NCRA News NCRA is a non-profit trade organization of recycling businesses, community groups, municipalities and individuals. We promote waste reduction, reuse, salvaging, recycling and composting as vital tools for resource and energy conservation and cost-effective, environmentally sound methods of disposing of discards. Founded in 1978, the majority of our 265 members are located in Northern California; we also have members sprinkled across the US. Our office is in Oakland CA. Not a member - yet? Please join and encourage your associates to join membership is $60 per year. Benefits include this publication, access to the NCRA Jobs Board, discounts on tours, classes, workshops and conferences, inclusion in the Member Directory and listing in the Members Services Directory. For more information, visit www.ncrarecycles.org, look for us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube or send a note to the NCRA office via our on-line contact form.
Laura McKaughan, Juliana Gerber, Chrise de Tournay, Liz Bortolotto, Tom Wright, Dan Knapp, Editor Portia Sinnott and the members of NCRA's Committees.
Announcements Groups Markets Press Showcase
ZERO WASTE WEEK 2018!
SF Bay Area Zero Waste Week 2018 is March 17 - 24. Our premier event, the 23nd Annual Recycling Update, will be held Tuesday, March 20 at Freight and Salvage in Berkeley!
Recycling Update Speakers 2017
Recycling Update is THE event of the season for Bay Area waste reduction professionals to learn about what’s new and different in discard management. The day features 20+ industry experts speaking on the spectrum of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot as well as networking opportunities, a delicious zero waste lunch, and plenty of ideas to bring home to your local municipalities. Often referred to as conference “speed dating,” speakers are given only 10 minutes (plus a few minutes for Q&A) to let you know about the latest and greatest in Zero Waste. Attendees include discard management and recycling professionals, service providers and activists as well as local, regional, state and national elected officials and policy-makers and members of the media covering Sustainability, Zero Waste, Reuse, Recycling, Composting and EPR. For up-to-date information visit the ZWW Page. Don’t wait! Early bird registration ends 2/16!
Zoe Heller was appointed Assistant Director for Policy Development at the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery in May 2017. Before joining CalRecycle she worked at the U.S. EPA's Pacific Southwest Office for more than 10 years. She was manager for the Zero Waste section from 2014 to 2017, special assistant to the Regional Administrator from 2012 to 2013, and an environmental protection specialist in the Environmental Justice program from 2006 to 2012. From 2004 to 2006, Zoe was a research and policy analyst at the Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago, Illinois.
Adam Gendell, Associate Director, Sustainable Packaging Coalition, Adam Gendell is the Associate Director of GreenBlue's flagship project, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. Adam's focus is devoted to macro trends in sustainable packaging and helping industry create leadership strategies. He has special expertise in responsible material sourcing, life cycle assessment, and solid waste management. Adam has developed and delivered training seminars for hundreds of sustainability and packaging professionals, and is a frequent speaker and writer on sustainability topics. David Allaway, Senior Policy Analyst, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. David has 28 years of solid waste reduction and management experience in the public and private sectors, including significant work in California. His current work at DEQ focuses on sustainable consumption, production and greenhouse gas assessment. He'll address (Continued on page 7)
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ZERO WASTE WEEK SCHEDULE
THANK YOU, RECYCLING UPDATE 2018 SPONSORS!!
6th Annual Zero Waste Youth Convergence, Saturday and Sunday, 3/17 & 18, San Francisco Zero Waste USA Certification Classes start Monday, 3/19 in Santa Rosa and San Jose. Details below. 23rd Annual Recycling Update, Tuesday, 3/20, 8:30am - 4:30pm, Berkeley, register today! EPA Deconstruction Policy Quarterly Meeting, 3/22, San Francisco Downtown Oakland Clothing Swap, 3/25, 4-7pm, details in March newsletter. Stay tuned for NCRA’s 40th Anniversary Party
ZERO WASTE YOUTH CONVERGENCE 2018
6:30pm. The address is1970 Broadway, Suite 950 - near the 19th/Broadway BART station. Coming late? Let the office know so someone can be prepared to come down to let you in; the doorperson leaves at 6pm. Directions RSVP Board Meetings: Third Thursday of most months; often but not always held at John Moore’s office in Oakland. The board does not meet in September or March. Zero Waste Advocacy: Second Wednesday of most months. The next meeting is February 14 at John Moore’s office in Oakland. RSVP Membership, Outreach and Activities: First Wednesday of most months at noon via phone. RSVP.
