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Mixed Waste Processing – Is It Right for You?

Mixed Waste Processing (MWP), where all waste is processed to remove recyclables, is being considered by counties that want to increase recycling in a way that is easy for their customers.  The assumption is the public won’t have to do anything but throw waste away, and recycling will be achieved.   however, there are some considerations to be made to determine if it might be the right process for you.  These considerations include:

What are your goals?

Defined goals with solid reasoning behind them, is key to determining the best options or combination of options to increase waste diversion and/or recycling.

Who controls the waste you expect to process?

A MWP requires a large capital investment and without control of the waste stream, the economics of the system could change dramatically over time.

What is the composition of your current waste stream?

This is important to understand what type of recovery systems would be most effective, and to understand the economics of what you will be recovering.

Will construction of a MWP reduce recycling by individuals who already do so?

If you already have a clean stream of source separated recyclables, your tonnage may reduce when customers “unlearn” the habit of separating, thus leaving you with less high quality recyclables for revenue generation.

What is the population density?

More populated areas typically have more options to increase recycling and those should be considered as well.

Is waste compacted during collection?

This can increase the rejection rate of recovered recyclables due to contamination with organics.

What does the commercial waste stream look like?

Diversion and recycling may be more easily achieved by approaching commercial entities rather than residential.

Typically, higher diversion/recycling rates are only achieved through a variety of systems working in concert to attain a specific goal.  These systems may include recycling education, optimization of convenience centers, organics diversion and composting, evaluation of commercial diversion/recycling and consideration of waste to energy (WTE) if there is an end-user in your area in addition to a MWP facility.  There is no “one option” to achieve high diversion/recycling rates and each county is different.  If you have questions regarding how to increase recycling/diversion, contact Joan Smyth.

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