Recyclers jab SPSA’s regional trash plan

Published 11:43 am Saturday, April 2, 2016

By Tracy Agnew

The recycling industry has expressed concerns about one company’s plan to process the region’s waste come January 2018.

The Recycling Industries Coalition recently drafted a letter to Southeastern Public Service Authority Executive Director Rowland Taylor to express concerns about a proposal under consideration by the authority.

The authority has voted to issue a notice of intent to award a contract to RePower, which says it will process the region’s trash into energy pellets that then can be used for fuel in place of coal.

But the Recycling Industries Coalition warns that isn’t likely to work.

“We are concerned because, no matter what you have been told, the recovered materials from one-bin systems have proven to be unusable in the production of new products,” states the letter, dated March 15 and signed by Fran McPoland.

The letter was also sent to local mayors and county administrators.

Michael Benedetto of TFC Recycling, which provides recycling services to some localities in the region, said separate recycling in the region could go away if RePower is successful in its bid.

“The only thing they want to make their product is paper and plastic,” Benedetto said. “I’m hearing they want to do away with a separate container for recycling. Their pitch is that if you throw it all into one container, we’ll be able to pull out recyclables and make a fuel product.”

TFC Recycling is a member of the Paper Recycling Coalition, which is a member of the Recycling Industries Coalition. Benedetto said recyclables disposed of in a one-bin system are not suitable for recycling because they have been commingled with food, yard waste and other things that contaminate the recyclables.

“You’re mixing it all together,” Benedetto said.

He likened it to putting salt and pepper on an egg and then trying to get the salt and pepper off of the egg.

“It’s an unproven process,” he said. “If it sounds too good to be true, maybe it is.”

The letter from the Recycling Industries Coalition also notes that recyclables will come into contact with animal waste, grease, used diapers, expired pesticides, medicine, sour milk products and more in a one-bin system.

“The recyclables become wet and contaminated with the garbage and often are not suitable feedstock for new, value-added product manufacturing,” the letter states.

The letter also states that the Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries conducted a study that showed 90 percent of mill buyers who purchased recovered fibers from mixed-material processing facilities have had to downgrade or reject the paper from the facilities.

“As you start to peel back the layers, it definitely caused some concerns to a number of people, including ourselves,” Benedetto said, highlighting the benefits of recycling as an alternative to other forms of disposal.

“Recycling will create additional jobs. Plastic as we know it is a nonrenewable resource. We want it to get recycled.”