Resilient Communities Fight Back: Equity In Zero Waste Saturday, March 17, Jackrabbit Beach at Candlestick Point Park
Nicole Gaetjens has accepted a position as an Energy and Sustainability Analyst at JLL. Previously she was the Sustainability Manager at Mills College for 3 years and Green Purchasing Association for Alameda County where she developed green specifications for Alameda County leased and owned buildings.
Community Building & Beach Cleanup
Sunday, March 18, City College SF, Ocean Campus Speakers, Workshops & Raffles
Providing students and young professionals the resources to protect the health of their communities and environment from unnecessary waste. Registration will be open soon!
Click here to access NCRA’s Jobs Page for development & job opportunities. Volunteer needed to highlight a few jobs in newsletter per month.
ZERO WASTE CLASSES
Zero Waste USA announces the Spring 2018 certificate program for resource management professionals, municipal staff, service providers, advocates, job seekers and students. The series is sponsored by the Northern California Recycling Association, Santa Clara County and Recology Sonoma Marin, Zero Waste Sonoma and Zero Waste San Diego. Two Locations and Instructor Teams San Jose: Ruth Abbe & Gary Liss Santa Rosa: Portia Sinnott & Rick Anthony Plus lectures by Bay Area Zero Waste leaders Class 1: Introduction to Zero Waste, Monday, March 19 Class 2: Zero Waste Principles and Tools, Friday, April 20 Class 3: Zero Waste Community Planning, Thursday, May 24 Check-in: 8:30am Instruction: 9am – 3pm Students may register for one or more classes. $125 each or $300 for series. Scholarships available. Successful completion of all three classes and exams earns Zero Waste USA Zero Waste Community Associate Certification. Register Today!
ANNOUNCEMENTS BOARD MEETING, FEBRUARY 15 Meet us in Oakland at the law offices of Henn, Etzel and Moore for a light dinner at 6pm followed by the meeting at
ASSOCIATED GROUPS AND PROJECTS GRANTS AVAILABLE FROM STOPWASTE!
The StopWaste Grants Program provides funding to organizations for innovative projects that will increase individual and community involvement in reuse, recover, source reduction and recycling efforts, decrease the amount of waste generated and sent to the County's three landfills, and encourage the development, marketing and use of recycled products. Applications are due Monday, March 19. Read more… StopWaste
SONOMA COUNTY ZERO WASTE WEEK MAY 6-12
The 2nd annual Sonoma County Zero Waste Symposium will be held Tuesday, May 10 at Sonoma Mountain Village in Rohnert Park. The keynote speaker will be Captain Charles Moore founder of the Algalita Marine Research and Education and co-chair of the Albatross Coalition. The Symposium is the headline event for the local Zero Waste Week, May 6-12, 2018. A multitude of events are being planned - for youth, for schools, for the public… including Zero Waste Curious classes and the Zero Waste 5K run. More details forth coming… This ambitious event is being organized by members of the Sonoma County Zero Waste Force (ZWTF), led by Leslie Lukacs of SCS Engineers. The ZWTF was established in 2017 by the Sonoma County AB 939 Local Task Force on Integrated Waste Management as a collaborative of stakeholders to develop the 2018 Zero Waste Initiative which
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will soon be used to ask the County of Sonoma and each of its nine jurisdictions to adopt a 2018 Zero Waste Ordinance with substantive goals and policies, and to initiate the development of a comprehensive Zero Waste Plan by 2019. ZWTF participants include including the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency, 350 Sonoma, North Bay Jobs with Justice, Sierra Club Redwood Chapter, Compost Coalition of Sonoma County, Zero Waste Sonoma County, North Bay Labor Council, Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority, Sonoma County Conservation Action, Recology Sonoma-Marin, Sonoma County Resource Recovery, local businesses and engaged citizens. Read more… ZWS
and overall, it consists of a fair mix of dry goods, fresh bread/ tortillas, fresh dairy, fresh juice, frozen product (meat, meals, etc.). The Food Bank works with about 20 donation partners throughout the county weekly, and averages about 630,000 pounds of surplus food redistributed per month.
