Thursday, July 19, 2018

Recycled goods from Colorado Springs find many end users

Posted By on Thu, Jul 19, 2018 at 12:40 PM

click to enlarge #2 plastics, mostly laundry detergent containers, likely to become drain material in Ohio. - TYLER GRIMES
  • Tyler Grimes
  • #2 plastics, mostly laundry detergent containers, likely to become drain material in Ohio.

Recently, we published a post on the ways China's National Sword policy is affecting recycling in Colorado. Now we're looking at where your waste becomes a valuable commodity.

As mentioned, most waste enters the stream via single-stream recycling. From there it goes to a sorting facility where it's separated by a combination of machines and manual labor. The sorted material is bundled together where it's sold and sent elsewhere to become a new product. Most of the time that transaction is facilitated by a third-party broker.

For example, most of Colorado Springs' Bestway Recycling transactions go through Chicago-based National Fiber, which moves 10,000 tons of material per month.

"[Take] a 20-ounce soda bottle, that's PET- polyethylene terephthalate #1," says Clint Cordonnier, Logistics Manager of Bestway Recycling. "I send approximately three loads of that a month to various mills in [places] like Richmond, Indiana, it goes a lot to Mohawk Industries in Athens, Georgia, where they make carpet out of it." Bestway generates about three 40,000-pound truckloads of #1 plastics per month.

Cordonnier says #2 plastics, High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE), are separated into two categories: colored and natural. The colored #2s are mostly laundry detergent containers, while milk jugs comprise 99 percent of the naturals. About 40,000 pounds of HDPE plastics leave Bestway every month. Most of it will go to Advanced Drainage Systems in Waterloo, Iowa, to become drain material, according to Cordonnier.

Even before the National Sword policy, Bestway worked to keep products domestic.
click to enlarge Cordonnier in front of a bail of #1 plastics, the majority of which will be sent to Georgia to become carpet. - TYLER GRIMES
  • Tyler Grimes
  • Cordonnier in front of a bail of #1 plastics, the majority of which will be sent to Georgia to become carpet.
"I personally would prefer to keep it here (the US). It seems the freight is a lot less when you're not sending it to one of the coasts or a port and them putting it on a sea container and sending it to another country," says Cordonnier. "It creates jobs here."

Right now, paper is the only product leaving Bestway that ships abroad. Before standards changed last year, it mostly went to China. Now it ships to Mexico. Cardboard mostly goes to Lawton, Oklahoma, to where it's pulped and turned into drywall.

Marcus Redden, Floor Manager at Bestway Recycling's Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), has a unique perspective on recovered materials. He points at a bundle of crushed can with "702" written on the side and says, "at 45-cents for aluminum and 702 pounds, that's over $300 right there."  

All metal products leaving Bestway stay in Colorado Springs and go to either Western Scrap or Colorado Industrial Recycling. Colorado Industrial Recycling, which processes 60 million pounds of metals per year, sends all of its aluminum cans to Atlanta where Novelis, the world's largest recycler of used beverage cans, turns it into another aluminum can. An aluminum can is infinitely recyclable with an average "can-to-can" lifecycle of two months.

Surprisingly, with all the recent changes, prices have remained consistent for Bestway. However, they have had to purchase a new optical sorting machine to try and get cleaner products.

It all depends on the quality of material according to Cordonnier. "I can speak for this facility," he says. "We invest a substantial amount of time and money on our end to get the best product possible, so we're able to sell it at a higher price."

(The Indy reached out to a number of recycling services for comment on their end users, but citing the competitive industry, many declined to share that information.)
click to enlarge Bails of aluminum. - TYLER GRIMES
  • Tyler Grimes
  • Bails of aluminum.
Materials not recycled are products wasted. The Integrated Solid Waste and Materials Management Plan estimates Colorado throws $267 million worth of recyclable material into the landfill every year. That's largely because 40 percent of Coloradans don't recycle at all.

"Last year, for the first time ever, Colorado set voluntary recycling goals for the state as a whole and then for the Front Range and rural communities," says Ecocycle Communications Director Harlin Savage. "That was a big step forward because we didn't have goals before that time." Ecocycle's 2017 State of Recycling in Colorado says collecting better data is the number one recommendation for achieving recycling goals.

The Colorado Solid and Hazardous Waste Commission's goal is to meet the national average diversion rate of 35 percent by 2026, and become among the national bests at 45 percent by 2036. Compare that to California, who currently has a 47 percent diversion rate with a 2020 goal of 75 percent.

It's worth noting, the Colorado Association for Recycling (CAFR) chose Colorado Springs for a pilot recycling program starting at the end of last year and aimed at attracting young people to recycle more paper and cardboard. The program shows the clear environmental and economic benefits of recycling.

Colorado Springs does not collect recycling data.

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