Resource Recycling Magazine

Updated: 9 hours 24 min ago

How biggest US cities are approaching recycling

Tue, 05/26/2015 - 13:15
How biggest US cities are approaching recycling

By Bobby Elliott, Resource Recycling

May 26, 2015

An analysis of the recycling programs of the 10 biggest cities in the U.S. shows single-stream collection is the norm – and foam polystyrene and plastic bags are being shooed away from carts.

According to the just-updated U.S. Census, the 10 largest U.S. cities are:

  • New York (8.49 million people)
  • Los Angeles (3.93 million people)
  • Chicago (2.72 million people)
  • Houston (2.24 million people)
  • Philadelphia (1.56 million people)
  • Phoenix (1.54 million people)
  • San Antonio (1.44 million people)
  • San Diego (1.38 million people)
  • Dallas (1.28 million people)
  • San Jose (1.02 million people)

Of those cities, nine offer single-stream recycling collection to residents, research by Resource Recycling has found. New York, while looking to make a switch to single-stream collection in the near future, is the only top city still using a dual-stream system.

The Big Apple, however, is generally in line with the rest of the pack when it comes to what materials are accepted for curbside recycling. According to Resource Recycling's look at educational and outreach materials from the cities, all 10 currently accept glass containers, paper products and a wide range of plastics, except expanded polystyrene (EPS) and plastic bags.

San Antonio and Los Angeles are the only cities in the top 10 list that allow residents to put plastic bags and EPS in with other recyclables. San Antonio's recycling program does not allow residents to recycle packing peanuts curbside.

Recycling programs generally refer residents to drop off plastic bags at grocery stores. EPS foam, meanwhile, is generally directed toward drop-off locations. Both products are recyclable, but have posed sortation and mechanical challenges at materials recovery facilities nationwide.

The inclusion of glass in each of the programs comes at a time when many communities are grappling with the material.

Recycling and diversion rates for the biggest U.S. cities tend to be harder to pin down.

For those cities that publish and use recycling rates, San Diego's curbside rate of 24 percent and Philadelphia's rate of 21 percent are highest, but both are still below the national average of 34.5 percent. Three other cities have recently offered up a curbside recycling rate as well: New York's latest estimate suggests the recycling rate is at 15.4 percent while Chicago is at 11.1 percent and Houston sits at 6 percent.

Los Angeles reports a diversion rate of 76.4 percent, which includes both waste-to-energy activity and use of solid waste as alternative daily cover at landfills.

Program websites for Dallas, Phoenix, San Antonio and San Jose do not provide recycling or diversion rates.

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Plastics exporter slammed again over Philippines shipment

Tue, 05/26/2015 - 13:14
Plastics exporter slammed again over Philippines shipment

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

May 26, 2015

A Canadian exporter is being accused of continuing to send containers full of trash to the Philippines.

According to the nonprofit watchdog group Basel Action Network (BAN), Chronic Inc. recently sent 48 containers of household waste marked as recycled plastic to the Port of Manilla. BAN, an environmental watchdog group based in Seattle, called attention last year to a similar shipment of 50 containers of material also tied to Chronic, a Whitby, Ontatio-based firm. That shipment, BAN says, remains at the Port of Manilla unclaimed.

Canada and the Philippines, as signatories to the Basel Convention, are prohibited from sending household waste to one another without written consent from both governments. BAN says such consent was not provided to Chronic.

In addition, BAN argues the Canadian government is required to take back all 98 containers and "prosecute the exporter criminally."

Despite pressure from BAN and others, the Canadian government has thus far referred to the issue as a "private commercial matter," the Toronto Star reported on May 20.

After initially denying the first reported shipment of household waste, Chronic owner Jim Makris has not responded to various requests for comment by the media, including Resource Recycling.

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ISRI details 'economy-driving' scrap sector

Tue, 05/26/2015 - 13:13
ISRI details 'economy-driving' scrap sector

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

May 26, 2015

An economic impact study commissioned by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries estimates the U.S. scrap industry directly employs nearly 150,000 workers with an average annual salary pushing $77,000.

The study, conducted by John Dunham and Associates, speaks to the "resilient, job-creating, and economy-driving industry," said Robin Wiener, ISRI president.

