On November 8, E.L. Harvey & Sons hosted RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts (RecyclingWorks), the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the 2018 Fall WasteWise Forum. This forum focused on reducing contamination in the recycling stream, an important and timely topic for businesses, institutions, and recyclers. Below we summarize the top five key takeaways from the forum:
- Keep contaminants out of the recycling bin – The biggest problems for single stream recycling facilities are contaminants such as plastic bags and shrink wrap, ‘tanglers’ such as hoses and wires, food and liquid waste, and textiles.
- Work closely with your waste and recycling service providers – Building relationships and fostering open communication with your recycling service providers can help businesses and institutions address issues early on and identify mutually beneficial solutions to any challenges.
- Develop clear communication and signage – The keys to success for any program are a comprehensive training and education program for all staff that produce or handle recyclables, and clear signage to guide visitors in public-facing areas.
- Source separate other recyclable materials – Rigid plastics and plastic film are common materials that businesses can source separate for recycling.
- Continually reevaluate your recycling program – With an always evolving recycling marketplace, it is important to pay attention to the composition of your waste stream and adjust recycling programs as needed.
Waste Wise Forum Presentations
Ben Harvey, President of E.L. Harvey, briefly introduced his company and recycling facility as he welcomed attendees. Harvey was followed by RecyclingWorks Program Lead Lauren Potter, who gave a series of RecyclingWorks in MA Updates, showcasing new and upcoming resources. Brooke Nash, Branch Chief of Municipal Waste Reduction, described how the MassDEP is addressing disruptions in global recycling markets as a result of China’s National Sword policy. This includes Recycle Smart, a statewide initiative focused on putting the right materials in recycling bins and separating “problem materials” that cause contamination and drive up the cost of recycling. See the recent RecyclingWorks blog about the Recycle Smart Initiative for more information.
Next, the conversation moved towards examples of businesses and institutions that work closely with their recycling haulers and processors to ensure success. Suzanne Wood, Sustainability & Energy Manager at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, presented on Managing a Diverse and Comprehensive Recycling Program. Wood discussed the wide variety of waste diversion programs at UMass Medical School, focusing on the importance of visual waste audits, and proper signage, training, and bin placement.
As the recycler for UMass Medical School, Harvey followed by discussing The Changing Face of Recycling & the Role of MRFs in Today’s Marketplace. He noted that the shifting composition of recycling streams, such as the decline in office paper and increase of single stream programs throughout the state, requires more focus on quality, cost, equipment, and contamination.
After an engaging networking break, the forum continued with a shift from single stream recycling to source separated materials:
- Karen Franczyk, Green Mission Coordinator for the North Atlantic Region of Whole Foods Market, spoke about the company’s Plastic Waste Diversion Through front- and back-of-house collection programs, Whole Foods locations provide clean and dry separated material to Preserve, a plastic consumer goods company, and Trex, a manufacturer of high performance wood alternatives. Franczyk also mentioned other programs such as Zero Waste Day and participation in Preserve’s Gimme 5 Program.
- John Lively, Director of Environment and Materials for Preserve, provided details on the company’s dedication to sustainable consumer goods. He also provided information about the Preserve Gimme 5 Recycling program, which works with consumers and business partners across the country to help close the loop for #5 plastic products such as yogurt cups, plastic containers, and cutlery.
- Roger Beliveau, Manager of Distribution Services for Stop & Shop, discussed Stop & Shop’s Recycling Program, which collects source separated rigid plastics, shrink wrap, and waxed corrugated cardboard from regional distribution centers.
Visit the RecyclingWorks WasteWise webpage to access all of the 2018 Fall Waste Wise Forum presentations and the following webinar recording:
Waste Wise Forum Tour
The final component of the forum was a tour of E.L. Harvey’s single stream materials recovery facility (MRF). The tour began with an explanation of how materials arrive at the MRF, where they are then separated into residential and commercial piles for processing. Attendees witnessed the various stages of materials separation, concluding with completed bales of cardboard, paper, and plastics. This tour visually illustrated the challenge that significant contamination creates in the recycling stream, and emphasized the importance of collecting clean materials. If you were unable to attend the tour, you can can watch E.L. Harvey’s Single Stream Recycling Facility Virtual Tour below:
RecyclingWorks is a recycling assistance program designed to help businesses and institutions maximize recycling, reuse, and composting opportunities. Call the RecyclingWorks hotline (888) 254-5525 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started. If you aren’t already an EPA WasteWise member, please contact Janet Bowen at email@example.com or visit the EPA’s website to register your organization. By registering, you will also be enrolled in the Massachusetts WasteWise program.