets definitely influence the materials recovered for marketing. Thus, with Scenario 3, all of the community homeowners are both feedstock generators and indirect participants in having all their residential MSW streams undergo a series of mainly mechanical recovery steps to identify, and then separate, recyclable materials for marketing.

Table 3 Summary of Scenarios 1 and 2

For a standpoint of only a diversion rate comparison, Scenario 1 looks at a city system of recycling which provides for separate S-S collection and recovery based on typical efficiency assumptions of an S-S MRF. With the 20% yard waste set-aside, the materials recycling (diversion) rate is only 22.5%. Thus, without additional recovery, 77.5% of the MSW in Scenario 1 (with the costs of a separate MSW collection program) would still be landfilled. Even with an assumed significant annual budget infusion of community PR information and educational materials, Scenario 2 illustrates a potential 34% diversion level with 66% of the residential MSW still being landfilled.

Table 3 Summary of Scenario 3

The Table 3 assumptions reflect a MWPF at an all-inclusive 50% potential diversion rate, thus only generating 50% for landfilling.

The three main reasons to consider building a MWPF are (1) to improve the overall quantity of recyclables separated and marketed, (2) to reduce the high costs of waste and recyclables collection programs, and (3) to reduce the overall need to landfill MSW. Interestingly, as judged by their competitive costs per ton when looking at the entire system costs including collection, many of the current implemented S-S recycling program actual costs have not seemed to be of concern to many communities. When looking objectively at all program costs, a MWPF could potentially be built at a more competitive price per ton than a new S-S MRF, or even at what the current MRF costs; and lead to a significant reduction in the amount of waste going to a landfill and reducing significant quantities of greenhouse gases.

MWPF Class 104: Less Landfilling of MSW With a MWPF

Table 4 has been compiled to illustrate a community that generates a hypothetical 200,000 tons per year of mixed MSW (including trash and recyclables, but exclusive of yard waste). For each of the three scenarios presented in Table 3, it illustrates optional deliveries, recovery rates for recyclables, and quantities not landfilled. In construction Table 4, it is important to note that all of the additional non-recovered materials indicated in Table 4 are assumed to be landfilled. However, the additional benefits of potential back-end recovery with a MWPF using, for example, an anaerobic digestor (AD) system like that planned in Montgomery, or a WTE plant like that existing in Indianapolis, are not included in Table 4 review.

An AD system for the organics and fines materials is planned as a future phase add-on for the City of Montgomery MWPF project and AD systems are used in concert with many of the mixed waste processing plants in Europe where they are called Mechanical & Biological Treatment Facilities.

MWPF Class 105: One-Cart-for-All and the Potential for Significant Collection Costs Savings

Waste collection costs are almost 70% of the overall waste management costs for a community. Due to economy of scale and high equipment utilization, trash collection costs per ton are significantly lower on a dollar-per-ton basis than recyclables collection costs. Therefore, the efficacy of the collection system, and the main purpose to which it is design and equipment expensed, becomes critical to the overall budget for the services.

Over the years, many different types of materials have forced additional collection vehicles to be utilized when decided to be in the best interest of the community. However, while chasing diversion numbers and client services, the marginal costs of these additional one-off collection systems has become either a lost economic statistic, or one that is deemed better not to have identified for full transparency and public review. Thus, more inefficient collection trucks placed on the community road are now operating within neighborhoods at exorbitant costs.

GBB just finished a local community analysis where a very efficient trash collection program cost approximately $90 per ton. However, the curbside recycling collection program cost at slightly less than $3 per month per household actually cost over $250 per curbside collected ton. This extremely high cost differential is not unexpected as the curbside collection needs repeated by both systems and the trash materials are typically three to five times more materials than the curbside recyclables collection.

Concluding Comments

It is worth keeping in mind what the regional business development manager of ReCommunity stated in a formal presentation at a recycling conference in Wilmington, DE, on April 7, 2015. The company, with 32 MRFs and headquartered in Charlotte, NC, gave a presentation and one slide was titled: “No Conflicts: A ‘Pure Play’ Model.” The last bullet point on that particular slide stated the following:

We don’t own collection trucks, landfills, or paper mills because if we did, our decisions would not be based solely on maximizing recovery and revenue for communities.

Also, the City of Indianapolis Sustainability Manager Director Melody Park said in an August 2014 prepared statement:

Immediately upon its opening, the Covanta Advanced Recycling Center will boost the rate of homes recycling from 10% to 100%. Even more, the center boosts our position as a national leader in sustainability. Years from now, Indianapolis will be recognized as a front-runner in innovative, game-changing recycling technology that benefits communities, the environment and taxpayers (Park 2014).

Without a doubt, there continues to be a vast array of specific interests represented in the solid waste management field. It is acknowledged by the authors that it is oftentimes hard to swim upstream when the big logs leisurely float downstream with the current. However, the great northwest salmon have figured out how to make large runs up-stream, through and around many man-made obstacles, for one last great moment in their short lives. We figure most solid waste professionals will figure this MWPF issue out as well!

Resources

Greenwaste.com–About Us; as of
August 25, 2014.

Melody Park, City of Indianapolis, IN, Press Release, August 6, 2014.

REW Conference, San Jose, CA—talk by Kyle Mowitz, Infinitus Energy,
November 2014. MSW

Bob Brickner is the Executive Vice President, and Brad Kelley is the Senior Project Engineer, both at Gershman, Brickner & Bratton, Inc., Fairfax VA.

Read the full article at http://digital.mswmanagement.com/article/Let%27s+Get+Honest...MWP+Has+a+Place+in+the+Big+Pond+With+All+the+Alligators%21+%28Part+3+of+4%29/2238661/268204/article.html.

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