"As the first link in the manufacturing chain and as a major exporter, the scrap recycling industry is a leading indicator to the overall health of the U.S. economy," Wiener stated in a press release. "While the last several months have been difficult for commodities, this study suggests hope for a rebound."

Low commodity and oil prices and a West Coast port dispute that delayed bales from leaving the country have combined to make 2015 a challenging year for the industry.

Still, the ISRI study suggests 149,000 workers are directly employed by scrap processors and brokers and make $77,153 on average per year. Employment has increased 8 percent since ISRI's 2013 estimate of 137,970 jobs.

An additional 171,350 jobs, the 2015 study notes, are indirectly created by the recycling sector. A total of 151,227 "induced" jobs are said to be generated from "re-spending of wages by workers in the direct and supplier sectors."

Combining direct, supplier and induced categories, the study suggests more than 471,000 jobs are tied to the scrap industry, generating annual economic activity of almost $106 billion. Accounting for 0.68 percent of overall economic activity in the U.S., the scrap industry "is similar in size to the data processing and hosting industry, the dental industry and the automotive repair industry," according to the study.

About a quarter of jobs directly created by the scrap trade are through exports, the research suggests.

A state-by-state breakdown of the data can be viewed here.

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Resource Recycling Conference 2015: Schedule now available

Tue, 05/26/2015 - 13:12
Resource Recycling Conference 2015: Schedule now available

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

May 26, 2015

Be sure to be in Indianapolis this fall for the most complete and engaging look at municipal recycling. The Resource Recycling Conference lineup features an array of sessions that give attendees a true holistic view of the industry,

Noted journalist Adam Minter will be delivering a keynote identifying global trends and tying them back to curbside, and other sessions will offer up relevant tools and strategies to cut contamination, boost organics recovery, harness data and more. The conference will also feature a compelling panel discussion digging into the current Indianapolis mixed-waste MRF debate and tying that processing battle to North American recycling as a whole.

For more details on all the Resource Recycling Conference has to offer, check out the recently posted schedule here

Resource Recycling Conference 2015 is scheduled for Sept. 28-30, 2015 at the Downtown Marriott in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Head to rrconference.com for more information on attending, sponsoring and exhibiting.


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Webinar touts power of pay-as-you-throw

Tue, 05/26/2015 - 13:11
Webinar touts power of pay-as-you-throw

By Jared Paben, Resource Recycling

May 26, 2015

The small city of Edgewater, Colo., had unlimited trash disposal for residents for $12.50 per month. It also had a diversion rate just below 7 percent.

Then the Denver-area city implemented pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) waste disposal, with progressively more expensive service for larger garbage cans. The diversion rate immediately jumped to nearly 18 percent, and now it's around 20 percent.

Juri Freeman, recycling program manager at the City and County of Denver, provided this example to show how PAYT programs can affect recycling rates. He was one of several speakers on a U.S. EPA webinar, part of the Sustainable Materials Management Web Academy series.

The PAYT-focused session also included presentations from Lisa Skumatz, Dana D'Souza and Dawn BeMent of Skumatz Economic Research Associates and the nonprofit organization Econservation Institute.

PAYT programs encourage waste-reduction and diversion efforts, particularly for mixed recyclable materials and organics, which make up the largest portions of the municipal-waste stream, Skumatz said.

"The only real weakness in pay-as-you-throw is the political will you need to get it in place," she said.

The most successful PAYT programs embed recycling fees in the garbage service rates, regularly collect recyclable materials (at least once every two weeks), provide large cans for recyclable materials (at least 96 gallons) and price service to encourage behavior change, Skumatz added.

With regard to service price, a 50 percent to 80 percent rate differential is recommended, and 80 percent is considered optimal, Skumatz said. For example, a customer would pay $10 for a 32-gallon cart or $18 for a 64-gallon receptacle. The higher prices don't reflect the actual added costs of collecting a large can; they're meant to drive behavior change, she said.

Skumatz estimates nearly 9,000 U.S. communities have a PAYT program, with Louisiana the lone state without a PAYT community. Additionally, 62 of the largest 100 U.S. cities have a PAYT system. Her firm is working to develop updated numbers for 2015.

