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separation of recyclables

In Defense of Dual Stream

Onufrak challenges the notion that one of the culprits for the current state of recycling rates stems from inadequate education.

Ted Onufrak, executive director of Centre County Recycling & Refuse Authority in Bellefonte, Pa., penned an op ed for Waste Dive defending dual stream collection.

The piece was a response to the 2016 State of Curbside Report put out by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and national nonprofit The Recycling Partnership in December.

Onufrak challenges the notion that one of the culprits for the current state of recycling rates stems from inadequate education on what is and isn’t recyclable. Instead, he sees an issue being the use of bins in single-stream systems, instead of bags, which lead to the wrong kinds of material ending up in the stream.

Onufrak writes:

If there is anything that all these articles (whether you call them blue cart or single-stream) agree upon, it’s the need for a “beefed up” education program. As if someone has determined that those of us currently performing education programs are failing and are the real cause for increased contamination. After over 25 years in this business I never really realized I have to educate people that engine blocks and bowling balls don’t belong in carts or bins. Is this the new expectation of those who clamor for more education? It seems that educational efforts are being graded upon contamination rates — which aren’t really due to lack of education, but often times due to the collection method. These "easy" ways to recycle are easy because you can contaminate without fear of being caught. Around my workplace, we call that "wishcycling."

I've yet to see any articles on the impact of single-stream recycling on pay-as-you-throw programs. A number of municipalities in my county have a “low usage” refuse rate which allows only one bag per week. Single-stream, with its high contamination rates, would seem to cause an increase in single bag customers. It simply shifts the disposal cost to the MRF instead of the refuse hauler.

Read the full piece here.

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