ZERO FOOD WASTE FORUM – FALL 2018
Did you miss the “Woodstock of Wasted Food”? NCRA was a co-sponsor of the Zero Waste Food Forum in October 2014, which brought over 300 practitioners from around the world together to elevate the discussion of wasted food and grow the movement. The NCRA Food Waste Reduction Committee is planning the next Zero Food Waste Forum in fall 2018 in the Bay Area. We will profile model food recovery programs and prepare local communities for compliance with Senate Bill 1383. If you are interested in serving on the steering committee or becoming a sponsor, contact the NCRA Food Waste Reduction Committee.
ALAMEDA COUNTY COMMUNITY FOOD BANK – BIG SLICES OF THE FOOD RECOVERY PIE
NCRA Food Waste Reduction Committee For our report, Commercial Food Waste Reduction in Alameda County, we documented the amount of surplus food that was rescued and distributed in Alameda County. We estimated that about 5.7 million pounds of surplus food that was generated within the county was redistributed to feed hungry people in Alameda County in 2016. A major player is the Alameda County Community Food Bank. As we documented in our report, the Food Bank runs the grocery rescue or Food Recovery Program which matches grocery stores to agencies (like food pantries) that distribute the surplus food (like individually wrapped salads, sandwiches, produce and food staples). Over 3.6 million pounds of food from over 100 donors was redistributed through the grocery rescue program in 2016. This grew to over 4 million pounds in 2017. Since we published our report in July 2017, we learned about other sources of surplus food obtained by the Food Bank. The Food Bank receives donations from large manufacturers and retail distributors, some of which might otherwise have been disposed. The Local Donation Program from Distributors and Manufacturers accounts for over 25% of the food that they distribute. This compares to about 12% from the grocery rescue program. The Local Donation Program has grown by 2.2 million pounds over the last two years, with last fiscal year totaling 6.2 million pounds. About 40% of this product is produce,
About 45% of the food that the Food Bank distributes comes from the California Association of Food Banks Farm to Family Program which distributed 164 million pounds of surplus produce to 43 food banks statewide and partnered with more than 135 farmers to access 44 different crops (which might otherwise have been wasted or ploughed under). This surplus food is generated outside of Alameda County, but feeds hungry people in county and throughout the state. Senate Bill 1383 requires local jurisdictions to up the ante on food rescue and ensure that 20% of currently disposed edible food is recovered for human consumption in 2025. As the state identifies priorities for food rescue, it will need to consider the role of the large, traditional sources of surplus food (farms, manufacturers, and distributors) compared to the smaller, more difficult-to-address sources of surplus food (such as restaurants, schools, corporate cafeterias, and caterers). Thank you Caroline Chow, Food Resource Development Coordinator, Alameda County Community Food Bank for contributing to this piece.
MARKETS AND MATERIALS COCA-COLA, CRITICIZED FOR PLASTIC BOTTLES, SETS RECYCLING GOALS
Cara Lombardo, Wall Street Journal, 1/19/18 Coca-Cola Co., long criticized by environmental advocates for producing billions of plastic bottles that end up in landfills and oceans, said Friday it wants to collect and recycle the equivalent of all the packaging it puts out into the world by 2030. The goal is part of a sustainability initiative announced by the soda giant called "World Without Waste." Coca-Cola said its efforts will include investing in more efficient packaging, local recycling programs and consumer education. It declined to say how much it will spend as part of the effort. "Future growth comes with further responsibilities," Chief Executive James Quincey said on a media call. "As a company, we must grow with conscience."
