What is Commingled Recycling? How Could It Improve Our Planet?

When we were children, we were taught that one of the fundamental rules of good recycling was to divide each type of material — glass, plastics, cardboard, and aluminum — into its own individual bin.

Numerous municipal sanitation and recycling programs operate on this paradigm, with weekly pickups for a variety of different commodities.

However, that isn’t always the case.

Is it possible for people to recycle more easily using commingled recycling?

What is Commingled Recycling?

Commingled recycling, also known as single stream recycling, is a system in which all recyclable items are collected by one truck, as opposed to separate recycling.

Instead of being transported in individual loads by multiple vehicles, recycling is gathered in a single truckload and then sorted and separated at a recycling facility.

There is no unexpected influx of unsorted rubbish because the collection and processing equipment at these recycling facilities has been designed to handle a fully commingled mixture from the start of operations.

When it comes to recycling containers, businesses, cafes, and other organizations typically employ this strategy.

A trash can and a commingled recycling container are usually provided at these places, and while it is anticipated that people will place their rubbish in the appropriate bin, it is not uncommon to see a range of different items thrown into the “recyclable” can.

How are Commingled Materials Recycled?

Single stream recyclables that companies and organizations collect at their sites are transported to an MRF to be processed and transformed into raw – materials streams for production.

Collecting mixed commodities reduces the amount of space required both inside the facility and at the loading dock area.

Once materials reach the MRF, they are processed using a mixture of manual, electromechanical, magnetic, and optical processes.

As soon the resources have been handled, they are baled and distributed on national and worldwide markets for the manufacturing of new goods

While recycling end markets fluctuate due to a variety of circumstances, markets exist for all recyclable materials collected via single stream and processed at MRFs.

However, it is critical to keep recycled materials clean.

MRFs must be able to market commodities to manufacturing outlets in order to minimize processing, maximize revenue, and minimize residual material disposal.

Businesses and institutions can contribute to the long-term value of recycled materials by adhering to single-stream recycling requirements and reducing contaminants in the collection tube through proper bin positioning, signage, and education.

Which Materials Must Be Retrieved for Commingled Recycling?

Single stream MRFs are intended to sort and process just a limited number of materials, and not all materials having a resin code (a recycle symbol with a digit in the center) may be recycled single stream.

Typically, recycling in plastic shopping bags will not be sorted and will be discarded as garbage.

Tanglers, including plastic bags, fabrics, hoses, wires, and cords, obstruct spinning sorting machinery, increasing maintenance costs and jeopardizing worker safety.

Small things such as broken bottle caps, plastic cutlery, tissue paper, and broken glass frequently fall through machinery gaps at MRFs and end up as residues that are disposed of.

A load containing a significant proportion of unacceptable materials may be refused at your firm or MRF and maybe rerouted to be disposed of as garbage.

Is Commingled Recycling Easier?

People who throw out garbage can recycle more easily if they bundle their recyclables into a single load.

Two advantages of this system are that it lowers collection costs while simultaneously increasing recycling participation.

Because it is more adaptable, it has a lower risk of causing workplace injuries.

Is Commingled Recycling More Environmentally Friendly?

Single compartment trucks are less costly to acquire and run than double compartment trucks.

Additionally, it takes less effort to gather recyclables, which allows cars to devote less time on the road, resulting in reduced emissions.

Apart from the obvious benefits of reduced driving and fewer automobiles on the road, commingled recycling is a much more adaptable solution in terms of materials that can be repaired.

For example, commingled recycling allows for the collection of a variety of paper grades, including junk mail, phone books, and mixed paper, all of which might provide challenges when adhering to typical paper recycling guidelines.

Why Is A Commingled Bin System the Logical “next step” In the Coming Decade?

When a company begins its road toward cost-cutting waste management and increasing recycling, implementing a cardboard pickup service can be the simplest first step.

This will very certainly result in a reduction in the quantity of general waste generated by the removal of large, heavy cardboard boxes from the bin.

Is There A Disadvantage to Commingled Recycling?

Commingled recycling, on the other hand, has several disadvantages.

However, while it may be more convenient for customers to place all of their recyclables in a single bin, the single-stream recycling approach is not without its drawbacks.

A common occurrence at recovery facilities is the failure of machines or the negligence of employees, leading to contamination.

Consequently, recycled products are typical of lower quality, and in some instances, a batch that has been contaminated must be discarded.

Specifically, the key concern is related to the costs associated with developing an entirely new system.

A new generation of carts, collection vehicles, and processing facilities, in addition to a completely new system, must be introduced.

Additionally, more staff members and management will be hired as well as new automated sorting tools will be installed.

Processing costs may also rise as a result of this. Single-stream recycling is around $3 per ton more expensive than dual-stream recycling.

Final Thoughts

Recycling materials together has a variety of advantages for communities that can afford to do so.

Despite the fact that it is not always advantageous to the recycling process, it is more successful in promoting people to recycle and is thus good for the recycling cause.

One could argue that with 7.8 billion people on the planet, spreading awareness about recycling and growing the movement could even outweigh the process’s economic effectiveness.