Evaluating the entire materials stream in one cost | revenue center
Within Ei’s Recycling Refinement platform a Total Materials Management Approach - the entire waste | recycling stream is evaluated within one revenue | cost center - is used. The stated objective is true zero waste with a strong focus on ultimate material destination and the remaining "trash" within the stream. Materials with solid end markets (e.g. aluminum, mixed paper, certain plastics) subsidize more challenging streams generated in operations.
Until recently zero waste measurement was quantified as diversion rates from the landfill without final destination consideration. Known for high levels of contamination, single-stream recycling - often the only recycling option available for the corporate community - results in a high percentage of recyclable items landfill destined. Thus, “true recycling rates” are inflated with single-stream recycling programs.
Note effective single-stream MRF – material recovery facilities – separation is limited by the contamination in the delivered material. Published reports substantiate curbside single-recycling programs contain significant contaminates, which may then contaminate the corporate recycling delivered to the MRF.
The Source-Separated Materials Recycling Template (S-SMRT) targets moderate material generators whose current recycling option is single-stream recycling. Grounded in on-site material source-separation and baling, the S-SMRT is developing a city-wide material recovery template with Atlanta serving as the pilot city.
When evaluating recycling programs, organizations generally prepare a business case or cost-benefit analysis to ensure there is a reasonable ROI – return on investment – for the particular material stream. Hard-to-recycle items or those with little to no ROI are landfill destined without further consideration.
Valuable plastic film is a contaminant in single-stream recycling as it entangles within MRF machinery causing costly equipment delays. Food waste collection for compost or other permitted destinations often exceeds landfill costs. Thus, these two materials are a challenge for companies committed to zero waste.
Plastic film recycling is integral to the S-SMRT creation. Clean, standard-size plastic film bales rival to exceed OCC – old corrugated cardboard – rebate values. Small balers are an excellent option for plastic film recycling programs. The ZWA Blog article, Plastic Film Recycling: A New Frontier, is an overview of the opportunities available and challenges to overcome.
Back-of-the-house (pre-consumer) food waste industry practices were perfected by early zero waste pioneers. Front-of-the-house (post-consumer) food waste remains a recycling frontier for two main reasons: 1> necessary shift in consumer-facing packaging to create clean food waste streams and 2> consumer responsibility for food waste disposal.
A Total Materials Management Approach for corporate recycling requires a consciousness and cultural shift within financial analysis practices.
The ZWA Blog article, Total Materials Management Approach, introduces the approach along with an in-depth S-SMRT logistics update.