SPC promotes plan to use a single bin for curbside recycling

A trial program for ‘single-stream’ recycling has shown promise, the head of the Whatcom County waste haulage company told a Bellingham City Council committee.

This could mean changes to the way Bellingham residents present their rubbish, food scraps and recycling – and possibly requiring them to take glass to a central collection point, rather than leaving it at the curb.

But the city council should change its contract with Sanitary Service Co., said Eric Johnston, director of the public works department.

Ted Carlson, Managing Director of SSC, briefed the council’s Public Works and Natural Resources Committee on the results of a six-month trial effort to collect recyclables using one large container instead of three smaller bins at a meeting on Monday, October 24.

“At this point, SSC is pretty confident that we need to move away from the three-bin system,” Carlson told the committee.

SSC sees fewer injuries to its drivers by using a single container that a mechanical arm can lift and empty, he said.

Additionally, SSC can use a larger truck which reduces the number of trips to a collection center south of Ferndale, saving time and fuel and reducing exhaust pollution.

This offsets the increase in “spoilage” from broken glass contaminating scrap paper in a single trash can, Carlson said.

“It’s time to have a discussion about changing the collection method and automating and reducing the number of trucks on the road,” he said.

Steven Berry throws a recycling bin down a Bellingham alley in 2006. The Bellingham waste hauler wants to change the way customers recycle, using a single large container instead of three smaller bins Sanitary Service Company Courtesy of the Bellingham Herald

“Labour issues are real. I mean, we have about three times as many injuries in the recycling division as we do in the garbage, and that’s from getting out of the truck, you know, 600, 800 times a day and lifting the trash can over their shoulders “, did he declare. .

“We can be more efficient. We can reduce the number of trucks, the number of kilometers traveled and reduce emissions,” he said.

A six-month trial began May 6 in the Edgemoor neighborhood, where customers placed all their recycling in a single 96-gallon container instead of separate bins for newspapers, paper and glass-metal-plastic .

Here’s what they found, Carlson said:

65% reduction in working hours and trucks thanks to automation.

No change in the amount of recycling customers left curbside.

Approximately 25% contamination or “spoilage” in terms of broken glass and soiled paper.

Customers appreciated the convenience of a single cart.

Less waste dumped in the streets on windy days.

Drivers were getting out of their trucks 800 times a day, and that was down to a dozen times with just one bin.

“The objective of the pilot project was to see what kind of efficiencies could be found with the single stream automated collection procedure using a 96 gallon cart and what could we see in terms of efficiencies using automation of the truck with the compaction would greatly limit the need to drive back and forth to the Slater Road recycling center,” said Carlson.

“It’s a very inefficient collection process. It requires a lot of manpower and trucks. It requires a lot of trucks going many miles down the road,” Carlson said.

Carlson told the committee that some cities in Washington are addressing the spoilage issue by having residents bring the glass to a central collection point such as a supermarket.

“If the paper is really wet, they can’t recycle it, and if there’s tiny glass, it can also become problematic,” he said.

Councilor Lisa Anderson, a member of the committee, wanted to know more about a central collection point for glass and the cost of single-stream recycling for Bellingham residents.

“Recycling is extremely important, but so is employee health and safety,” Anderson said.

Carlson said single-stream recycling will help SSC reduce the cost of recycling in a volatile raw materials market where the price of recycled materials fluctuates.

Currently, it costs $242 a ton to recycle and $107 a ton to dump the same material in a landfill, he said.

Robert Mittendorf covers civic issues, weather, traffic and how people cope with the high cost of housing for The Bellingham Herald. A journalist since 1984, he is also a volunteer firefighter for the South Whatcom Fire Authority.