D'Souza said automated collections aren't required to establish a successful program, noting that many successful programs use bags, not carts.

"It doesn't require a completely new collection system to establish pay-as-you-throw," D'Souza said.

Despite concerns that PAYT will cause more residents to put non-recyclable material into carts, surveys show the strategy doesn't lead to a significant contamination increase, Skumatz said. However, a community implementing PAYT must have a program allowing households to dispose of bulky items legally and affordably, she said.

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Plastics-to-fuel interests aim to sway regulators

Tue, 05/26/2015 - 13:10
Plastics-to-fuel interests aim to sway regulators

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

May 15 2015

If all non-recycled plastics in the U.S. were converted to oil, the effort would generate enough transportation fuel to power nearly 9 million cars per year.

That's according to a video explaining and touting the benefits of plastics-to-fuel technology. The video, "Plastics-to-Fuel: Creating Energy from Non-Recycled Plastics," is from the American Chemistry Council's Plastics-to-Oil Technologies Alliance (PTOTA).

The video is accompanied by a guide, "Regulatory Treatment of Plastics-to-Fuel Facilities," and a fact sheet, intended to influence government regulators. The guide calls on state officials to regulate plastics-to-fuel facilities as manufacturers of products, not as solid waste disposal facilities, and to reward public waste system operators with diversion credits for sending materials to plastics-to-fuel facilities.

“Plastics-to-fuel technologies complement recycling by converting non-recycled plastics into useful commodities,” Craig Cookson, director of sustainability and recycling for ACC’s Plastics Division, stated in a press release. “Plastics are a valuable resource that should be kept out of landfills, and plastics-to-fuel technologies can help us do that.”

The conversion technology, called pyrolysis, can turn post-consumer plastics into fuels and other petroleum-based feedstocks for manufacturing.

The Plastics-to-Oil Technologies Alliance includes Agilyx Corporation (Beaverton, Ore.), Cynar Plc (London), RES Polyflow (Akron, Ohio), Americas Styrenics (The Woodlands, Texas), Sealed Air (Charlotte, N.C.) and Tetra Tech (Pasadena, Calif.).


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Programs in flux

Tue, 05/26/2015 - 13:09
Programs in flux

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

May 26, 2015

This week we take a look at a handful of local, state and national recycling programs that are undergoing notable shifts.

Santa Fe, N.M. is working to switch to single-stream recycling, but the change could mean jettisoning glass from the collection program. The city is working to expand collection of other materials, but it might eliminate or reduce pick-ups of glass, relying instead on residents dropping off their glass at depots.

Harrisburg, Penn. has added cartons to its recycling program, becoming the latest state capital to add the material to its accepted list, according to the Carton Council of North America. The City has also ordered new carts to accommodate an augmented list of accepted materials. The Carton Council's "Carton Capitals" initiative aims to encourage more state capitals to adopt carton recycling.

The New York City Housing Authority could find itself fending off a lawsuit over the lack of recycling resources it provides its tenants, according to citylimits.org. The Natural Resources Defense Council has threatened to sue the housing authority if the agency doesn't comply with city recycling laws within 60 days and provide recycling to all residents.

Kentucky awarded 46 recycling grants and 25 household hazardous waste grants totaling more than $3.3 million. The grants will be used by local government entities to expand recycling and improve management of hazardous materials, including e-scrap. The Kentucky Pride Fund grants are funded by a $1.75 fee for each ton of MSW sent to landfills.

Six of the country's largest school districts will stop purchasing polystyrene (PS) cafeteria plates and serve meals on compostable paper plates instead, according to the Urban School Food Alliance. The school districts include New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami-Dade, Dallas and Orlando. PS trays are generally cheaper than their fiber counterparts. The six districts say they are able to use their collective purchasing power to buy compostable plates for about the cost of PS items.

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NewsBits from Resource Recycling

Tue, 05/26/2015 - 13:05
NewsBits

May 26, 2015

By a vote of 26-7, the New Jersey Senate last week passed a measure that would install a paint stewardship program in the Garden State. The bill, which was created by the paint manufacturing industry, would add an unspecified fee to the wholesale price of cans of paint in New Jersey. It now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for further consideration. There are currently nine states in the U.S. with paint stewardship programs in place.

