Episode 160: Recycling Updates by Region

In this week’s NothingWasted! podcast, we bring you a dynamic People’s Choice Session from WasteExpo. Listen to hear more about the latest recycling processes, challenges, policies, opportunities and more.

August 1, 2022

In this week’s NothingWasted! podcast, we bring you a dynamic People’s Choice Session from WasteExpo. Listen to hear more about the latest recycling processes, challenges, policies, opportunities and more.

This session features Steve Brum, VP & regional manager, Pacific Northwest, Recology; Bob Cappadona, VP, Casella Resource Solutions; Amanda Curtis, territory manager, American Waste Control; and Ty Rhoad, director of Americas, TOMRA. It was moderated by Jeffrey Synder, recycling senior manager, Rumpke Waste & Recycling.

Here’s a sneak peek into the discussion:

Snyder set the stage by noting some overall changes in the recycling steam. He observed that, for instance, “cardboard is crushing it,” with OCC (Old Corrugated Containers) increasing about seven to eight percent in Rumpke’s facilities in recent years. There is also “a lot of domestic capacity happening,” and he provided a few examples. 

Cappadona went on to talk about what Casella is seeing in the Northeast region. He noted that volumes and commodity values remain strong, and that technology is advancing particularly through optical sortation and robotic developments. Regional challenges include a need for contamination improvement and MRF glass solutions especially in states where landfilling glass is prohibited. Cappadona also noted that EPR remains a hot topic and that, for him, “At the end of the day, the most important two words are ‘needs assessment.’ The devil’s in the details.” Ultimately, Cappadona observed that “recycling’s not broken” in the Northeast and that there is a lot of investment happening in the region.

Brum then spoke about regional highlights from the Pacific Northwest. With easy access to both paper mills and plastic outlets, as well as an advantageous geographic position, Brum noted that, “We have the opportunity for both domestic and export of our material.” He also noted that, “The municipal recognition of the costs and challenges of recycling are beginning…our jurisdictions are seeing that not everything is on the back of the hauler or the MRF,” and a rate reset has begun. Like Cappadona, Brum noted the impact of technology in the region, particularly with robotics. Some of the challenges he mentioned for the region include labor issues, which impact everything from sort lines to trucking availability, as well as port-related troubles due to dockworker strikes. He also touched on the increasing scrutiny of quality and moisture content; challenges in the local wood market; and landfill airspace issues.

Rhoad then shared his perspectives from the Southeast. He talked about the rapidly growing regional infrastructure and large capital investments, partly driven by increased social awareness. But, as Brum noted, labor is “the number one thing” as far as challenges—recruiting, retention, and training. Also, material challenges relate mainly to films and laminated packaging. The key opportunities he noted include collaboration, expanding knowledge globally, and new processes to handle more materials.

Curtis, representing an Oklahoma-based business, addressed the changes American Waste Control is seeing: an increase in municipalities offering curbside recycling, and a demand for wage increases due to inflation. Like the other speakers, she observed a limited supply of skilled workers and high turnover rates. Another frustration is that, due to lax regulations at the state level, “our landfills are being filled with items that can be recycled.” She noted that recycling is not mandated in Oklahoma, and opportunities at the private level include companies benchmarking their waste and energy consumption, as well as local programs that encourage individuals and companies to take more responsibility.

The speakers wrapped up by taking questions from the audience. Listen to the full episode here.


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