Wednesday, November 27, 2019

A Look Downstream Pays Dividends

Incoming material  gets mixed and then loaded into the single
stream line
Recently, I attended a class called Materials Processing & Marketing presented by the Professional Recyclers of Pennsylvania (PROP) at the Lycoming County Resource Management Services (LCRMS) recycling facility in Montgomery. I thought this was appropriate to share because LCRMS pulls the materials from of our recycling drop-offs and transports them to their facility, where they process them for sale to manufacturers that use them to make recycled products. In essence, they’re our customer (even though we pay them to take our materials), so it can only help our operation if we understand what they do with our materials.
This is especially true considering the recycling systems we use compared with LCRMS. In Snyder County, we source-separate our recyclables, meaning residents separate materials into different containers at home and then put them in various containers at their local recycling drop-off. LCRMS uses a single stream system, where all the materials are placed in a single container.
Attendees got to work on the processing line to get a feel for
it. Stuff on the conveyor moves fast when you're pulling off
certain items.
One of the presenters, Mike Crist, environmental manager for the Clinton County Solid Waste Authority and Wayne Township Landfill, told how source-separating materials results in less contamination, higher quality materials, and more dollars received for them. On the con side, it requires more effort from the generator (residents) and collector (LCRMS). Single stream, on the other hand, offers increased participation and convenience for the resident but at a cost in quality. He went on to say that cat litter and diapers are common contaminants in recycling.
Denny Brewer, recycling supervisor at LCRMS, told us how they have 65 haulers feeding their facility and that their single stream line can process 20 tons/hour of material. As we stood on the tipping floor watching a front-end loader shuffling single stream material around, he explained that single stream works best when material is mixed thoroughly. At the beginning of the line, they hand pre-sort undesirable items such as bags, metal, and oversized materials. Plastic bags, a nemesis to single stream because they get wrapped around conveyor shafts, get sucked off the line and packaged for sale. They also pull off rigid plastics, including large items such as lawn chairs and cat litter buckets, which they sell to markets overseas. Glass goes through a breaker and gets taken out; they pay a company to take it.
To process source-separated materials such as ours, they typically run them through their single stream line, with some exceptions. Source-separated glass is kept separate and run through their old system. They also run more-valuable materials like newsprint separately from single stream. Brewer added that they store some bales of materials in their warehouse until markets improve.
Pete Previte, recycling markets development manager for the Pennsylvania Recycling Markets Center, told us that steel has a recycling rate of 85 percent, largely because the steel industry has promoted recycling. His presentation touched on a host of other points. A slight increase in recycling can increase landfill life significantly. PRMC gets requests for plastics recycling plants since China invoked its National Sword policy to ban importing recyclables. Ford is the largest user of recycled HDPE; they use them for auto parts such as bumpers. Some 19 new paper mills are coming to Pennsylvania. Two plants recycle glass in the state, but they claim they can’t get enough material, so they get it from Iowa. This country averages a 26 percent recycling rate.
The folks at LCRMS complement us on the material they get from us. Let’s keep up the good work and keep improving, mainly by reducing our contamination.

Tom Gibson
Snyder County Recycling Coordinator
Snyder County Solid Waste Management Authority

570-374-6889, x-115

Apps Galore

I must confess, I’m still relatively new at the smartphone thing, as I switched from an old-school flip phone to an iPhone just a few years ago and never explored all it can do until about a year ago when I got an iPhone. As part of that process, I’ve discovered the world of apps.

I get an online newsletter from Earth911 every week that covers all kinds of environmental and sustainability-related subjects, including recycling. So when I saw a notice about their iRecycle app, I got to wondering how such an app could help us in the Snyder County recycling world.

