More Reasons to Consider an Advanced MRF

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Most communities have instituted curbside collection of commingled recyclable materials from residences. These collection programs are mature and generally well supported by a high percentage of households that participate. In addition, MRFs that process residential commingled wastestreams typically recover very high percentages of the recyclable materials.

Once collection and processing of the residential commingled wastestream was well established, the next step for some municipalities and processors was to collect and process source-separated recyclable materials from commercial and institutional customers. Often, these select wastestreams could be processed along with the residential materials with little or no modifications to the processing systems.

Most communities have instituted curbside collection of commingled recyclable materials from residences. These collection programs are mature and generally well supported by a high percentage of households that participate. In addition, MRFs that process residential commingled wastestreams typically recover very high percentages of the recyclable materials. Once collection and processing of the residential commingled wastestream was well established, the next step for some municipalities and processors was to collect and process source-separated recyclable materials from commercial and institutional customers. Often, these select wastestreams could be processed along with the residential materials with little or no modifications to the processing systems. [text_ad] However, in many locations providing separate commercial and institutional routing to generate loads that contain more recyclables has limits due to costs and logistics. As a result of this and the sheer nature and volume of the commercial and institutional wastestreams, many recyclable materials remain. Other efforts to boost recovery have been the implementation of residential green waste collection programs and composting of the collected materials. Measurable gains have also come from processing of construction and demolition debris. Despite these historic gains, there is continuing pressure from many different levels to increase the amount of recyclables and divert more from landfill. Most notable are the new state and local regulations and/or policies aimed at setting higher recycling and diversion goals. Recently, California passed new laws that will lead to a 75% statewide recycling goal by 2020. A key element of this legislation requires local jurisdictions to establish recycling programs for commercial and multi-family generators. The city of Seattle approved a policy to achieve a 70% recycling rate by 2022. Several other communities throughout the country have adopted “zero waste” plans with the goal to eliminate landfill disposal. Another factor influencing the desire to increase mixed-waste processing is that landfills are significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Another very important consideration is the fact that solid waste is a resource, and we should strive to reduce, reuse, recycle, compost, and recover energy before considering disposal. These driving factors are ever pressing, and legislators and policy makers will not be deterred from passing regulations and policies that call for higher recovery rates. In order to satisfy these demands, increased processing of the mixed commercial, multifamily, and institutional wastestreams is imperative. What Is Left to Recover? Within the remaining wastestream, the mixed commercial, multifamily, and institutional wastestreams contain significant quantities of recyclable and organic materials, specifically food waste that can be composted or converted to energy through anaerobic digestion. Additionally, materials such as wood and mixed plastics can be recovered for thermal conversion, and there are beneficial uses for many other construction and demolition (C&D) wastes. Waste composition studies from several communities verify this. In Seattle, a comprehensive waste characterization study was performed in 2010 that revealed their commercial wastestream contained between 25% and 30% of marketable commodities. The list includes traditional “readily recyclable” materials such as OCC, mixed paper, HDPE, PET, mixed plastics (such as rigids and film), aluminum, and ferrous and non-ferrous metals. In addition to these marketable commodities, another 20% of the wastestream is comprised of food waste and other organics. This is not a unique case. A comprehensive waste composition study for commercial wastestreams in northern California showed their commercial wastestream contained about 30–35% of various marketable commodities. The mixed organic stream (food and green waste) was estimated to be about 32%. In addition, a waste composition study conducted for the Fraser Valley Regional Waste District located east of Vancouver, BC, showed that their commercial/institutional wastestream is comprised of approximately 25% marketable commodities, and 21% food wastes and compostable mixed organics. [text_ad use_post='27767'] The data sighted from these studies provide evidence of the potential to recover more recyclables from the commercial, institutional, and multifamily wastestreams. Considering the challenges with establishing consistent and reliable source separation collection programs for these generators, advanced mixed-waste materials recovery may be the best means for capturing these recyclable goods. Programs to collect food waste from restaurants and grocery stores can play a role in reducing the amount of organics disposed into landfills, but the reality is that most food waste is embedded in the mixed wastestream and is not present in concentrated forms. Separating the food waste for composting or anaerobic digestion requires advanced systems and processes. After separation of the recyclables and organics in an advanced MRF, a predominantly dry residual wastestream remains. Where markets exist, this residual stream—which consists mainly of plastics and fibers—can be converted to engineered fuel. Msw Bug Web

However, in many locations providing separate commercial and institutional routing to generate loads that contain more recyclables has limits due to costs and logistics. As a result of this and the sheer nature and volume of the commercial and institutional wastestreams, many recyclable materials remain.

