1) Our waste arrives 2) a sorting glass from paper 3) newsprint floats off  4) HDPE2 segregated  5) colored paper is baled and 6) HDPE is baled

The surge in single-stream recycling in the Northeast is reminiscent of the early 90’s, when “dirty MRF’s” were a stand-in for source separation and clean composting. Since then, many communities have struggled successfully to establish participation in “source-separation” or multiple-stream programs,- but recycle rates are still low. Switching to a single-stream system is to some either a luxury (being so simple) or craziness (mixing what was once separate). In the early MRF days, food and trash were co-mingled with recyclables, which led to complaints. In Europe MBT was invented to deal with separating, particularly to allow composting or biogas recovery.  While statistically the recycle rate increases significantly with single-stream programs, the trade-off is alleged to be a reduction in quality. Supposedly, glass shards, plastic and micro-foil fragments are tumbled into processed paper and cardboard fibers, increasing the chance they will not meet market standards. “The problem with a single-stream program is that it renders most of the commodities recycled practically worthless,” says Don Casavant, chairman of Auburn Maine’s Solid Waste Subcommittee.  But the last 10-years history at Portland, Maine’s recovery facility speaks otherwise: all products are being sold, and recycle markets are adjusting to single-stream quality.  A 2013 feasibility study for recovering the compostable fraction is underway for Portland’s facility. As 20 years have gone by since we started sorting waste, the general feeling now is that this new single-sort system “has got to work”. Still, single-sort does not appear to be a money-making business, and communties sharing costs are just opting for something better – but more expensive – than landfilling. //