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April 2018

NERC’s Advisory Members

Distinguished Benefactors

Consumer Technology Association (CTA)

Panasonic

Samsung

Sustaining Members

  • American Chemistry Council

  • American Forest and Paper Association

  • Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR)

  • Bag To Earth

  • Can Manufacturers Institute

  • Casella Resource Solutions

  • Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Northern New England

  • Council of State Governments/Eastern Regional Conference

  • CURC

  • Dart Container

  • Glass Recycling Coalition

  • Good Point Recycling

  • Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI)

  • International Bottled Water Association

  • Keep America Beautiful

  • Keurig Green Mountain

  • MRM

  • National Waste & Recycling Association

  • NEWMOA

  • Organix Solutions

  • Re-TRAC

  • Recycling Partnership

  • Schaefer Systems International, Inc.

  • Sony

  • Steel Recycling Institute

  • Strategic Materials

  • Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC)

  • TOMRA

  • Trex

  • US Composting Council (USCC)

  • Waste Management

A list of all the logos of our Sustaining Members can be found under Advisory Members

New & Renewing Memberships

New Sustaining Member

Renewing Sustaining Member

Renewing Supporting Members

NERC News

Newly Posted

State Updates

CONNECTICUT

Advisory Member News

Of General Interest

New & Renewing MembershipsMembership is key to NERC's regional and national commitment to sustainable materials management. We are delighted to welcome our newest Sustaining Member - Can Manufacturers Institute - that upgraded from a Supporting Member, and to thank MRM for being a renewing Sustaining Member. We also thank several organizations for being renewing Supporting Members:

Thank you to all our Advisory Members. To see a complete listing of NERC's Members and Supporters, as well as the benefits of membership, visit the NERC Advisory Membership web page.

The broad spectrum of interests represented by NERC's Advisory Members, Individual Supporters, and Board Members and their willingness to participate significantly contribute to the unique and important role that NERC plays in recycling in the region.

For more information, contact Lynn Rubinstein, Executive Director.

NERC News

Recycling Market Experts at NERC’s Workshop

Industry experts on paper, plastics, glass and compost markets will be presenting at NERC's upcoming Workshop—Markets or Bust—on April 3rd in Maryland.  Be part of the discussions about the impact of China's National Sword on residential recycling programs; the primary issues affecting the paper, plastics, glass, and compost markets; and opportunities for recycling market development!

The Workshop speakers include:

The Workshop will be held on April 3rd at the Sheraton Baltimore Washington Airport Hotel (3 miles from the BWI Airport). 

AGENDA

Online registration is now closed.  Walk-ins are welcome.

Gold Sponsor

Silver Sponsor

Bronze Sponsors

                 

On the Ground Lessons Learned from Municipalities to Reduce Contamination of Residential Recycling - Webinar, April 10

In the next webinar about residential recycling that is co-sponsored by the Northeast Recycling Council and the Northeast Waste Management Officials' Association, hear from three on-the-ground practitioners who have implemented the Recycling IQ Toolkit in a diverse set of municipalities and reduced contamination in the municipal recycling stream. The presenters will describe the results for the communities they have worked in and lessons learned. They will provide advice for other practitioners.

Presenters & topics:

  • Janice Pare, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (Mass DEP)

She will provide an overview and the results of Massachusetts’ implementation of the Recycling IQ Toolkit.

They will discuss how New Bedford, Dartmouth, and Lynn tailored and modified the program for the best impact in their communities and the results.

The webinar will take place on April 10, 1 - 2:30 eastern.  The webinar is free, but registration is required.

For more information, contact Lynn Rubinstein, NERC Executive Director.

State Electronics Challenge Annual Awards & Environmental Results

Congratulations to the 31 State Electronics Challenge Partners that submitted annual reporting data and received individualized sustainability reports.  And 16 Partners are being recognized for their achievements with awards.  The cumulative results were among the most impressive ever. 

2017 Partner Environmental Benefits

 

 

Purchasing EPEAT® Products

Use

Reuse & Recycling

TOTAL BENEFITS

 

Reduction In

How Much?

How Much?

Equivalent To

 

 energy symbol

Energy use

4,578,714 kWh

  8,674,853 kWh

46,561,134

kWh

   59,814,70

kWh

Electricity to power  4,910 U.S. households/ year

 greenhouse gas image

Greenhouse gas emissions

578,666

metric tons of carbon equivalents

1,579,626

 metric

tons of carbon equivalents

3,344,920 metric

tons of carbon equivalent

5,503,212

metric tons of carbon equivalents

Removing 1,163,470 cars from the road/year

 toxics symbol

Toxic materials, including lead & mercury

36 lbs.