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries paid Hillary Rodham Clinton $225,500 to speak at the 2014 ISRI Convention and Exposition in Las Vegas, according to a report by Time. That amount was in line with the sums other organizations the former Secretary of State and current Democratic presidential candidate to speak at their events last year.

The Aluminum Association and Can Manufacturers Institute have released a study on the sustainability advantages of using aluminum. According to the study, the average aluminum can today contains about 70 percent recycled content and is the most easily and readily recycled packaging product in the U.S.

The Supreme Court has decided not to hear a case attempting to upend the nation's first producer-funded take-back program for pharmaceuticals. The law, passed in California's Alameda County, was being challenged by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Publicly traded waste-to-energy firm Covanta has acquired Wisconsin-based Advanced Waste Services. While details on the acquisition will not be released until July, when Covanta reports on quarterly financial results, a company spokesperson for Covanta confirmed the acquisition of the industrial waste and recycling firm.

Nearly two-thirds of people support the idea that extended producer responsibility should be applied to as many products as possible, according to a study by the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Japan and the Lund University in Sweden. The study also looked at the attitudes of product makers and government regulators toward the EPR practice. Not surprisingly, governments were more supportive that brands.

State officials have announced the launch of a competition in Michigan aimed at increasing the state's recycling rate. Called Recycle By Design, the competition is the result of a partnership between the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Michigan Recycling Coalition and IMG Rebel. Michigan's 15 percent recycling rate lags behind that of its neighboring states and the national average.

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Phoenix Technologies adds washing operation

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 12:21
Phoenix Technologies adds washing operation

By Bobby Elliott, Resource Recycling

May 19, 2015

Bowling Green, Ohio-based Phoenix Technologies has invested $18 million to wash and clean PET flake on its own.

"We think it will give us a little bit more control over the quality consistency of the raw material," Lori Carson, Phoenix's director of commercial operations, said in an extended interview with Resource Recycling. "As the market gets more demanding, which it certainly is when it comes to making your material as close to virgin as you can, it appears to be the right time for us to control the starting process."

Phoenix, which is one of the largest rPET producers in the country, has traditionally sourced clean flake to feed its Bowling Green, Ohio headquarters.

The company's multimillion dollar washing line, which will be active by the end of 2015 and located near the company's headquarters, will receive and clean bales of PET bottles and containers. Curbside-generated material will make up 95 percent of supply, Carson said. That curbside material is generally sourced within "a 10 hour radius" of the company, she added.

Once cleaned, PET flake that's been through the washing operation will be sent to the company's main rPET manufacturing plant, which will also continue to purchase some clean flake from outside suppliers.

The company has the ability to process about 85 million pounds of PET per year, the majority of which will be cleaned first by the company.

Carson said the percentage of PET found within a typical bale accepted by Phoenix is "somewhere in the mid-60s." She added, "We know some bales will be worse, and we hope that some bales will be better."

She also said the company continues to work with suppliers to improve bale quality and looks to the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR) and the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) for continued guidance on the issue.

The widely reported impact of low oil prices on the plastics recycling industry has had an effect on Phoenix, Carson said. "The last eight months have been a little challenging," Carson said. "And we're making plans as if the market is going to stay the same as it is right now. For us, the question is: How can impact our process and our economics to allow us to be as competitive as possible right now?"

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Paper recovery rate rises above 65 percent

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 10:21
Paper recovery rate rises above 65 percent

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

May 19, 2015

The U.S. paper recovery rate edged up slightly in 2014, according to data from an industry group.

According to the annual tally from the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), the U.S. paper recovery rate grew to 65.4 percent in 2014. That's 1.9 percentage points above 2013's rate of 63.5.

The paper industry has a goal of reaching 70 percent by 2020.

"AF&PA is continuously working toward recovering more than 70 percent of paper consumed in the U.S. by 2020 by building on the same effective and efficient voluntary, market-based programs that have succeeded to date," Brian Hawkinson, AF&PA's executive director of recovered fiber, told Resource Recycling.