Other efforts to boost recovery have been the implementation of residential green waste collection programs and composting of the collected materials. Measurable gains have also come from processing of construction and demolition debris.

Despite these historic gains, there is continuing pressure from many different levels to increase the amount of recyclables and divert more from landfill. Most notable are the new state and local regulations and/or policies aimed at setting higher recycling and diversion goals.

Recently, California passed new laws that will lead to a 75% statewide recycling goal by 2020. A key element of this legislation requires local jurisdictions to establish recycling programs for commercial and multi-family generators. The city of Seattle approved a policy to achieve a 70% recycling rate by 2022. Several other communities throughout the country have adopted “zero waste” plans with the goal to eliminate landfill disposal.

Another factor influencing the desire to increase mixed-waste processing is that landfills are significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Another very important consideration is the fact that solid waste is a resource, and we should strive to reduce, reuse, recycle, compost, and recover energy before considering disposal.

These driving factors are ever pressing, and legislators and policy makers will not be deterred from passing regulations and policies that call for higher recovery rates. In order to satisfy these demands, increased processing of the mixed commercial, multifamily, and institutional wastestreams is imperative.

What Is Left to Recover?
Within the remaining wastestream, the mixed commercial, multifamily, and institutional wastestreams contain significant quantities of recyclable and organic materials, specifically food waste that can be composted or converted to energy through anaerobic digestion. Additionally, materials such as wood and mixed plastics can be recovered for thermal conversion, and there are beneficial uses for many other construction and demolition (C&D) wastes.

Waste composition studies from several communities verify this. In Seattle, a comprehensive waste characterization study was performed in 2010 that revealed their commercial wastestream contained between 25% and 30% of marketable commodities. The list includes traditional “readily recyclable” materials such as OCC, mixed paper, HDPE, PET, mixed plastics (such as rigids and film), aluminum, and ferrous and non-ferrous metals. In addition to these marketable commodities, another 20% of the wastestream is comprised of food waste and other organics.

This is not a unique case. A comprehensive waste composition study for commercial wastestreams in northern California showed their commercial wastestream contained about 30–35% of various marketable commodities. The mixed organic stream (food and green waste) was estimated to be about 32%.

In addition, a waste composition study conducted for the Fraser Valley Regional Waste District located east of Vancouver, BC, showed that their commercial/institutional wastestream is comprised of approximately 25% marketable commodities, and 21% food wastes and compostable mixed organics.

Managing municipal solid waste is more than landfilling: publicity, education, engineering, long-term planning, and landfill gas waste-to-energy are specialties needed in today’s complex environment. We’ve created a handy infographic featuring 6 tips to improve landfill management and achieve excellence in operations. 6 Tips for Excellence in Landfill Operations. Download it now!  

The data sighted from these studies provide evidence of the potential to recover more recyclables from the commercial, institutional, and multifamily wastestreams. Considering the challenges with establishing consistent and reliable source separation collection programs for these generators, advanced mixed-waste materials recovery may be the best means for capturing these recyclable goods.

Programs to collect food waste from restaurants and grocery stores can play a role in reducing the amount of organics disposed into landfills, but the reality is that most food waste is embedded in the mixed wastestream and is not present in concentrated forms. Separating the food waste for composting or anaerobic digestion requires advanced systems and processes.

After separation of the recyclables and organics in an advanced MRF, a predominantly dry residual wastestream remains. Where markets exist, this residual stream—which consists mainly of plastics and fibers—can be converted to engineered fuel. Msw Bug Web

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