The writeup described iRecycle as an “application for finding local convenient recycling opportunities when you are on the go or at home. iRecycle provides access to more than 1,600,000 ways to recycle over 350 materials in the United States. Our daily sustainable living articles, podcasts, and recycling how-to guides are available any time you need information.”
I went to the App Store on my phone to download iRecycle, and I shouldn’t have been surprised when I found a whole slew of other recycling apps. I counted 17 of them, with names like, Recycle Share, Recycle!, Road to Recycle, RecycleNation, and RecycleTime. While most cover general household recycling for residents, some are geared toward businesses, some cover specific cities or regions, and others are in the form of games for kids. Others cover specific materials, such as RecycleABook 2.0, an exchange for college textbooks.
I downloaded iRecycle into my smartphone and began to play with it. The user interface lets you choose a material, find local options, contact recyclers, and map a route to the location. When I plugged in a common item like plastics, it came up with a host of outlets, including our drop-off centers. Just for fun, I clicked on electronics, as we all know how hard it is to recycle electronic devices. The name of EnvironTech Electronic Recycling (570-239-8537) in Danville came up, 16 miles away from our Selinsgrove office. I haven’t been able to reach these folks to vet them. Nonetheless, it’s encouraging to find a possible place I didn’t know about for recycling electronics.
I did notice some out-of-date results that came up on iRecycle inquiries such as stores that have closed (Staples and Goodwill Industries, for example). But they did mention something about a new version 3.0 coming out that should update things.

Now that I’ve discovered the world of recycling apps, maybe I’ll download more of them. Stay tuned, as hopefully we can find more outlets for hard-to-recycle materials like electronics.

Just a reminder about out our event coming up October 18 and 19 at Western Snyder Elementary School in Beaver Springs. This is sponsored by Conestoga Wood Specialties, Bingaman & Sons Lumber, and Burger King. We’ll collect the usual hard-to-recycle items such as electronics, appliances, books, and clothes. Note that we’re not taking household chemicals, and no appointment is required, as with our previous three events. There will be a charge for some electronics.

Tom Gibson
Snyder County Recycling Coordinator
Snyder County Solid Waste Management Authority

570-374-6889, x-115

A Fun Day in Harrisburg

As a county recycling coordinator, I belong to the Professional Recyclers of Pennsylvania (PROP), a state recycling trade association based in Harrisburg. They hold a conference every July for its members, rotating it around to different cities in the state. This year’s version, the 29th Annual Recycling & Organics Conference, took place in Harrisburg at the Best Western Premier Hotel & Conference Center, and I attended for a day full of activities.
Like most conferences of this type, this is an opportunity to reconnect with my recycling colleagues around the state, network, make new friends, learn about the latest technology, and bring home information we can apply to recycling in Snyder County.
It all started with an opening Plenary: Global Markets & Local Solutions, presented by Lisa Skumatz, president of Skumatz Economic Research Associates. In going through the current recycling landscape, she made many pertinent points. Removing one material from the recycling mix can cause problems, as it may affect other materials as well. China has given us mandates in the past, similar to the current National Sword policy, with years between them, and we have done nothing. Technologies used on sorting lines such as optical sorting and robotics have big potential. I got excited when she hit on a pet peeve of mine saying we externalize costs when it comes to using virgin materials versus recycled ones. If we internalized costs and had virgin materials pay for the carbon they emit, this would have a huge effect in changing prices of recycled materials, giving a true picture that would benefit the industry.
Next it was on to a certification class, Non-DEP Grant Resources. In our world, we depend mostly on grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). But there are many organizations out there that offer grants we could take advantage of. The instructors discussed who to approach and how to apply from grants.
The Contamination in the Crosshairs session told how communities are addressing issues they have with contamination of their recyclables. They are delivering targeted campaigns to residents and educating them on how to correctly dispose of problem items like plastic bags (take them to a retailer such as a grocery store, and don’t put them in a bin at your recycling drop-off).
Organics Nuts and Bolts offered a comparison of aerobic composting and anaerobic digestion technologies for managing food waste, yard waste, and wastewater sludge. Anaerobic digestion takes place inside a steel vessel and generates methane, often used to generate electrical power.
But as good as these sessions were, they saved the best for last with the session Thinking Through Stuff: How Universities Can Reuse to Build Community proving the most inspirational. Students and employees from Temple University told how they created entrepreneurial ventures to reuse materials generated on campus. The Computer Recycling Center deals with the 4000-plus computers on campus by taking in obsolete ones and reconditioning them so they can give them to staff members, who are often low-income and can’t otherwise afford it. The Give + Go Green and Temple Thrift take in the stuff students leave behind at the end of school every spring and sell it in a thrift store. The Temple Office Supply Swap serves as an exchange for students and staff to bring in unused office supplies and take materials they need; no money changes hands.
All this was rounded out with a tour through the exhibit hall to see the vendors’ wares and then dinner and an awards ceremony later. It makes for an educational and fun day.