Hawkinson singled out "paperboard and corrugated packaging from homes and printing-writing papers from offices and schools" as potential sources of more recoverable material. He also noted the recovery amount includes "all recovered paper and paperboard except mill broke."

Mill broke is paper waste generated before the completion of the papermaking process. Excess paper waste created once the process is completed is counted in the AF&PA recovery data.

The industry's mission to achieve higher recovery rates comes as the amount of paper generated each year continues to fall. In 2014, 78.21 million tons of paper were generated, below 2013's total of 78.95 million tons and more than 27 million tons off of the 1999 high of 105.32 million tons.

A major factor in the decline, AF&PA numbers show, is falling use of newsprint. As more and more print periodicals and newspapers have gone digital, newsprint generation has gone from a high of 11.12 million tons in 2006 to a low of 5.44 million tons in 2014. The newsprint recovery rate was 68.9 percent last year.

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How three bottle bill proposals are playing out

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 10:20
How three bottle bill proposals are playing out

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

May 19, 2015

A Maine bill removing large beverage containers from the deposit program has died, while a Michigan bill that would add containers lives on. In Hawaii, meanwhile, an effort to completely eliminate the bottle bill failed. Read more in our update of bottle bill-related legislation.

Maine

Legislative Document 1204 would have removed containers 32 ounces and larger from the Pine Tree State's deposit program starting Dec. 1, 2016. But the bill has lost traction.

A legislative committee voted unanimously on May 11 to reject the bill. Under the legislature's rules, that means the bill can only be revived with a two-thirds vote of both chambers.

Under Maine's program, consumer pay a 15-cent deposit for wine and liquor containers and a 5-cent deposit for all others.

The bill would have also created a Maine Recycling Fund, which would have been supported by a new half-cent-per-container fee manufacturers and distributors would pay. The fee, collected for six years, would generate about $300,000 to $400,000 per year. The fund would distribute grants and low-interest loans to support recycling efforts.

Michigan

Senate Bill 199 would expand the state's 36-year-old bottle bill to include bottled water and other beverages.

Michigan's law places a 10-cent deposit on soda, carbonated waters, beer, ale, malts, mixed-wine drinks and mixed-spirit drinks.

The bill would expand the covered containers to include non-carbonated water and any other beverage meant for human consumption in containers of one gallon or less (excluded are unflavored rice and soy milks, milk or other dairy-derived products). The bill is also written to exclude cartons.

The bill, from Democratic state Sen. Rebekah Warren, is currently in the Senate's Natural Resources Committee.

Hawaii

The Aloha State's HB 167 would have completely eliminated the "HI-5" Deposit Beverage Container Program, a 10-year-old program that adds a 5-cent deposit on beverage containers up to 68 ounces in size. Sponsored by two Democratic representatives, the repealing bill died in committee.

Another bill, Senate Bill 1260, would implement changes to the glass container program recommended by the state auditor. Hawaii law requires consumers pay an advance disposal fee on each glass container not covered by the state's bottle bill. That bill also did not pass.

The glass bill, among other things, would require the state to expand the allowed uses for recycled glass, including using it as alternative daily cover in landfills. As passed by the House of Representatives, the law would go into effect on July 1, 2030. The Senate failed to approve it before the legislature adjourned May 7.

It was sponsored by Democratic Sen. Russell Ruderman.

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Video pushes streamlined vocab in plastics recycling

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 10:19
Video pushes streamlined vocab in plastics recycling

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

May 19, 2015

Recycling professionals and communities nationwide are being encouraged to use a lingua franca when it comes to plastics recycling.

An animated video backed by the American Chemistry Council builds on last year's introduction of the Plastics Recycling Terms & Tools, a set of consistent terms and resources recycling programs can use when communicating with the public.

For example, instead of telling consumers to recycle plastics No. 1-7, the terms recommend telling them to recycle "plastic bottles and containers," with the option of providing a more detailed explanation.

"The terms in use today are, at best, inconsistent and often contradictory, which negatively impacts the ability to communicate what plastics are accepted for recycling," a Plastics Recycling Outreach Terms document states. "A set of common outreach terms (a glossary or lexicon) and royalty-free images helps communities communicate more effectively to residents."