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caught up with Ryan a little over a year ago, he explained his drive to get his hands on the most eco-friendly materials out there. Not one to shy away from uphill battles, Ryan was using bio-resin back when it would cure a weird yellow color, has fought hard against unfounded theories that epoxy doesn’t perform as well as poly, and has always sought to minimize waste in the process. But making surfboards is really messy, says Ryan. “I felt like it was kind of a catch-22 to preach all this stuff about sustainability when we are putting out, you know, mountains of trash into the trash bin outside and it ends up in the landfill.” Ryan’s found solutions for larger chunks of EPS foam that are bi-products of the shaping process through Marko Foam and Sustainable Surf’s Waste to Waves program, along with other ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle. But for some of the tiniest forms of waste, namely foam dust, sawdust, and the like, there was no way around that waste stream ending in a landfill. Four or five months ago, though, Ryan found a solution to his waste problem in the form of mealworms. “I met this guy named Eddie [Garcia], and he runs The Living Earth Systems… and he sends me this video of these freaking meal worms eating styrofoam and eating wood. And I was like, ‘This is a joke. There’s no way,'” says Ryan. Eddie has a facility on Molokai and recently opened another in Fallbrook, California. “To keep it short and sweet, he’s got a network of these worms that eat styrofoam and wood and poop out organic soil. And so that is the solution for all of our shaping dust.” … the company’s commitment to Zero Waste also includes a board recycling and deposit program, and a vacuum infusion system. As part of the board recycling and deposit program, the Earth Technologies factory will become a collection center for broken or retired epoxy boards. “The outer shell gets stripped and shredded, then we upcycle the foam into new shapes or handplanes,” explains the press release. Read more... The Inertia and Earth Technologies’ Zero Waste Kickstarter campaign.
HOT OFF THE PRESS HOW TO FINANCE THE TRANSITION TO A ZERO WASTE FUTURE
Mallory Szczepanski, Waste 360, 1/12/18 The biggest economic opportunity in the history of the planet is figuring out how to finance the transition to a Zero Waste future, according to Terry Tamminen, CEO of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and co-founder of the Planet Pledge Fund.
materials locally. … Right now, we are going through such great extremes to get raw materials, which is both hard and expensive. There are people cutting down trees for wood, paper and pulp, people marching in armies around the globe to secure the next barrel of oil and people mining to get various raw materials. It’s truly insane that we turn these raw materials into great products just to throw them away and start all over again. I believe within the next 10 to 15 years that we will start to see urban mining of landfills to get those materials given that the technology of conversion is getting better and better. The economics and politics of cutting down trees, drilling for oil and mining are getting harder and more expensive, which is making our own backyard look better and better. If you do things in your own backyard, you can create local jobs, start new businesses and develop new value in the community where those materials exist. Read more… Waste360
THE QUEEN DECLARES WAR ON PLASTIC AFTER DAVID ATTENBOROUGH DOCUMENTARY
Sarah Knapton, The Telegraph, 2/11/18 Buckingham Palace outlined new waste plans and said there was a ‘strong desire to tackle the issue’ at the highest levels of the Royal household. It is thought that the Queen became personally interested in the problem of plastic after working with Sir David Attenborough on a conservation documentary dealing with wildlife in the Commonwealth. The pair, who are both 91, were filmed laughing and joking together during the programme which discussed plans to create a network of national forested parks across the 52 countries of the Commonwealth. The new measures include gradually phasing out plastic straws in public cafes and banning them altogether in staff dining rooms. Internal caterers at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. Takeaway food items in the Royal Collection cafes must also now be made of compostable or biodegradable packaging. … As well as the Queen’s interest, The Prince of Wales also regularly speaks about the damage to the oceans caused by dumped plastic and recently warned that the world was facing a ‘escalating ecological and human disaster’ from refuse in the seas. Last year he joined forces with yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur to offer a multi-million cash sum for ideas which can keep it out of the ocean and earlier this month met with Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, PepsiCo UK, scientists and environmentalists to discuss how to tackle the issue. Read more... The Telegraph
“Investing in converting waste to valuable materials is of interest to investors because of climate change, tremendous pressure on natural ecosystems, better technology for conversion and the need to harvest more materials locally,” says Tamminen. For many years, those in the industry have harvested some recyclables locally and sent the rest to countries like China to make a profit. But now, China’s waste import ban is in effect and driving up the demand to use and manage more NCRA News, February 2018, Page 4
