Mixed-waste recovery, a strategy to remove recyclable materials from waste destined for landfills, is an innovative solution to the growing problem of waste disposal. Currently, several jurisdictions across the country are experimenting with mixed-waste recovery programs, and they are showing great promise thus far. Experts note, though, that the method is not suitable for all communities, though it is a step in the right direction with regards to minimizing landfill waste. Here's what you need to know about how mixed-waste recovery works.
The Recovery Process
There are two primary methods for mixed-waste recovery. In some cases, a recovery plant acts as a single-stream solution for waste management, bringing in the waste, sorting out the recyclables, processing them and disposing of the rest. In other instances, the recovery centers merely remove the recyclables from the waste, then selling them and delivering the landfill waste to another processing organization. The latter are often set up directly at the landfills, minimizing additional transport requirements.
Mixed-waste recovery focuses primarily on aluminum, steel, and certain plastics and fibers. Many paper and plastic materials that are not suitable for recycling can be put to use as fuel, substituting for coal at manufacturing plants — in addition to removing this type of waste from landfills, using these materials as waste is also beneficial for the environment, as the fuel is much cleaner-burning than coal.
Current estimates from the mixed-waste recovery programs put diversion rates around 15 percent for items being processed for recycling, plus an additional 35 percent for fuel materials. When they gain the capability to recover mixed paper as well, estimates could put the recovery rate as high as 65 to 70 percent. This would make a major impact on the amount of trash destined for landfills, easing the pressure on waste management organizations.
Where Mixed-Waste Recovery Works
Currently, mixed-waste recovery is predominantly used in areas where local recycling services are not readily available to residents and businesses. In these scenarios, recovery of recyclables can have the biggest impact. However, the process is also being tested in areas that do have curbside recycling available. In these communities, mixed-waste recovery serves as a last chance to get any unnoticed recyclables out of the waste stream. This way, even if homeowners and businesses put a recyclable in the wrong bin or choose not to participate in the program, these materials still won't end up in landfills.
Learn More about Mixed-Waste Recovery
Here at Central Kentucky Fiber Resources, we live and breathe all things recycling. As you can imagine, we are incredibly excited about the promise mixed-waste recovery holds for the recycling industry. If you are interested in learning more about the process and how it all works, we welcome you to get in touch with our team for more information. We'll be happy to answer all of your questions and provide additional advice with regards to recycling in your area.