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Category Archives: Data Corner

Data Corner: How market shifts have hit one municipal program

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In late 2018, officials in the city of Walla Walla, Wash. (population 32,000) issued a report that showed the economics of the city’s single-stream curbside recycling program turned upside down over the course of 18 months.

As the graph below indicates, the city went from earning up to $30 per ton for recyclables in early 2017 to paying as much as $100 per ton a year later. Over the course of 2018, the city’s program lost a total of $130,000.

Walla Walla, which attributed the financial flip primarily to China’s National Sword import policy, has instituted a monthly recycling surcharge on resident bills to help get the program back on solid financial footing. The city’s program collects standard fiber items and plastics Nos. 1 and 2. It does not accept glass.

Data Corner chart, Feb. 2019

Data source: City of Walla Walla, Wash.

This article originally appeared in the February 2019 issue of Resource Recycling. Subscribe today for access to all print content.

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Data Corner: The ramifications of collecting less

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As communities and materials recovery facilities wrestle with challenging markets, some stakeholders are suggesting that programs should accept fewer materials for recycling.

Using EPA data, RRS estimated that removing glass and plastics other than PET and HDPE bottles would reduce the nation’s total tonnage recycled by 8 percent and lower the U.S. recycling rate by at least 2 percentage points.

These findings assume that participation and the materials still accepted would not be impacted, though in reality, program changes can cause confusion that can negatively impact collection of all materials. For perspective, the U.S. recycling rate (not including composting) only increased by 3.3 percentage points between 2005 and 2015.

Data Corner is compiled monthly by recycling consultancy RRS.

This article originally appeared in the December 2018 issue of Resource Recycling. Subscribe today for access to all print content.

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Data Corner: Commitments from corporate giants

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RRS tracked the environmental efforts described in the corporate social responsibility reports of the top 50 U.S. companies on the Fortune 500 list. Waste, recycling, energy and greenhouse gas emissions were some of the most common areas for corporate efforts.

Over half of the companies (28) reported on goals or progress metrics related to waste and recycling, though only four mentioned zero waste goals.

Meanwhile, 80 percent (40 companies) cited efforts related to either greenhouse gas reduction or renewable energy.

Data Corner is compiled monthly by recycling consultancy RRS.

This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Resource Recycling. Subscribe today for access to all print content.

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Data Corner: The evolving ton over 25 years

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RRS reviewed the 2015 waste stream data in the U.S. EPA 2018 Sustainable Materials Management report and compared it with similar data from 1990.

Changes in waste stream composition help to inform adaptation needs in the recycling value chain, including material collection, processing and end markets.

Numbers in the recent report indicate the ongoing growth in online information and shopping are affecting the waste stream, with newspaper continuing to decline in prevalence as the quantity of OCC increases.

Data Corner is compiled monthly by recycling consultancy RRS.

This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Resource Recycling. Subscribe today for access to all print content.

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Data Corner: Trends in residential foam collection

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RRS reviewed data from foam polystyrene plastic recycling programs in several communities that had received grants to target the material.

The numbers show a pattern of a sizable initial rise in foam collected per capita during the first year of the program, followed by more modest growth in subsequent years.

Programs built around multiple drop-off sites were able to collect more foam per capita than curbside programs or programs using a single drop-off site.

Data Corner is compiled monthly by recycling consultancy RRS.

This article originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Resource Recycling. Subscribe today for access to all print content.

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Data Corner: Comparing virgin and recycled feedstocks

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RRS analyzed and averaged pricing info from multiple industry data sources – including RecyclingMarkets.net, Plastics News and the London Metal Exchange – to compare the price gap between virgin materials and recycled commodities (baled from the MRF, not processed). The wider a given gap, the greater the technical and market complexities associated with processing materials. Complexities can involve factors such as demand, supply, process efficiency, recyclability and regulation changes. The 2016-2017 time frame was selected because that was a fairly stable period in commodity values.

Data Corner is compiled monthly by recycling consultancy RRS.

This article originally appeared in the August 2018 issue of Resource Recycling. Subscribe today for access to all print content.

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Data Corner: Average capacities of North American food scrap composters

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RRS conducted a survey sponsored by the Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI) to collect information about North American composters that accept food scraps.

The chart below displays the average capacity of these composters by the type of processing system they employ.

Both size and system variance may be linked to feedstocks processed, community needs, local policy and funding available, as well as geographic factors.

Data Corner is compiled monthly by recycling consultancy RRS.

This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of Resource Recycling. Subscribe today for access to all print content.

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