6 lbs.

838,018 lbs.

838,061 lbs.

Weight of

167,612 bricks

 msw symbol

Municipal solid waste

308,930 lbs.

140,906 lbs.

2,623,186

 lbs.

3,073,022

 lbs.

Waste generated by 756 households/year

 

 hw symbol

Hazardous waste

2,398 lbs.

5,473 lbs.

328,103  lbs.

335,974 lbs.

Weight of 1,258 refrigerators

2017 Award Winners

SEC Partner

Recognition

Lifecycle Phases

Borough of State College, Pennsylvania

Gold

Purchasing, Use, & End-of-Life Management

Centre County Recycling & Refuse Authority, Pennsylvania

Gold

Purchasing, Use, & End-of-Life Management

City of Corvallis, Oregon

Gold

Purchasing, Use, & End-of-Life Management

City of Fort Collins, Colorado

Gold

Purchasing, Use, & End-of-Life Management

City of La Crosse, Wisconsin

Gold

Purchasing Use, & End-of-Life Management

City of Providence, Rhode Island, School Department

Gold

Purchasing, Use, & End-of-Life Management

Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC)

Gold

Purchasing, Use, & End-of-Life Management

Ball State University (Indiana)

Silver

Purchasing & End-of-Life Management

City & County of Denver, Colorado

Silver

Purchasing & End-of-Life Management

City of Columbia, South Carolina

Silver

Purchasing & End-of-Life Management

City of Keene, New Hampshire

Silver

Purchasing & Use

Maryland Department of Transportation

Silver

Purchasing & End-of-Life Management

Town of Bethlehem, New York

Silver

Purchasing, & End-of-Life Management

Vermont Agency of Natural Resources

Silver

Purchasing & End-of-Life Management

City of Durango (Colorado)

Bronze

Purchasing

Upper Merion Township, Pennsylvania

Bronze

Purchasing

The environmental results and award winners are listed on the State Electronics Challenge website.

The Business of Composting in N.H. - a Hit Radio Show!

Breaking It Down: The Business of Composting in N.H. was a recent topic of discussion on New Hampshire Public Radio’s popular call-in talk show “The Exchange”. The show featured NERC's Athena Lee Bradley; Michael Nork, with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Service, Solid Waste Management Bureau; and, Jessica Saturley-Hall, founder and owner of Upper Valley Compost Company, a food waste hauling company offering residential collection services in the state.

Panelists discussed the economic and environmental impacts of food waste, food scrap diversion efforts around New England, tips for managing food waste at home and at work, and current work being conducted to modify New Hampshire’s composting regulations.

The show proved indicative of the high interest in composting around New Hampshire. The Exchange producers said that the show generated four times the number of calls and emails they usually get.

For more information contact Athena Lee Bradley.

Upcoming Earth Day Events bring NERC to Maryland

NERC staff will be participating in two Earth Day events in Maryland’s Allegany and Cecil counties in April.

Focus Frostburg 2018: ‘Learn-In’ For a Sustainable Future will be held on Wednesday, April 18, from

10:00 am – 5:00 pm. This annual event at Frostburg State University (FSU) in Frostburg, Maryland is sponsored and Organized by FSU’s Learning Green, Living Green Sustainability Initiative and the President’s Advisory Council for Sustainability. The local community is also invited to participate in the event.

NERC staff is working with representatives from Allegany County’s Recycling Program, the University of Maryland Extension-Allegany County and Western Maryland Food Council, and Associate Professor Dr. Kara Rogers Thomas of FSU's Sociology Department, to put together sessions that focus on food waste and Food Recovery Hierarchy solutions. Panelists will include: NERC staff Athena Lee Bradley; Sherry Frick, University of Maryland Extension-Allegany County; Luke Wolfgang, Sustainability Coordinator, Office of Materials Management, US EPA Region III; Steven Birchfield, Field Operations Supervisor, Food Composting Operations, Prince George's County Organics Composting Facility; and representatives from area food recovery organizations. Onsite tours of the University’s in-vessel compost system, as well as its food recovery program, will be led by students active in the Frostburg State Chapter of the Food Recovery Network.