The terms and tools project also includes software to help programs create their own outreach flyers.

Moore Recycling Associates oversees the terms and tools, which are sponsored by the American Chemistry Council's Plastics Division. They were created with guidance from an advisory committee with representatives from multiple recycling stakeholders.

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ISRI: More exports, more jobs

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 10:18
ISRI: More exports, more jobs

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

May 19, 2015

Research funded by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries points to scrap recycling exports as a domestic job creator.

According to findings by consultants John Dunham and Associates, the export of U.S.-generated scrap materials supports more than 125,000 U.S. jobs. Nearly 28 percent of scrap processed in the U.S. gets exported, the study determined.

"Exporting to more than 160 countries, scrap recyclers play a critical role in helping the U.S. balance of trade," Robin Wiener, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) president, stated.

ISRI has been a vocal supporter of exports, advocating for the resolution of the West Coast port dispute in February and opposing national legislation that would limit shipments of recovered electronic materials to foreign markets.

The group says exports don't cannibalize domestic recycling. According to Wiener, the scrap recycling industry in the U.S. "continues to produce enough supply for domestic manufacturers now and far into the future."

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Resource Recycling Conference 2015: Grasping the global industry

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 10:17
Resource Recycling Conference 2015: Grasping the global industry

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

May 19, 2015

The upcoming Resource Recycling Conference will start with a fascinating look at how the interconnected pieces of materials recovery come together in a keynote address from Adam Minter, award-winning Bloomberg journalist and author of the book "Junkyard Planet."

Minter comes from a family of Midwest scrap yard owners and now lives in Southeast Asia, where he covers the evolving waste management sphere there and elsewhere across the world. His understanding of the specific conditions surrounding recycling in the U.S. as well as in the multitude of markets where materials end up put him in a unique position to offer a truly objective and holistic view of the industry. His talk will enlighten all recycling pros on current global realities and how specific impacts are felt all the way back to curbside.

Resource Recycling Conference 2015 is scheduled for Sept. 28-30, 2015 at the Downtown Marriott in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Head to rrconference.com for more information on attending, sponsoring and exhibiting.


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Novelis continues to ramp up use of recycled content

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 10:15
Novelis continues to ramp up use of recycled content

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

May 19, 2015

Products made by aluminum giant Novelis contained an average of 49 percent recycled content during the company's 2015 fiscal year.

Novelis' use of recycled content during its FY 2015 (April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015) "drove cost benefits through expanded recycling operations globally," the company stated in announcing financial results. During the fourth quarter, Novelis' products on average contained an all-time high of 53 percent recycled content.

The company's line of evercycle products, introduced during the 2015 fiscal year, offers food containers made from 100 percent recycled material and cans featuring at least 90 percent recycled content.

According to the company's annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, 11 of 25 facilities worldwide currently have recycling operations in place.

Overall company revenues for the year rose roughly 14 percent, reaching more than $11 billion.

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NewsBits from Resource Recycling

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 10:14
NewsBits

May 19, 2015

Old hybrid car batteries are being used to store energy from solar panels to power a ranch in Yellowstone National Park. Five buildings at the park's Lamar Buffalo Ranch field campus in northern Wyoming are powered by the system, which uses a collection of solar panels and 208 reused nickel-metal hydride battery packs from Toyota Camry hybrids.

California Gov. Jerry Brown's revised budget boosts funding for a program to spur investments in composting and anaerobic digestion infrastructure and to encourage recycled content manufacturing. The May revised budget increases funding to $60 million for these efforts, up from $25 million last year, according to advocacy group Californians Against Waste.

Students in a tiny, one-room school in Cody, Wyo. each collected more than 2,200 pounds of aluminum cans, giving their school the win in the 2014-15 Great American Can Roundup School Challenge. Valley Elementary School, which recycled 11,035 pounds of aluminum beverage cans, will receive prize money totaling $6,000. Schools from 36 states participating in the competition, which is sponsored by the Can Manufacturers Institute.