Greenpeace, an environmental advocacy group that has identified Coca-Cola, PepsiCo Inc., and Nestlé SA, as some of the worst polluters, promptly criticized Coke's plan. "The plan failed to include any reduction of the company's rapidly increasing use of single-use plastic bottles globally, which now stands at well over 110 billion annually," the organization said in a statement issued Friday. Mr. Quincey disagreed. "If we recollect all the bottles, there is no such thing as a single use bottle," he said. "Every bottle comes back and every bottle has another life." Coca-Cola, rather than taking on the difficult task of recollecting all of its own bottles, aims to collect an equivalent amount of bottles as it produces. … The announcement comes a few days after McDonald's Corp. said it wants all McDonald's restaurants to recycle food -service packaging by 2025. It also wants 100% of its packaging to come from renewable or recycled materials or be certified by certain environmental groups. PepsiCo and Nestlé didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. PepsiCo has said it wants 100% of its packaging to be recyclable or recoverable by 2025, while Nestlé has said it aims to reduce its packaging material by 140,000 tons between 2015 and 2020. Read more… WSJ
APPLE PLANS TO MAKE IPHONES AND MACBOOKS FROM RECYCLED MATERIALS
Nick Whigham, News.com.au, 11/20/17 As tech companies come under pressure over the questionable ethics involved in their supply chains for raw materials, Apple is pursuing a seriously ambitious goal for its products. The company wants to use 100 per cent recycled and renewable materials like bioplastics to make its iPhones, Macbooks and other consumer electronics in a bid to reduce its reliance on raw materials. “What we’ve committed to is 100 per cent recycled material to make our products, or renewable material,” Apple's vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, Lisa Jackson, told news.com.au. “We’re working like gangbusters on that.” As the former boss of the country’s Environmental Protection Agency under President Barack Obama, the move towards developing a “circular economy” for its products is a mission close to her heart. “As far as I know, we’re the only company in the sector trying to figure that out. Most people talk about recycling electronics but the material is not necessarily used in new electronics,” Ms Jackson said. It’s a great PR move but the company’s stated goal to “stop mining the earth altogether” is not likely to come to fruition anytime soon and the economics of the decision have even been described as very strange indeed, verging upon nonsense. However, Apple has been an industry leader when it comes to cleaning up its supply chain. Earlier this year, the company announced it would temporarily stop using cobalt mined by hand in the Democratic Republic of the Congo while it continues to deal with problems of child labour and harsh working conditions. More than half of the world’s cobalt, a key component in
lithium-ion batteries used in electronics and the growing electric vehicle market, comes from the DRC and about 20 per cent of it is mined by hand in hazardous conditions — sometimes by children. A new report released last week by Amnesty International, ranked industry giants including Apple, Samsung Electronics, Dell, Microsoft, BMW, Renault and Tesla on how much they had improved their cobalt sourcing practices since January 2016. Of all the companies, Apple was the only one that Amnesty said had taken “adequate” measure to mitigate its reliance on cobalt mines potentially using child labour. Read more… News.com.au
THINK YOU CAN’T COMPOST STYROFOAM? MEALWORMS ARE THE ANSWER! Living Earth Systems, 2017 Within our living systems, we have been raising several types of mealworms in order to compost polystyrene (styrofoam). We recently came across the study by 2015 Standard University that confirms our suspicions that they are indeed turning styrofoam into usable organic matter!
Their notes are not much different than ours, except their equipment (gel permeation chromatography, solid-state 13C cross-polarization/ magic angle spinning nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and thermogravimetric Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy) was a little better than ours. I mean, we do have a microscope and a few 5-gallon buckets… … The mealworms are able to do this due to their gut bacteria (Exiguobacterium sp. strain YT2) that actually breaks down the polystyrene. The Stanford study uses a common mealworm (the larvae of Tenebrio molitor Linnaeus) – we are using this same mealworm, but in addition to that we are also using what’s known as a “superworm” (the larvae of Zophobas morio), a type of darkling beetle, that has a lifespan of 3 to 15 years. Read more… Living Earth Systems and 2015 Stanford Study Results, ASC Publications: Biodegradation and Mineralization of Polystyrene by PlasticEating Mealworms: Part 1. Chemical and Physical Characterization and Isotopic Tests and Part 2. Role of Gut Microorganisms
EARTH TECHNOLOGIES JUST BECAME THE WORLD’S FIRST ZERO-WASTE BOARD FACTORY THANKS TO WORMS
Dylan Heyden, The Inertia, 1/17/18 … For the last ten years, Earth Technologies, helmed by Ryan Harris, has been at the center of building the greenest surfboards and stand up paddle boards possible. When we
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This material is a hard sell. Here’s a good working definition for garbage: unknown discards from unknown sources, all mixed together. So the end product from mixed-waste composting, the part not burned as fuel, has still got lots of garbage in there, just smaller bits. What the fuel has in it is another question that I won’t go into here. People aware of these facts are understandably cautious. What else is in that stuff?