Tom Gibson
Snyder County Recycling Coordinator
Snyder County Solid Waste Management Authority
570-374-6889, x-115

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Show Me the Numbers, Part 2

Previously, we presented numbers for the materials recycled in Snyder County in 2018, first for the entire county and then broken down by municipality. Here, we give you figures for our recycling drop-offs and individual businesses.

2018 Numbers for our Recycling Drop-Offs (tons):
Penn Township – 247
Freeburg Borough – 170
Selinsgrove Borough – 118
Franklin Township – 77
Monroe Township – 80
Spring Township – 61

2018 Numbers for Businesses (tons):
Bingaman & Son Lumber – 12,514
Conestoga Wood Specialties – 10,595
Shaffer Landscapes – 4450
National Beef – 1058
Cherry Hill Hardwoods – 1004
Walmart – 640
Lozier Corp. – 373
Giant Foods – 319
Weis Markets – 294
Target – 190
Aldi - 134
Dollar General – 115
Iron Mountain – 99
Kohls – 92
Lowes – 75
Wood-Mode – 66
U.S. Postal Service - 53
Best Buy – 40
Verizon – 30
Northway Industries – 29
Beavertown Block – 25
Auto Zone – 25
Staples – 24
Midd-West School District – 9
Irvin’s Country Tinware – 9
Advance Auto – 7
Tractor Supply – 6
Community Action Agency - 2

We should point out that the numbers for wood-related businesses such as Conestoga, Bingaman, and Cherry Hill come mainly from wood waste, and those for Shaffer Landscapes come mostly from yard waste. These generate inherently higher numbers than other recyclable materials. If you discount that, National Beef comes out on top again. Like the nearby big-box stores along the strip, National Beef recycles mostly corrugated cardboard boxes. Walmart, Giant Foods, Iron Mountain, and Verizon showed the biggest improvement in their tonnages last year.

How we get our numbers: For the drop-offs, we get them from Lycoming County Resource Management Service, as they pull the materials for us. For the larger businesses, PROP (Professional Recyclers of Pennsylvania) gathers them from regional and national offices and disseminates them to all the recycling coordinators in the state. Haulers give us their numbers for residential and commercial materials as well. And many of the businesses report their numbers to us themselves; they’re actually required to by law, but there’s no enforcement of that, so we appreciate their efforts.

We congratulate the municipalities for making our drop-offs a success and the businesses for their recycling efforts.

Tom Gibson
Snyder County Recycling Coordinator
Snyder County Solid Waste Management Authority
570-374-6889, x-115;

Monday, July 22, 2019

Show Me the Numbers

As usual, we have collected numbers from businesses, organizations, and haulers so we can calculate how many tons of materials Snyder County recycled the previous year, as required by Act 101. In turn, DEP uses our figures to calculate recycling tonnages for the state. This process allows us to monitor our progress and serves as a basis for grant money we receive.

Below is a chart of the numbers for 2018 for the entire county, along with two previous years for comparison. Metals include aluminum and bimetal cans, while organics includes leaves, wood waste, and yard waste as well as food waste. All numbers are in tons.

Countywide Recycling Numbers

Single stream
1391 tons

The numbers indicate we’re holding steady with our recycling efforts, but there’s room for plenty of improvement. Single-stream recycling continues to increase, indicating more residents are subscribing to the service through haulers. Tonnages for glass, metals, and plastics are down slightly, probably because of the increase in single-stream. Selinsgrove Borough wins the prize for the most residential recycling, while Monroe Township is tops in commercial recycling if you discount organics. This makes sense because Monroe includes the Route 11/15 strip and most of the big-box businesses there.

Materials Recycled by Municipality in 2018 (tons)
Adams Township
Center Township
Beavertown Borough
Franklin Township
Freeburg Borough
Jackson Township
McClure Borough
Middleburg Borough
Middlecreek Township
Monroe Township
Penn Township
Perry Township
Selinsgrove Borough
Shamokin Dam Borough
Spring Township
West Perry Township

Thanks again to all county residents, organizations, municipalities, and businesses that recycled in 2018 and those who reported your numbers to us. By measuring our recycling tonnages, we can continue to make progress in recycling and sustaining our planet.

Tom Gibson
Snyder County Recycling Coordinator
Snyder County Solid Waste Management Authority

570-374-6889, x-115