Business Recycling Opportunities

Minnesota Public Radio’s website (MPR News) recently ran an article titled, “When it comes to recycling, you’re (probably) doing it wrong.”  The focus of this piece was to remind individuals that it is just as important to recycle the correct materials as it is to recycle in the first place. While this is true for all recycling programs to a point, articles like this fail to address the different factors affecting business recycling, and what large manufacturing and distribution facilities can and should recycle.

When articles, like that of MPR News, state that things like plastic bags, food waste, or batteries cannot be recycled, they are speaking to the limited service capabilities of many municipal, curbside recycling programs. In reality, plastic bags, food waste, and batteries are all items that can be recycled. They simply require more complex recycling collection processes than a standard single stream program can afford to offer.

For instance, at Northstar Recycling, many of our food and beverage manufacturing clients produce thousands of tons of food waste. We recycle this material on a daily basis using processes like anaerobic digestion, composting, animal feed outlets, and other organic recycling solutions. Similarly, our clients often have plastic super sacks or other plastic bags and films in their byproduct streams. Depending on each client’s specific waste materials and volumes, there are a number of methods for collecting these materials for recycling. One of the best methods involves using baling equipment to create individual bales of used plastic bags or film.

The key is to make your recycling program as cost effective as possible. For larger companies with high volumes of similar materials routinely entering their waste streams, it becomes easier to reduce transportation and sorting costs. If you can place enough of the same material in one gaylord container, or bale, you eliminate the cost of sorting these recyclables before processing. However, with single stream recycling, like that offered by many city curbside programs, all the materials placed in the container will need to be sorted by commodity type before they can be processed into new items. Thus, many single stream programs will limit what types of materials they will accept for recycling based on what their sorting equipment can process.

In the end, what an organization can and cannot recycle depends less on the recyclability of the item, and more on the capabilities of the recycling vendor and the goals of the organization choosing to recycle. For instance, some items, like glass, may be very simple to recycle. However, due to weight or safety concerns, recycling such items would cause higher transportation costs or require greater care when handling. These factors all affect the operational expenses that go into recycling such materials. If operational expenses become too high, they may exceed the profits generated from recycling these materials, resulting in a NET negative cost for recycling. However, for organizations, like companies trying to reach zero waste to landfill goals, the overall expense of recycling one material may be negated by the positive impact of finding landfill alternative solutions for every byproduct stream.

To better understand what your company should and should not recycle, talk to your recycling vendor. They should be able to help identify the most cost effective methods for meeting your specific recycling and waste management goals.

For more information on the types of business recycling programs offered by Northstar Recycling, contact us today.