West Nottingham Academy (WNA), a diverse, student-centered day and boarding school for students in 9th through 12th grade, located in Colora, Maryland hosts an annual Earth Day event involving sustainability directors and students from high schools and colleges around the region. WNA is a Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education Certified Sustainable School. Students have formed the Student Environmental Council and the Green Team to engage students in ideas of sustainability and environmental conservation. NERC is working with the school’s Director of Sustainability Programs and the Mike Cairns Environmental Sustainability Fellow to put together a session on food waste for its Earth Day event to be held on April 25.

NERC’s participation in these upcoming Earth Day activities are part of its USDA funded Implementing Food Waste, Organics, and Manure Management in Rural Maryland Communities.

For more information contact Athena Lee Bradley.

Webinar Showcasing Finding Value in MRF Glass - May 16

The Northeast Recycling Council will host the webinar—Finding Value in MRF Glass— on May 16th at 2 – 3:30 p.m. (eastern).  The webinar will explore the findings of the Closed Loop Fund’s (CLF) recent MRF Glass Study, Governmental Advisory Associates’ MRF data that informed CLF’s Study, CLF’s tool for assisting MRFs and municipalities to calculate the financial return based on their glass recycling set up, and an overview of Aero Aggregates’ use of recycled glass to make a foam glass aggregate.

Presenters

  • Ellen Martin, VP, Impact and Reporting, Closed Loop Fund (CLF)
  • Eileen Berenyi, Principal, Governmental Advisory Associates
  • Herb Northrop, Chief Operating Officer, Aero Aggregates 

Free Registration

For more information, contact Mary Ann Remolador, Assistant Director, NERC.

NERC Conducts MRF Glass Survey

Finding out about the flow of glass through Material Recycling Facilities (MRFs) in the Northeast is one of the primary objectives of NERC’s Glass Committee.  The Committee developed the survey and received feedback about it from Casella Recycling and Waste Management.  The survey was sent out to the MRFs throughout the region earlier this month.  NERC will be aggregating and analyzing the responses to provide the Committee with baseline information for strategizing its future course.

Members of NERC’s Glass Committee include:

  • Brooke Nash, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
  • Cathy Jamieson, Vermont Agency of Natural Resources
  • Chaz Miller, NERC Board Member
  • Chris Nelson, Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection
  • Chuck Riegle, TOMRA
  • Curt Bucey, Strategic Materials
  • Kayla Montanya, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
  • Megan Pryor, Maine Department of Environmental Protection (Committee Chair)
  • Michael Foote, City of Reading, Pennsylvania
  • Natalie Starr, DSM Environmental Services
  • Peter Schirk, BHS-Sonthofen
  • Ray Dube, Coca Cola Bottling of New England
  • Sarah Reeves, Chittenden Solid Waste District, Vermont
  • Steve Changaris, National Waste & Recycling Association
  • Susan Collins, Container Recycling Institute
  • Ted Siegler, DSM Environmental Services
  • Terry Laibach, New York Department of Environmental Conservation

For more information about the MRF survey, contact Mary Ann Remolador, NERC.

More Work with Glass

In addition to developing the Glass Committee, NERC is participating as an advisory member to the Glass Recycling Coalition (GRC).  As part of this work, NERC’s staff serves on the GRC’s Interventions Committee—a group assessing potential projects for GRC in communities across the country where glass recycling issues have reached a boiling point.   As a result of this involvement, NERC was instrumental in adding the Massachusetts communities impacted by the closure of the glass bottling facility in Milford, Massachusetts to GRC’s “Heat Map.”

For more information about NERC’s work with glass, contact Mary Ann Remolador, NERC.   

Save the Date for NERC’s Fall Conference

NERC’s Fall ’18 Conference will be held on October 30th – 31st in Hartford, Connecticut.  Take a minute to add these dates to your calendar and start making your plans to attend this reputable event. More information about the Conference theme and exact location will be announced in late April. 

If you have any questions regarding the Conference, contact Mary Ann Remolador, NERC.

newly posted

Addressing the Confusing Landscape of Compostable Products

The NEWMOA-NERC Food Waste Working Group hosted a recent webinar on compostable products and the potential impact they have on product users and compost operations. Presenters covered legislation adopted in Seattle, Washington; California; and Maryland that mandates certifications for compostable bags, foodservice ware, and other products.

The goal of the webinar was to promote a dialogue on the following:

  • Is compostable product legislation the answer?
  • Is adoption of legislation practical on the local or state level?
  • What type of training resources would be beneficial for stakeholders—composters, haulers, food scrap generators, foodservice product providers—to effectively navigate the world of certified compostable products?

