Recyclables Get Royal Treatment

"There aren't many people who specialize in event recycling," said Jack McGinnis, vice president of technical services for Royal Recycling, Hamilton, Ontario. With a track record in recycling waste generated from large special events, Royal Recycling acted as ACOG's recycling consultant for the Atlanta Olympic Games. They worked closely with Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI), Houston; United Waste Service, Atlanta; and WMI, Oak Brook, Ill., in the retrieval of bottles, cans and office paper which comprised a significant portion of the waste stream.

Although a proven heavyweight in the recycling field, McGinnis was a little un-comfortable with ACOG's 85 percent recycling rate goal, which would include composted materials. "I thought 85 percent was too ambitious," he said. "It would be something to be proud of if achieved, but it's a tall bill to start with."

"This was not the largest recycling project we've ever done," said Allan Rosen, president of Royal Recycl-ing, "but in terms of our efforts operating in a short period of time, this was definitely the largest special event recycling project we've handled."

Royal's Roots In 1905, the Rosen family founded a scrap metal dealership, bartering farm goods and chicken eggs for old pots, pans and other metal.

The scrap recycling business that Rosen's grandfather entered into inadvertently has evolved into one of the largest metal scrap recovery operations in Canada. Royal Recy-cling is highly specialized in the field of large scale recycling worldwide, and in Hamilton, it operates a 1.7-million-pound-capacity recycling facility serving Toronto and neighboring communities.

"Our recycling approach is non-traditional," Rosen said. "Most recycling is product-oriented, where the recycler tells his customer, 'I'll pay X amount for scrap, or say, $3 a ton for paper. We work on a project basis. We look at their overall needs and design a whole program for the company."

Twenty-two years ago, McGinnis joined the firm, and two years later invented the household recycling box now used by more than 50 million people. In 1991, he created a model recycling system for the 1991 Special Olympics in Minneapolis, Minn. The company also was involved in recycling during the 1992 Super Bowl in Minneapolis and the 1992 Earth Summit in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

"Our first real involvement with special event recycling was working with the James River Corporation," said McGinnis. "We recovered 2.2 million foam cups for them at the Special Olympics in 1991."

The 1991 Special Olympics lasted eight days, attracting 350,000 spectators and 8,000 athletes and coaches to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. At that time, Royal Recycling faced a challenge one-tenth of the proportions posed by the Atlanta Olympics, but the experience served as solid preparation for what was to come.

The Olympics posed what Mc-Ginnis described as "a logistical challenge beyond belief: We had about a year to plan, and it took every minute." Those minutes added up to 13,000 hours.

Resources And Recruitment The Olympic project demanded that Royal Recycling add 40 additional employees to their 85-person staff. In comparison, BFI's employed 500 people, with many on loan from the company's California operations.

Royal Recycling designed the Olympic containers and signs and developed the "EarthCrew" concept, comprised of waste industry members, employees from Olympic sponsors and citizen volunteers.

Xerox Corporation, Stamford, Conn., sent 40 staff members from around the world to join EarthCrew. With 3,000 copying machines at the games, Xerox concentrated on paper and toner cartridge recovery.

All volunteers were trained to report problems with collection and recycling. They wore specially-designed EarthCrew T-shirts and kept a close watch on the use of the 7,500 green waste bins, 7,500 blue recycling bins for cans and bottles, and 2,000 bins lined with blue plastic bands for collecting paper. At the 39 venues, EarthCrew volunteers and other Olympic staff received computer assisted drafting (CAD) illustrations that sited locations for all trash and recycling containers.

The volunteers and professionals were equipped with radios, pagers and cellular phones. "We designed our system for redundancy," Mc-Ginnis said. "That way it wouldn't fail." EarthCrew members also relied on text messages transmitted to their pagers.

"A top manager in Coca-Cola's environmental department became a full-time member of our team," McGinnis said. "Both Xerox and Coca-Cola greatly extended the strength of our team."

Public Participation The waste recovery system made source separation easy for the public, McGinnis said. At the onset, Royal designed a system that would be obvious to the public, with easily identifiable markings and simple instructions in English, French and Spanish.

"We also carefully monitored what was going into the bins," McGinnis said. "Over time, it did improve, with an overall 93 percent capture rate."

Royal Recycling advocated world-wide recycling by providing specific contacts for setting up recycling programs in countries around the globe - a tremendous undertaking for Royal's research staff.

A public address system repeated a half-dozen announcements throughout the games, instructing spectators to recycle. Besides in-creasing the public's recycling awareness, the company also made sure that a trash container was stationed next to each recycling container to ensure that recycling bins would not be inundated with trash.

Managing The Waste Stream Compaction levels were low for the compactors containing mostly recyclables: three to four tons per compactor as opposed to 10 tons per compactor containing garbage that would not be diverted from the landfill. BFI's newly-constructed 98,000-square-foot municipal recovery facility located just outside of Atlanta, was a practical choice for final material separation because it accepted co-mingled recyclables.

"With an event program, the waste stream is a lot like that of a restaurant because it contains a lot of compostable beverage containers and food service packaging," Mc-Ginnis said. The company retrieved approximately 20 million cans and bottles.

"This is a simpler waste stream than household," he continued "In this case, we knew recycling was 85 percent do-able because of the waste stream's composition, but a lot of the recovery was dependent on all parts of the effort being in place."

The concentration of containers and compactors was directly proportionate to crowd size estimated for individual Olympic events and locations. Approximately 70 percent of the waste generated at the Olympics came from completely new venues.

All collection occurred between midnight and 6 a.m., when the fewest people were present.

"The willingness and enthusiasm about recycling exhibited by not only our 2 million guests, but, also our own residents of Atlanta exceeded our expectations," said John Teas-ley, Georgia division market develop manager for BFI.

In all, it seems that little was wasted. No doubt, Olympic waste management employees have learned a great deal from their participation in what can only be described as a gold medal performance.