In yesterday’s post (Visiting a Landfill) the “green” side of waste was discussed. In addition to visiting the Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site (DADS,) 2nd Green Revolution also toured Waste Management‘s Franklin Street Recycling and Waste Transfer Facility Center in Denver. The guide, a site manager, explained the single stream system, where all accepted materials are placed in one curbside container and sorted at the facility. The Franklin Street site handles approximately 600 tons of recycling per day (only 5% of what the landfill receives). As mentioned previously, Waste Management (WM) is North America’s largest recycler. With the recent drop in commodity values, our guide said that the facility had seen a decline in materials coming into Franklin Street. The DADS guide, cited a drop of 20-30% in the landfill’s receivables due to economic conditions. At DADS, it was estimated that nearly 50% of the waste was paper, cardboard and plastic. Already low, recycling rates of these materials have dropped recently. As a result of the economic downturn, the price of recycled cardboard has dropped approximately 90% from $200 a ton to $20. (See this earlier post discussing the impact of the economic downturn on the recycling industry).
WM’s website states that, “as the largest recycler of municipal solid waste in North America, Waste Management processes more than 5.5 million tons of recyclable materials each year through its 109 material recovery facilities. Through the resources of WM Recycle America, a majority-owned subsidiary of WM, we provide cost-efficient, environmentally sound recycling programs for municipalities, businesses and households across the U.S. and Canada.”
Diverting waste from landfills has a twofold effect. Not only does WM prevent expansion of landfills, but there is an “upstream” benefit: reduced need for raw materials. Representatives from Denver Recycles state that for every 1 pound of waste produced by consumers, 70 pounds are generated in the manufacturing process. In other words, 70 pounds of waste are generated in production of one pound of consumer goods. Recycling helps to moderate the enormous energy needed and waste generated by mining and producing consumer goods from raw materials.
- Eric Wilson