Click on the PDFs below for overviews of one sort vs. two sort recycling. The common theme from the articles and studies seems to be that single sort recycling is highly contaminated. For example, you toss all your office paper in with your glass bottles which are crushed when they fall into the truck on collection day. Suddenly that paper has bits of broken glass in it and can no longer demand the high price the processing plant would have received for uncontaminated paper. So things to look at include:

  • The “residual rate” at the processing facility (Materials Recovery Facility, or MRF) which is typically around 8-10% (residual rate refers to the material that’s unusable and is sent to landfill or incinerator).
  • The contamination rate reported by the end user (e.g. if you buy a bale of 1 ton of recycled material, can you use the whole 1 ton, or is some unusable to you?) Some end users are reporting that 15-20% or more of the product they’re buying from single sort MRFs is unusable -so they have to dispose of it to landfill or incinerator. This increases their costs, and they will be less likely to pay as much for the contaminated material as they would for ‘cleaner” material.
  • The increase in participation and volume once you switch to a single sort or dual sort collection. Studies are showing that the size of the cart, or just having a new wheeled cart, is the cause of the increase in recycling rates, not the fact that the collection went to single sort.

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