What is Single Stream Recycling?
Single stream recycling is a process that does not require the sorting and separation of materials sent to be recycled. Single stream sorting differs from the multiple stream method where homeowners had to sort and separate recyclables into different bins. While there are a number of advantages to the single stream method of recycling materials, there are also some disadvantages to consider.
How It Works
In single stream recycling, homeowners and others who have trash service simply place all of their recyclable materials into one bin and place it at the curb. The waste removal service then collects the materials and takes them to a central sorting site. At this site, specialized machines are used to sort recyclables into proper categories such as paper, plastic, aluminum, glass, etc. After sorting, the materials are sold to recyclers of these materials.
The machines that sort the recyclable materials are expensive. However, after the initial investment to purchase the machine, the cost to operate the machines is low. Waste collectors will also save as they will only need to provide homeowners with one recycling bin instead of multiple bins. Waste collectors also benefit from being able to use standard trash hauling vehicles to transport recyclables instead of having to use segmented trucks that keep recyclables separate. This can eliminate the need for collectors to buy and operate two different types of trucks for residential trash collection and recycling collection.
For homeowners, as well as business owners and anyone who uses trash service, single stream recycling allows them to simplify the in-home sorting and storing of recyclables. This should increase the volume of participation and cause more recyclable materials to be collected. The resulting profit to waste collectors from being able to sell more recyclable materials may help to reduce curbside collection rates for homeowners.
The increased amount of materials being recycled by the single stream method will work to keep these materials out of landfills. Obviously, reducing the amount of material being placed into a landfill is a significant environmental improvement. One disadvantage of mixing recyclables together is that many paper products become ruined by contamination from other products in the recycling bin. While the contaminated paper can generally still be recycled, it can only be used for lower grades of paper products.