The latest industry buzz is about China’s ban of America’s trashed recycling. America’s recycling became contaminated with the advent of single stream. Single stream was NOT initiated by end-users (companies trying to make new products from our recyclables). It was initiated by garbage haulers.

Overwhelmed with success, volunteers turned recycling collection programs over to municipalities. This was the end of citizen/end-user direct communication. Big mistake. Municipalities, swamped with other responsibilities, gave haulers totalcontrol of the recyclables.

NOTE the elephant on the single stream sort line. It is a conflict of interest to have an industry whose profit margin depends on our continual waste generation, be in total control of our waste reduction/recycling programs.

Garbage haulers should only have contractual instruction. That instruction should include: what we want hauled; how we want it hauled; where we want it hauled; and in what condition it should arrive to end-users. Your recyclables, if handled properly, are valuable resources, not something you just want “out of sight, out of mind”.

From the trade journal Waste Dive, Monday October 23, 2017 regarding the main message going out to all recyclers: “The most consistent and straightforward one is to focus on contamination and produce the highest-quality possible bales.”

What to do? It’s time for citizens to regain control of their recyclable resources. How to do that? Pass a recycling transparency/accountability ordinance. You want total transparency from the time your recyclables leave the curb until they’re baled and shipped out. You want to see what is going into the bales. Much contamination has been hidden in bales.

It’s time for haulers to get out of the middle man position, communities need to be in direct contact with the end-users. Citizens can and will do more sorting, if educated rather than dumbed down. Be aware of who lowered the bar in terms of citizen engagement and education. Who benefits when we continue mindless over consumption?

There is also a wonderful opportunity for mechanical engineers and venture capitalists to create trucks that keep recyclables separate while reducing repetitive motion syndrome, as well as back strain.

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