Understanding just because there was a market for recycling material yesterday, does not mean it makes sense today. Always keep an open line of communication with customers and municipalities to adjust when necessary.
By John Paglia, III
We are already flying through 2019, and one of the most common changes all haulers are making revolves around recycling. Without a market for a commodity, there essentially is not recycling. What we are finding out as an industry, is something we have known all along deep in our hearts, that a nationwide recycling concept such as single-stream would never work. In my opinion, the basic issues with that is the constant education of the public, wishful recycling, causing an abundance of products for processing facilities to attempt to segregate efficiently, clean, sort, bale, then market. While it started out as a great idea, we must swallow our pride and shift back to a simpler way.
Referring to the U.S. only, recycling markets can differ from state to state. What we are finding out now is that even from county to county within a state, based upon outlets for commodities some products make sense to recycle and some do not. Charging for contamination does not solve the problem, it only offers a band aid for haulers and processors to attempt to collect some of their rising cost in a market that continues to decline. None of this is new to anyone in the industry, it just comes with slightly different circumstances. In today’s economy with prices souring for labor and equipment, it adds to a very real challenge.
Anyone who has followed my articles for some time now, will understand I am for doing anything that can reduce the carbon footprint we leave on this Earth. I also am never afraid to point out that, we as the professionals of the industry, must use our experience and professionalism to educate the public on how we think the change should be carried out. By properly communicating with your customers whether public or private, let them understand that in this business nothing is permanent. They must be able to be adjustable on the fly if markets change during the term of an agreement. From a legislative standpoint in Florida, we are working to craft and edit bills that would support the haulers when presenting a change to a customer regarding recycling.
Weighing the Costs of Single Stream
From my standpoint—cut out the fluff. Recycling should be done in a way that leaves the world in a better place. Educating the public will allow you to make these changes. Take residential single stream for example. In a market we serve, we have subscription areas of a county that we offer every other week recycling curbside. To collect 250 to 300 homes, this takes on average a 9- to 10-hour route day due to the non-density of the route. You are lucky to pick up 1 to 1.5 tons of material on this route. Forget about all other numbers of cost, efficiency, profit, etc. Just ask yourself a logical question. Does it really make sense, even if you were paid enough to support your cost, to run a collection truck, burning fuel (diesel, gas, CNG, Etc), burning up tires and brakes, using other petroleum or fluids like engine oil, hydraulic, coolants, DEF fluid, for an attempt to recycle 1 to 1.5 tons? That is if the product is clean, which it is not, and has a market, which it does not.
What people need to think about is that everything that must happen to put that collection truck on the road, from the oil manufacturer and their carbon footprint, to the tire manufacturer wherever they are located, are they environmentally friendly in their production and disposal processes in making their products? If the footprint outweighs the end product significance, I argue it does not make sense to do it at all. While the original idea of single stream may have been a good one, the reality is it made collection and processing recycling so complex, it temporarily put the recycling market and outlets for good clean product at a standstill.
Rethink Your Process
Moving forward, I encourage everyone to evaluate how and why you recycle. Determine what commodities you can collect, process and sell. Do this to better the environment and reduce the footprint. Do not fall into the single stream trap, because “everyone” is doing it. We never did. We have always stuck to our roots and only accepted materials we could separate and market. We always have been flexible and open minded too. Understanding just because there was a market for a material yesterday, does not mean it makes sense today. We always keep an open line of communication with our customers and municipalities to adjust when necessary. I encourage all of us to do the same and do not let them dictate, what, how and when we collect recyclables.
John Paglia, III is a 4th generation garbage man. Before he climbed the ranks to become Florida Express Environmental’s General Manager, he had a successful career in college and professional athletics. John has been around the garbage industry since his car seat days. Currently, John is focused on growing his company and offering the highest level of customer service and prolonging the world we live in today. John wakes up every day knowing the impact professional haulers have on their community is far greater than most realize. He can be reached at (352) 629-4349, e-mail John3@floridaexpress.us or visit www.floridaexpress.us.