INTERACTIVE MAP – WORLD’S MOST WASTEFUL COUNTRIES
Ben Messenger, Waste Management World, 1/5/18 The average household produces more than a tonne of waste every year - and it’s during the festive period that we waste the most, according to E-Card firm Eco2 Greetings. In fact, the company said that over Christmas we create 30% more waste than usual. Everything from cards and envelopes, wrapping paper, boxes from biscuits and chocolates, shopping bags, wine bottles and toy packaging on average, each household will chuck out an extra five bags of waste over Christmas, adding up to 736,571 tonnes of refuse every year. But just how wasteful are we? The US is 19 out of 20. To explain visually eC02 Greetings has delivered a list and map of the most wasteful countries. View the interactive map. Read more… Waste Management World
MEMBER SHOWCASE/OPINIONS Editors note: Due to lack of consensus, the NCRA Board very specifically has NOT taken a position on this topic. DIGESTING GARBAGE FOR FUEL AND – WHAT? Does(n’t) the Anaerobic Technology Planned for “Treating” East Bay Cities’ Garbage Contain the Seeds of its Own Destruction? And/Or Is It a Wasteful Cash Cow in Sustainability’s Clothing? by Dan Knapp, Ph.D., CEO, Urban Ore, Inc., A Material Recovery Enterprise, 1/29/18 Garbage is a mixture of discarded resources that are crosscontaminated and can’t be recycled.1 Sometimes this mixture originates as leftovers from processing that sorts recyclables from single-stream mixed recyclables, or sometimes from a prior batch of garbage that has been sorted. This sorting is most often done by big, expensive, automated and engineered machinery housed in large noisy steel buildings called Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs). There now exist systems to compost this mixture of leftovers. What’s left after the composting might look kind of wholesome from a distance of fifty feet or more. It might look like dirt piles, only darker than most dirt you have seen in road cuts. That’s because it’s full of carbon compounds, and elemental carbon is more or less black. But get up close to this compost and it has a tweedy bits of shredded plastic and sand-sized eroded glass fragments that don’t break down right away.
This caution may be the reason that Biocycle, the official magazine of the US Composting Council, could find only 11 “mixed MSW composting operations” open for business in all of the USA last year, 2017.2 Meanwhile, on the source separation “clean recycling” side, where quality of finished product is the key to marketability, things couldn’t be more different. Biocycle’s survey found “2,698 yard trimming composting facilities, 249 facilities composting yard trimmings and source-separated food scraps, and 620 operations composting multiple organics, including yard trimmings, food scraps, manures, industrial organics, soiled paper and packaging, and /or mortalities.” That’s 3,567 “put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is” composting enterprises that handle clean source-separated feedstocks, and only 11 that handle mixed garbage. So percentage-wise, and as a technology that purports to be competitive, mixed MSW composting companies last year had roughly a 3% market share in the compost company marketplace after decades of market development for the industry as a whole. Source-separated composting enterprises have a 97% to 3% advantage. Obviously, Waste Management’s San Leandro project will be an outlier in the face of all this reality checking. That could be scary if conventional business success is what the company is after. But what if another goal is simply to protect and solidify market share for wasting? In that case, sinking money into garbage-composting capacity might be perceived as the best way to ward off competition from better disposal technologies. This is not the only form of market rejection that’s making mixed-waste processing’s future look gloomy. Another source of gloom is fact that the composition of the mixed waste feedstock available to the digesters has just gotten a lot dirtier. US mixed-waste processors handling singlestream 1 collections have been hearing for four years or so that China was starting to send loads of baled recyclables back across the sea because they were too dirty. Source-separation advocates warned single-streamers often and in public that a day of reckoning was sure to come. That dreaded day is here. On the first day of January, 2018, China’s bans on contaminated recyclables tightened up on, and more closely targeted, specific material streams. Two of
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(Featured Speakers - continued from page 1)
Oregon's efforts to move up the hierarchy with a focus on reducing wasted food, reuse/repair, and the built environment; Oregon's transition to sustainable materials management; and the development of new statewide systems to measure progress towards broad sustainability goals that include – but go beyond – traditional weight-based waste recovery metrics. # (Knapp - continued from page 6)