Presenters were:

  • Mark Williams, VP Market Development, BioBag Americas, Inc.
  • David M. Mrgich, Chief, Waste Diversion Division, Maryland Department of the Environment
  • Dan Goossen, General Manager, Green Mountain Compost (Burlington, Vermont)

Links to the presentations and the webinar recording:

The NEWMOA and NERC Food Waste Workgroup  consists of  state officials involved in programs that address food waste issues from Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. .  

For more information contact Athena Lee Bradley, NERC and Terri Goldberg, NEWMOA.

State News

Connecticut’s Recycling Enforcement Initiative Continues

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (‘DEEP”) updated its Solid Waste Management Plan in 2016 with the adoption of a Comprehensive Materials Management Strategy (“CMMS”).  The CMMS is a road map to achieving the state’s goal of 60 percent diversion of materials from disposal by 2024.  To support this goal, DEEP has been implementing a recycling enforcement initiative with a more robust field presence to address noncompliance with Connecticut’s recycling laws.  The first three hundred facility inspections, which included but were not limited to those performed within the multi-tenant housing, commercial office space, industrial/manufacturing and retail sectors, have discovered a high degree of noncompliance, as approximately forty-five percent of the facilities inspected had some degree of noncompliance.  DEEP notes that the highest rates of noncompliance are currently being discovered within the multi-tenant housing sector.

Common violations DEEP is finding include: 1. No recycling program at all; 2. Non-compliant collection contracts (Connecticut law requires solid waste contracts also make provisions for designated recyclable items); and 3. Co-mingling of trash and designated recyclable items due to ineffective education and signage, failure to provide parallel or convenient recycling collection and/or failure to provide sufficient recycling collection capacity.  The recycling enforcement initiative remains a DEEP priority and will continue with targeted inspections and enforcement for non-compliance with Connecticut’s recycling laws.  Further information on the CMMS, Connecticut’s recycling laws and the recycling enforcement initiative can be found on the DEEP website.

Advisory Member News

2018 APR Plastics Recycling Educational Webinar Series

APR Sorting Potential Protocols: Identifying Packages that Get Lost in the
Recycling Process

Tuesday, April 17th at 1:00 pm EST

The APR Sorting Potential Protocols are designed to identify specific features that may cause an entire package to be lost in the recycling process.  This knowledge enables design engineers to focus their improvement efforts as they design with recyclability in mind. These protocols complement the information provided in The APR Design® for Plastics Recyclability.  This webinar will provide summary of the protocols, and their ability to reduce contamination in the waste stream, and increase the volume material that is properly sorted and available to plastics recyclers.  

Register Now

The APR Recycling Demand Champion Campaign: Proactively Building Demand for Recycled Plastics
Tuesday, May 22nd at 1:00 pm EST

The APR Recycling Demand Champions Campaign plays a prominent role in expanding the market for residential plastics, driving investment, increasing supply and producing more high quality PCR.  The initial phase of the campaign focused on purchasing new volume PCR through “work in process” (WIP) durable goods, but has expanded to include any and all NEW applications for PCR.  Why does this Campaign come at a critical time for plastics recycling industry? What does the Campaign entail? A variety of stakeholders will detail the key roles they play to push overall growth in the use of recycled plastics.

Register Now:  

Sustainable Materials Management:  A Compliment or a Barrier to Recycling?
Tuesday, June 26th at 1:00 pm EST

According to the EPA, “Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) is a systemic approach to using and reusing materials more productively over their entire life cycles,” but is the program a compliment or a barrier to recycling?  APR firmly believes that sustainability cannot exist without strong recycling systems and programs. Can SMM and recycling complement each other?  Of course, but it should not be used to replace recycling as a key component of sustainability, or as a diversion of resources from the necessary investment in infrastructure to support and expand recycling.  Learn about the basic principles of SMM and why recycling should remain a crucial element in its adoption.

Register Now: 

Life Cycle Inventory Analysis: The First Inventory to Include Recycled
PET, HDPE, and PP
Tuesday, August 21st at 1:00 pm EST

Information gained from Life Cycle Inventories (LCI) provide the data to calculate the emissions of greenhouse gases. This information is critical to understand the true environmental impact of recycled plastics.  The soon to be published 2018 Life Cycle Assessment includes updates to the PET and HDPE information from the 2010 LCI, with the addition of Polypropylene (PP). This webinar will provide a summary of the 2018 LCI, the implications for the plastics recycling industry, and the potential impact on demand for recycled resins.

