Recycling Integrity

Maintaining maximum material value with minimum energy expended.

Ei is committed to creating operating practices where integrity is maintained throughout the entire value chain, including material producers, users, and destinations at disposal time. Incorporating a holographic lens brings the energy expended into the equation.

End of an era: For decades businesses and communities signed a contract, wrote checks, and placed their “waste” in containers for collection. There was no discussion, nor concern, of the destination as long as the material “disappeared.”

No longer is “pay & forget” behavior acceptable. Simple, basic economics plays a quiet, yet vigilant, role in shifting corporate behavior. The Zero Waste in ACTION Blog post, Emerging Trend: Recycling PROFIT Centers, details how companies across industry boundaries are turning their waste | recycling cost centers into recycling-profit centers. Companies improve their bottom lines by treating their “waste” items as valuable materials supported by the commodities market.

Integrated within material value is ensuring the destination results in a perpetual life cycle, mirroring material flows within nature. Spiral is used, instead of circle, to denote the material may take many different forms as it travels the regeneration path. The ZWA Blog posts, The Perpetual Spiral and Beyond Landfill Diversion, dive deeper into examples of perpetual life and extending life, two diverse concepts.

Deception: Diversion rates often present a deceptive portrait of recycling efforts. Note diversion refers to an initial destination other than landfill without regard for the final home.

The ZWA Blog posts, Single-Stream Recycling Controversy and Single-Stream Recycling: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, strike powerful blows to single-stream recycling supported by the Container Recycling Institute’s 2009 Single-Stream Recycling White Paper and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s July 2011 webinar Single-Stream Recycling: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.

Revealed in the CRI white paper: Single-stream recycling increases recycling participation (diversion rates) yet DECREASES actual recycling rates, mainly due to contamination.

Ei’s Contamination definition: An expensive trip to the landfill!

Balance : A key to developing successful systems is balance between the material value and the energy required to recycle material.

The energy expended during the material lifecycle is an important reality check. Energy is defined as labor hours and effort, transportation, electricity | water required in processes within the recycling chain, and other unique energy used within the system. While source-separation is integral to creating recycling-profit centers, increased energy is required: 1) additional labor (green job creation!) to source-separate and aggregate material for sale and 2) more trucks on the road collecting separated material.

Organizations will determine their threshold where material volume results in revenue sufficient to cover costs. For smaller organizations, collective effort with industry partners and neighbors may result in the necessary volume for recycling-profit centers.

A Journey: Recycling integrity is an important ever-evolving journey that requires a holographic viewpoint. The time is NOW to create material-management systems that embrace the collective, rather than a singular company or community perspective. Join Ei on the journey!

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