Garbage In…

An alert “06880” reader writes:

Recycling in Westport recently changed its setup and rules. But I don’t think it’s for the better.

It used to be that you had to separate out magazines from newspapers and cardboard.  Those items of course were separate from plastic, glass and metals.

Many towns still have residents put their recyclables on the curb, with different bins for paper and for the mix of plastic, glass and metal.

Now Westport has “single stream recycling.” Everything goes into one bin. Later on (downstream), someone has to separate it out.  The problem I have is that that someone is a paid municipal employee.  What we used to have residents do for free, we now pay someone to do.

At a time of reduced municipal government spending and services, this makes no sense to me.

The idea behind single stream is to motivate people to recycle more.  Has it worked?

Are there people who didn’t bring their recycling to the transfer station before, because they had to put their papers in a separate bin, and who do now?

I don’t know what percentage of Westporters take their own recycling. I’d love to take a poll at the transfer station to see if people agree with me.

20 responses to “Garbage In…

  1. Change is Good

    Dan,
    Where do all the returnable bottles go? There are more than a few Westporters who can’t be troubled to take a returnable bottle back to the store for a nickel, plug or otherwise. Hands up, please (yeah, my hand is raised too). So, likely hundreds of thousands of returnable bottles find their way into the single-stream recycling bins. According to Stephen Edwards, the single-stream of “commodities” is separated with “density and optical scanners using an automated process.” Do the scanners separate out returnable bottles? Has anyone thought about returning them? Could our town government be rubbing thousands of nickels together? How ironic that after decades of battles over government waste, the answer to government deficits may be found in our own refuse.

  2. I agree with you! The old system was so much better. What a wasteful way to deal with waste!

  3. “Later on (downstream), someone has to separate it out.  The problem I have is that that someone is a paid municipal employee”. Dan, do you really think this is the case or know it’s a fact?

    A little research goes a long way and avoids misconceptions to be spread. Everyone should watch this video to understand the entire process and not its front-end (which seems to be the issue here) before commenting

    And yes change can be good if you’re open to accept the new.

    • Please read the story I posted carefully. The thoughts are not mine; I attributed them clearly to an “06880” reader.

      • Makes more sense as I didn’t think you’d be so naive. You should try using blockquote tags in for “alert” reader excerpts.

        • Thanks — stylistically, I use block quotes for quotes within a story. When the entire piece is a quote from someone else, I think it looks better to introduce it with italics. Maybe next time I’ll make the italics bold, to stand out better!

          • Not for nuttin, but I think it would be better to leave your words as they always are, and let the reader’s remarks be in italic. That way, we know it is something different.

  4. The single stream is better and more efficient. Garbage separation takes place at the same source anyway. One of the benefits of single stream is that when trucks picked up both they drove back to the transfer half full because they were either full on the trash side or full on the recyclable side. This is the proven better method. Surf’s up!

  5. Elisabeth Rose

    True, but I’m sure stuff ends up in the wrong place, esp. w/ single stream. And if you watch the video where the workers are quickly trying to pull out stuff that doesn’t belong; there was SO much trash on that conveyer belt that there’s no way they could really pick through it, esp. as they turned away to toss something. (Immediately that episode on “The Lucy Show” where Lucy and Ethel are working at the chocolate factory came to mind!)

    • This is big business worth many billions of dollars. These stream recycling companies make easily $15M-20M/year. If they don’t do a good job separating different materials they won’t be able to sell. Most of plastic goes to China to return as imports and restart the cycle. Most aluminum goes to Amheuser-Busch Recycling and they won’t accept garbage.

  6. Stacy Prince

    I know there’s vigorous debate over the benefits of single-stream recycling, but from a personal standpoint, I’ve been enjoying it. I’m finding I’m easily recycling twice as many bags as I am dumping, now that cereal boxes and soup cartons can be included. Can’t wait until #4 plastic bags are added to the list — even without plastic grocery bags, we’ve still got plenty, with dry-cleaning and newspaper delivery.

  7. I moved to Westport from Norwalk six months ago and changed from the old recycliing to single stream. I can say, without any doubt, that I recycle two or three times more material each month. In fact, I can now use the old small blue recycling size container for my garbage and the big green garbage gin for recycling. It is a much better system.

  8. David J. Loffredo

    We’re big fans of the new process and easily recycle double what we used to. Westporters will debate the color of the sky if you ask them, this one was a no brainer….

    • I’m with David on this one! It’s been great and most people, not just Westporters, loves a good debate

      • Okay — since we’re always bashing bad decisions, who gets the credit for this one?

        • It’s been two days, Dan, and no one has stepped up to modestly say, “Uh, that was my idea originally” and “Steve Edwards/Town of Westport/Etc. ran with it”. Or maybe it WAS Steve. We’d love to give credit for a good idea.

  9. Big Fan of New Recycling Program

    The new recycling system is so much better than the old one. Not just because of the single stream aspect but because of the expansion of what is recyclable. Keep in mind that much of the savings to the town comes from the reduction in landfill costs.

    Remember to keep greasy pizza boxes, etc. out of the recycling bin http://earth911.com/news/2009/03/02/the-pizza-box-mystery/

    Also, bring your #2, #4, newspaper, and dry cleaning bags to Stop and Shop. They have a recycling bin at the entrances of their store.

  10. According to Steve Edwards, our Director of Public Works, recycling in Westport in the 9 months of single stream has increased to 2500 tons, from 940 tons the same 9 months the prior year. Because Westport pays by the ton to dispose of garbage but gets a rebate for recycling, the town has already saved $165,000, which is expected to grow to $220,000 for the year. The recycling goes to a privately owned processing center in Hartford, so sorting is not done by municipal or state employees. While it was relatively easy for individuals to sort into two bins with our prior recycling, now that we can recycle juice boxes, smooth cardboard, most plastics, and more, the sorting becomes more complicated, and the recycling center creates much-needed private sector jobs. It’s win-win.

  11. More details on the benefits of single streaming for Westport so far:
    http://www.westportnow.com/index.php?/v2_5/comments/37889/