Register Now

Plastic Sorting Best Management Practices:  Resources for MRFs, Municipalities, & Reclaimers
Tuesday, September 25th at 1:00 pm EST

Bale sorts are a regular practice for MRFs, municipalities, and relcaimers, as well as other organizations looking to understand the material composition of typical bales of sorted plastics.  Although beneficial information is gathered from these sorts, the process is not standardized, making it difficult to compare results.  The APR Plastics Sorting Best Management Practices (BMPs) have been developed to provide guidelines to standardize bale sort practices and the terminology used to report the resulting data.  Let’s all speak the same language!  Along with a synopsis of the BMPs, learn about what terms are used, why they were chosen, and the importance of consistent reporting metrics and its value to municipalities, MRF’s, and the entire recycling industry.

Register Now

New Carton Council Research on Recycling

According to a new survey by the Carton Council of North America, an overwhelming majority of consumers (94 percent) are supportive of recycling. Nearly three-fourths (74 percent) believe recycling is important and should be made a priority, and an additional 20 percent think it is somewhat important and people should do what they can to try to recycle. This is a significant increase from 61 percent reporting that recycling should be a priority when the survey was last conducted two years ago.

“It’s reassuring to see positive attitudes toward recycling growing,” said Jason Pelz, vice president of recycling projects for the Carton Council of North America and vice president, environment, for Tetra Pak Americas. “So many companies and organizations have been coming together to make recycling more convenient, efficient and simple in our country, and this affirms that it is having a strong impact.”

Americans don’t just think recycling should be a priority, they are acting on it. The survey asked respondents about their recycling behavior for common recyclables, and the results showed an overall increase in respondents reporting that they always recycle these items. Food and beverage cartons, such as those for milk, juice, broth and soy, are a newer recyclable material in the U.S. recycling stream, yet also showed a significant increase, with 61 percent of respondents saying they always recycle their food and beverage cartons, up from 50 percent when the survey was last conducted.

“It’s great for us to see consumers taking advantage of the growing availability of carton recycling,” said Pelz. “Today, more than 62 percent of American households have access to carton recycling, and we’re excited to continue working with governments, recyclers and many other stakeholders to ensure that every food and beverage carton ends up in a recycling bin and is turned into new, useful products.”

Environmental benefits and social responsibility drive recycling now more than ever. Ninety-four percent of respondents cited environmental or altruistic reasons for recycling, up from 73 percent in 2016.

Additionally, consumers have high expectations for the brands they purchase. Fifty-six percent said their loyalty to a food or beverage brand is impacted by the brand’s engagement with environmental causes. The survey also found that consumers overwhelmingly expect food and beverage brands to be committed to recycling. More than nine out of 10 (92 percent) said brands should take an active role in helping to increase the recycling of packages, up slightly from 2016.

Top States That Report They Recycle Their Cartons Most Often

States That Have the Most Supportive Outlook of Recycling

1.   Rhode Island

1.    Rhode Island

2.    New Hampshire

2.    New Jersey

3.    Connecticut

3.    Wisconsin

4.    Massachusetts

4.    New Hampshire

5.    Delaware

5.    Pennsylvania

 

The survey also reported recycling behaviors broken down by state in two categories:

  • States that reported recycling of food and beverage cartons most often; and
  • States that have the most supportive outlook of recycling.

Rhode Island ranked number one for both the number of residents who report recycling their cartons most often and for the most supportive views on recycling.

“Rhode Island was one of the first states to promote universal recycling access back in 1986 and we’re still leading the way,” said Jared Rhodes, Director of Policy and Programs at Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation. “We’re pleased our commitment to recycling education has resulted in positive outlooks and actions. We hope Rhode Islanders continue to recycle their cartons in high numbers, as well as the full suite of recyclables accepted in our mixed recycling program.” 

The Carton Council formed in 2009 to increase recycling of cartons used to package many food and beverage products, such as milk, juice, water, soups, broth, wine and beans. At that time, only 18 percent of households could recycle their cartons through local programs. Now, more than 62 percent of homes have access, representing 72.6 million households in 13,350 communities.  Since achieving 60 percent access last year, cartons can carry the standard “Please Recycle’’ logo under the Federal Trade Commission’s green guidelines, reinforcing that they are a mainstream recyclable material.