the biggest export commodities leaving US ports, plastics and mixed paper, were all but banned, along with 22 other formerly tradeable commodities now deemed by China to be “solid waste materials,” 5 the supply chain began to back up. “On top of that,” said Megan Quinn of Scrap magazine, “China announced new technical standards for materials that were not banned, calling for a 0.5 percent prohibitives threshold for most [unbanned] materials...a move that, if implemented on the reported March 1, 2018 date, could ‘effectively ban all imports.’” In the case of plastics, one industry participant says, while some MRFs keep on processing thinking they can find space to stockpile export bales and containers while waiting for the markets to return, many others “are letting it run off the end of the belts and go to the landfill, or they are just paying someone to get rid of the material.” 6 Either way, whether it is sent directly or arrives indirectly via illegal dumping, the nearest, cheapest landfill is the most likely destination. Of course, if the proposed San Leandro mixed-waste anaerobic digestion facility is ever built, some of its plastic residue might make its way there too. That would complicate the anaerobic digester’s composting feedstock even more. The other big-volume feedstock, mixed paper, isn’t faring well either. A paper broker from Atlanta who attended a recent international meeting of paper and paperboard end-users “bluntly asserted that neither Europe nor the United States is capable of meeting China’s proposed 0.3 percent contamination limit, and those recyclers would have difficulty meeting any limit below 2 percent. He expects China’s policies will lead to a ‘collapse’ in U.S. and U.K... residential recycling programs.” 7
can’t help. It might generate more financial woes, however, as high-capital facilities that need 30-year amortizations search in vain for someone to buy, or even accept, their contaminated products. We too can speculate about why anyone would want to invest capital in this technology. There’s always technophilism, or the love of new technologies for their own sake, or the sake of developing new whiz-bang gizmos. Then again, some might be motivated by dreams of profit. From what source(s) might the profits flow? My own best guess is that expected profits come from the need to monopolize the disposal fee market 9 in the face of stiff and relentless competition from recyclers who collect clean resources that were kept separate at the source, with only light cleaning required after that. For the waste industry, the reliable money has always come from the disposal service fees that they charge for the sanctioned and legal practice of wasting resources for profit. Selling recovered resources for top dollar is messy and labor intensive. It’s easier just to lock up the supply, ensuring wasting’s survival in the face of the market’s rejection. Read more… Urban Ore Blog 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.
There are systems that sort garbage to remove recyclables with high levels of contamination. In the market, these products bring the lowest prices and sometimes cannot be sold. Increasingly, no markets will even accept a fee to take them. EDITORIAL: “CALL TO ACTION,” by Nora Goldstein, Biocycle: The Official Magazine of the US Composting Council, January, 2018, page 4. Singlestream collection allows all types of paper fiber, glass, plastic, and metal containers to be mixed ctogether in a single bin. “Finding a Home for Postconsumer Plastics,” by Megan Quinn; Scrap magazine; January/ February 2018 issue, page 52. Patty Moore, Executive Director, Plastics Recycling Corporation of California, page 53 of the Scrap magazine article in footnote 4. “Volatile Markets Ahead: ...Mixed Paper Markets Especially Uncertain,” Scrap magazine, January/February 2018 issue, p. 64. Quotation from “Finding a Home for Postconsumer Plastics, same source as footnote 5, p. 54. A disposal fee is the money paid to make unwanted things go away legally. The wasting industry is 100% dependent on disposal service fees unless it can find someone to buy its products. Recyclers are also justified in charging disposal fees, and they have experienced healthy markets if they have kept their resources clean. Thus the recyclers who collect and process source-separated discards can charge lower disposal fees than those who collect and process single-stream materials.
The collapse is already happening right now to a growing but unknown degree all across the USA and Canada. Some recycling centers that don’t stockpile or send banned materials to landfill are stopping people from dropping them off. One resident of Florence, Oregon, says this has led to a “sense of panic.” 8 The underlying story is the same in all cases: crosscontaminated feedstocks that are supposedly recyclable are being rejected by the end-use marketplaces, with China, the biggest importer, leading the movement to clean things up. There’s a lot more to this cautionary tale. The three articles I’ve referenced are full of useful information, as well as speculations as to what’s next. Mixed-waste processing of any kind seems to be an industry whose time has passed. Resorting to anaerobic digestion NCRA News, February 2018, Page 7