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Recycling Partnership hires former Coke exec

Tue, 05/12/2015 - 11:49
Recycling Partnership hires former Coke exec

By Bobby Elliott, Resource Recycling

May 12, 2015

The Recycling Partnership has hired a former Coca-Cola sustainability executive to lead its funding efforts.

Jeff Meyers, who until last month was the manager of sustainable packaging at the beverage giant, will serve as the Recycling Partnership's first development director. The hire was announced May 8.

Last month, the Recycling Partnership rebranded after years of work as the Curbside Value Partnership.  In addition to its ongoing work with numerous communities in the U.S., the Recycling Partnership has begun assisting three additional cities in 2015 to provide education and outreach-based content.  

The Recycling Partnership's executive director, Keefe Harrison, stressed in the announcement of the Meyers hiring that his "leadership will accelerate the Recycling Partnership and take us to the next level of performance and scale."

As development director, Meyers says he will focus primarily on attracting new funders to the group.

"We want to bring in more brands, we want to bring in some retailers and there are other groups that want to partner with us that can bring additional resources to the table," Meyers said in an interview. "It's time to look for innovative ways to raise some funds and that's what I'm going to be focusing a good bit of my time on."

Meyers noted the "action-oriented" nature of the group's grant-based work with cities, especially those looking for seed funding to switch from bins to carts, makes the group an attractive investment for potential partners.

"We're already seeing cities be transformed by this," Meyers said. "It lets companies stand for something."

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More recycling cuts on the way for Wisconsin

Tue, 05/12/2015 - 11:48
More recycling cuts on the way for Wisconsin

By Bobby Elliott, Resource Recycling

May 12, 2015

Wisconsin appears close to approving a 20 percent funding cut to local recycling programs.

The cut, agreed to on May 5 by the Wisconsin Legislature's Joint Finance Committee as part of its larger budget review, will reduce the state's 2015-2016 fiscal year recycling program budget from $20 million to $16 million. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) uses the funding to award grants to numerous local recycling programs throughout the state.

The budget must be approved by the Assembly and Senate, and signed by its author, Gov. Scott Walker. Under the budget, funding would return to $20 million for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

According to Meleesa Johnson, president of Associated Recyclers of Wisconsin, funding has always been provided as a "cost-sharing" mechanism of the state.

That funding has been cut "incrementally" in recent years, Johnson said, despite the fact that a $7 per ton disposal fee in Wisconsin continues to generate between $33 million to $36 million annually to put toward recycling and waste reduction programs.

"We see less and less of it every year going for recycling, waste reduction and advancements in solid waste management," Johnson said. "We're really very frustrated."

Funding for the state recycling program has fallen each year since the 2008-2009 fiscal year, when the budget reached $28 million.

The $4 million cut for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, Johnson says, is being allocated instead to "debt service" related to state-funded wastewater treatment operations.

A spokesperson for Gov. Walker told Resource Recycling the proposed cut is a "one-time reduction" and that funds would be restored to the "base level" of $20 million in 2016-2017.

A paper submitted to legislators by the nonpartisan Fiscal Bureau, which primarily provides budgetary analysis to lawmakers, indicates eroding funding to recycling programs has left local programs with more costs to cover on their own.

In 2006, when the state allocated $26.3 million to local programs, 28 percent of costs were recovered, the paper states. In 2013-2014, funding of $20 million covered approximately 17.5 percent of the costs associated with local government recycling programs.

Madison's recycling coordinator George Dreckmann told Resource Recycling he doesn't anticipate Madison will see "any specific changes" to its programs but expects other programs could feel financial impacts.

"It will, I'm sure, have an effect," Dreckmann, a longtime industry veteran, said. "In some communities the state aid is used to subsidize fees that are paid to haulers. With that money gone, it will be made up for with increased fees for the public."

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Tech firm hopes MRFs are ready to do the robot

Tue, 05/12/2015 - 11:47
Tech firm hopes MRFs are ready to do the robot

By Jared Paben, Resource Recycling

May 12, 2015

Federally funded research into using robots to replace humans on MRF sorting lines could significantly lower materials sorting costs.

"We'd like to reduce the cost of recycling and make it a little more cost-competitive with the cost of landfilling across the country," Matanya Horowitz of AMP Robotics told Resource Recycling.

