Recycling Waste Collection

Why is it important to know about recycling waste collection?

It is not sufficient for us to know about the importance of recycling. We must know how we can make a difference.

That is why there must be public education on what to collect and what to do with the recyclables. The common man like you and I need to know what to do with our recyclables, ie. where to send them to so that they can be directed for processing and be given a new lease of life.

You must realise that the collection of recyclables is linked to the supply of recyclables that is fed into the recycling process. In fact, recycling collection is the first step in the recycling process.

Without a system for collecting recycling waste systematically, whether from the common household or office, or larger scale factories and institutions, the supply of recyclables within the recycling system would be disrupted. Subsequently, the entire recycling system within a community would be hard to sustain.

This makes recycling waste collection the second important factor for recycling to be successful and effective in saving the environment and benefiting the economy.

Methods of recycling waste collection

There are several different ways by which recyclables can be collected from households, offices etc, for recycling. The 3 most commonly known ways of recycling waste collection are via systems involving "Drop-off Centres", "Buy-back Centres" and "Curbside Collection". These various systems vary in the level they facilitate public convenience and government ease and expense.

Drop-off Centres These centres require the recyclers (eg. the homemaker) to bring the recyclables to a central location, either an installed or mobile collection station or the reprocessing plant itself. This form of recycling waste collection is the easiest to establish. However, since the use of such centres is on a voluntary basis, it often suffers from low and unpredictable supply of recyclables.

Buy-back Centres When it comes to Buy-back Centres, the recyclers are similarly required to bring the recyclables to a central location. However, at the Buy-back Centres, the cleaned recyclates are purchased from the recyclers. This method of recycling waste collection provides an incentive for recyclers to send their used items for recycling, hence ensuring a stable supply of recyclables. In turn, the post-processed materials are then sold, hopefully with a profit. Given that the resale value of post-processed materials may sometimes be lower than the processing cost, government subsidies may be required for the system of Buy-back Centres to be viable.

Curbside Collection Instead of sending their recyclables to a centralized location, in “Curbside Collection”, the recyclables are picked up from the recyclers using a waste collection vehicle.

Systems of “Curbside Collection” encompass many subtly different forms, which differ mostly on which point in the process the recyclables are sorted and cleaned. The different forms of curbside collection include "Mixed Waste Collection", "Commingled Recyclables" and "Source Separation".

With "Mixed Waste Collection", the recyclables are mixed with the rest of the waste at collection. The recyclables would then need to be sorted out and cleaned at a central sorting facility. This results in a large amount of recyclables being wasted, especially paper which may be too soiled to reprocess. Nonetheless, there is an advantage to this form of curbside collection – there is no need to pay for the separate collection of different recyclables and no public education is needed. Since all the sorting takes place in a central location, any change to which materials are recyclable can be easily accommodated.

In a "Commingled Recyclable" system, the recyclables are separated from waste at collection. This greatly reduces the need for post-collection cleaning, but public education is required what materials are recyclable. Sorting is also required as different recyclables are mixed. Advances in sorting technology have lowered the cost of such a system, making it the preferred system currently.

With "Source Separation", the recyclables are cleaned and sorted prior to collection. This method requires the least post-collection sorting and produces the purest recyclates. However, there may be additional operating costs to collect of each type of recyclable separately. Extensive public education is also required, to minimize recyclate contamination in the process.

Impact of legislation

Beyond the various methods of recycling waste collection and their pros and cons, you might also want to know that three types of legislation, namely mandatory collection laws, container deposit legislation and refuse bans, can impact the effectiveness of recycling waste collection.

With mandatory collection laws, recycling targets are set for communities, often in the form that a certain percentage of a material must be diverted from the community’s waste stream by a target date. The community is then responsible for working to meet this target. In this way, mandatory collection laws can contribute to higher collection rates for recyclables.

Container deposit legislation involves offering a refund for the return of certain containers such as glass, plastic, and metal. A small surcharge for the container is included in the cost of the product purchased. This surcharge can then be reclaimed by the consumer if the container is returned to a collection point. These programs have been very successful, often resulting in 80% of the recyclables being returned to the collection system. Nevertheless, with such a practice, the cost of recycling waste collection is transferred from to consumers, who may then have strong opposition.

Banning the disposal of certain materials such as old batteries and tires can help divert these recyclables from the waste stream to the recycling collection system. Nevertheless, care must be taken to ensure that there are sufficient collection services for such recyclables, otherwise such bans may simply lead to increased illegal dumping.

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