Single-stream (also known as “fully commingled” or "single-sort") recycling refers to a system in which all paper fibers, plastics, metals, and other containers are mixed in a collection truck, instead of being sorted by the depositor into separate commodities (newspaper, paperboard, corrugated fiberboard, plastic, glass, etc.) and handled separately throughout the collection process. In single-stream, both the collection and processing systems are designed to handle this fully commingled mixture of recyclables, with materials being separated for reuse at a materials recovery facility (MRF).
Single-stream recycling programs were first developed in several California communities in the 1990s. Subsequently many large and small municipalities across the United States began single-stream programs. As of 2012 there are 248 MRFs operating in the U.S.
More about Single-Stream Recycling
- Reduced sorting effort by residents may mean more recyclables are placed at the curb and more residents may participate in recycling;
- Reduced collection costs because single-compartment trucks are cheaper to purchase and operate, collection can be automated, and collection routes can be serviced more efficiently;
- Greater fleet flexibility which allows single compartment vehicles to be used for refuse or recycling, providing greater fleet flexibility and reducing the number of reserve vehicles needed. To avoid confusing customers, a large sign or banner is sometimes used to distinguish when a refuse truck is being used for recycling.
- Worker injuries may decrease because the switch to single stream is often accompanied by a switch from bins to cart-based collection.
- Changing to single stream may provide an opportunity to update the collection and processing system and to add new materials to the list of recyclables accepted; and
- More paper grades may be collected, including junk mail, telephone books and mixed residential paper.
Recycling statistics on paper
- Forests are being cut and trees are being felled at an unimaginable rate of 100 acres per minute. All this to produce paper which is normally used and disposed without much thought.
- A plant takes a minimum of 15 to 20 years to grow into a tree, but takes less than ten minutes to be felled, and on an average one tree can yield about 700 paper grocery bags, which will be consumed in less than an hour by a supermarket!
- According to The Public Recycling Officials of Pennsylvania, for every ton of paper that is recycled, the following are saved:17 trees
- 275 pounds of sulfur
- 350 pounds of limestone
- 9,000 pounds of steam
- 60,000 gallons of water
- 225 kilowatt hours
- 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space
- Energy used to recycle paper is close to 70% less than when paper is prepared using virgin wood and other raw material.
- Recycling 14 trees worth of paper reduces air pollutants by 165,142 tons.
Recycling statistics on plastic
- Almost every hour, nearly 250,000 plastic bottles are dumped. It is not surprising that plastic bottles constitute close to 50% of recyclable waste in the dumps.
- The average time taken by plastic bottles to decompose in a landfill is close to 700 years.
- Plastic not only adds to landfill space and takes forever to decompose. Used plastic dumped into the sea kills and destroys sea life at an estimated 1,000,000 sea creatures per year!