The National Science Foundation awarded the Boulder, Colo. startup a $150,000 grant to support the research. The funding flowed through the Small Business Innovation Research program, which provides seed funding for projects that meet national priorities but are still considered too risky to attract money from venture capitalists, Horowitz said.

Recycling robots already exist, relying on a variety of sensors and mechanical hands to snag objects off conveyor belts and deposit them in bins.

AMP's research, however, is focused not so much on the hands of robots but on their brains.

Keeping MRFs in mind

AMP is focusing on improvements to the ability of a computer to learn how to recognize objects based on their appearance, including their size, shape, color and texture, using both visible and infrared light, Horowitz said. The machine learns how to recognize objects primarily by "seeing" thousands or millions of photos of them.

"In controlled situations like the one we have here, basically, if a person can tell what the object is, then a machine can tell what the object is," he said.

The company is also working to design small, easy-to-install systems that won't require re-engineering a MRF. They're designing systems with the same footprints as humans at sorting stations, he said.

The goal is to offer a simple system costing 30 percent less than a human worker, when costs are spread over three years, he said. "Those numbers are something we're very comfortable with," he said.

One industry expert said AMP isn't sailing utterly uncharted waters.

Kerry Sandford, an equipment expert and co-founder of consulting firm Resource Recycling Systems, said computers already possess the ability to recognize objects based on appearance. And robots are currently used in the packaging industry to sort materials, although, in that industry, the materials are more predictable and have a higher value than typical recyclables.

Several companies have announced efforts to develop robots for sortation, but only Bollegraaf Recycling Solutions has implemented them, introducing them to European MRFs, Sandford said. Bollegraff's website shows it employs robots in a quality-control function focusing on fibers in single-stream MRFs, reducing labor costs.

"My inclination is to be somewhat skeptical because of all of the other ones I've seen not make it," he said.

A robot's role

A robotic arm can't match the speed of other sorting technologies, so the goal is to create a lower-throughput machine to work in tandem with sorting devices by filling the role humans currently occupy, Horowitz said.

A robot could work longer hours than humans without the risk of injury, he said.

Sandford believes robotic sorting will play a role in the recycling system at some point. The key will be increasing sorting speeds, decreasing costs and incorporating robots appropriately into the system, he said.

"I think it will be one of those pieces that gets added in as its role is figured out," he said.

Unlike a human, a robot could tell the difference between various resins. Yet unlike an optical sorter, it could effectively sort multiple materials from one conveyor, he said.

Sandford added robotic technologies could be well suited to areas with challenging environments, such as dusty C&D facilities.

Primarily a software company, AMP has built a simple prototype, called "The Pusher," that has a 95 percent accuracy rate sorting five types of C&D debris with the belt moving at 80-100 feet per minute, Horowitz said. The company is working to boost sorting speeds as well as delve into MSW materials.

AMP is also currently working on a more advanced prototype, which is expected to be operational in about three months.

If all goes according to plan, in 2016 AMP will start testing and shooting video of the robots operating in MRFs.

"We want to make a product that's not a lab curiosity," Horowitz said. "We want to make something that will run 24/7 for years."

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<i>Resource Recycling Conference 2015</i>: The tools to boost your local program

Tue, 05/12/2015 - 11:46
Resource Recycling Conference 2015: The tools to boost your local program

May 12, 2015

Are you charged with managing and growing a municipal recycling system? Be sure to head to Indianapolis in late September for the industry's top municipal recycling conference, which will be loaded with sessions and workshops aimed at optimizing local programs.

The Recycling Partnership will be on hand offering valuable training via an ancillary event that is free to conference attendees. In addition, a conference session is set to feature some of the industry's top minds discussing on-the-ground strategies to curb contamination.

Switching from bins to carts. Developing effective outreach communication. The latest in state and local recycling data collection. All this and more will be investigated in-depth in Indianapolis. Make sure you are part of the conversation.

Resource Recycling Conference 2015 is scheduled for Sept. 28-30, 2015 at the Downtown Marriott in Indianapolis, Indiana. Head to rrconference.com for more information on attending, sponsoring and exhibiting.

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