About the Survey

Findings from the research are based on a survey of 6,936 interviews conducted by Research+Data Insights. The survey included a nationally representative sample of Americans who reported access to curbside recycling programs in their area. Recruitment was conducted for those in each state with 30 percent or greater access to curbside carton recycling. Responses were collected online in December 2017.  For more information on the research findings, visit CartonOpportunities.org/survey.

Of General Interest

Refreshing the Concept of Recycling

Why do you recycle? If you are like most people, you will give a number of reasons. “It’s the right thing to do,” “saving natural resources,” “improving the environment” recycling definitions and “saving landfill space” are among the most commonly cited reasons. Advocates also talk about job creation and diverting material from all kinds of disposal. 

But perhaps a more important question is why do state legislators pass recycling laws? They will cite the reasons given above when debating legislation, but their laws are usually focused on either increasing the state’s recycling rate or diverting materials from disposal. They rarely take a look at what, exactly, recyclables are or at how much we can realistically recycle. Instead, they pass the law and leave it up to others to figure out how to get to Paradise. We haven’t gotten there yet.

We need to take a different approach. First, we need to decide what recyclables are. Then, we need to learn how to best use them. 

So, what are “recyclables”? They are a raw material. Nothing more, nothing less. They only have value if a manufacturer can use them as raw materials. Otherwise, they are useless. Unfortunately, the recycling laws in most states look at recyclables as numbers. As something to be diverted from disposal or to be recycled with little thought about the impact of the law on supplying raw materials or improving the environment. This has led to the passage of higher and higher recycling goals that have little to do with the reality of using these potential raw materials. 

In our frenzy to meet these higher goals, we keep expanding what is accepted into our recycling programs. We add a product here and a package there, most of which constitute only a very small part of the waste stream. Every time we add a new item, we create confusion about what belongs in the recycling bin. We make it harder to recycle, not easier. Worse yet, we get a little further away from the goal of creating raw materials.

Be honest, do you know absolutely for sure what goes into your recycling bin and what doesn’t? I think I am relatively knowledgeable about recycling, yet I often have to check my county’s list of “ins” and “outs” to be certain. Even when I check the county’s website and look at the list, I am not always certain. And I live in a county with a very good recycling program and solid public education.  

The good news is that some states are taking a fresh look at recycling. They are raising questions regarding why they recycle, what their goals should be and how they can have the most positive impact on the environment through recycling. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) led the way with its publications on sustainable materials management. Then, the State of Oregon stepped up to the plate and adopted sustainable materials management as its new strategy. Recycling and composting are part of the solution, but they are not the only part. Source reduction and avoiding waste have a real seat at the table, not just lip service. An ever-higher recycling goal has been replaced with the idea of figuring out how to best conserve materials and reduce pollution. My home state of Maryland has also adopted this concept. I expect other states will follow the lead of the EPA and the state of Oregon.

Let’s start taking a closer look at the purpose of recycling. Let’s put more emphasis on protecting the environment and less on who can set the highest goals. Let’s figure out what recycling can realistically achieve and how. Then, let’s go out and do it.

Chaz Miller is a longtime veteran of the waste and recycling industry and Ex Officio Member of the NERC Board of Directors. He can be reached at chazmiller9@gmail.com.

Recycling Terms for Beginners

NERC’s Spring Workshop—Markets or Bust! Saving and Growing Recycling Markets—will be held on April 3rd in Linthicum, MD. Walk-in registration is available; so if you’re in the neighborhood, please consider joining us.

A centerpiece of the Workshop will be breakout sessions focusing on four essential recycled commodities: glass, paper, plastics and organics. The first two terms defined below address two of the breakout sessions.

Bioplastics are plastics derived at least in part from organic biomass materials.

Biodegradable plastics have been manufactured for years, but a precise definition of them—and, more importantly, how to dispose of them—can be elusive. They can degrade via naturally occurring microorganisms, but unless environment and timeframe is specified, the claim is virtually meaningless. The term does not indicate that biodegradable plastics can be either recycled or composted.

Compostable plastics, on the other hand, are biodegradable in a composting environment.They must meet specific standards of disintegration, biodegradation, and toxicity.

As for paper, low-density objects such as cardboard and newspaper are best separated at the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) by means of disc screeners. The floor of disc screens is lined with rotating discs which rotate at various speeds. The low-density objects are lifted to the top of the waste pile where they can be easily removed.

Relatively new to the challenging process of separating glass in a MRF is the ballistic separator. The paddles of the separator cause the materials on the conveyor to bounce, fines (broken and crushed glass) fall through screens, thus being separated and preventing contamination of other commodities such as paper.