Building a convincing case for the zero-sort alternative

Feb 24, 2009 | 06:00 AM |

The era of multiple recycling bins for cans and paper could soon fade away, replaced by a "zero sort" alternative that appears to be gaining momentum.

And that's exactly how things will play out if John Casella, chairman and chief executive officer of Rutland, Vt.-based waste hauler and processor Casella Waste Systems Inc., has his way. His company runs 38 materials recovery facilities (MRFs), of which six are already equipped to handle "zero sort" recyclables that reach MRFs from curbside pickups. The East Coast trash processor eventually expects to convert another 21 of its 38 facilities to the single-stream approach.

Rolling mills and paper mills don't need to worry about substandard scrap quality, at least if they're buying from his company, Casella said. "The notion that the quality of single stream is not as good as dual stream is not correct. The differentiating factor between a good single-stream facility vs. something that someone is calling single stream is whether they really have invested in technology to create a high-quality product. We're seeing retrofits of anywhere from $3.5 million to $5 million on an existing facility; the higher figure is if you've got to do alterations for the building."

Optical sorting and sophisticated particle screens have advanced greatly over the past few years, Casella said. Instead of three plastic output streams, for instance, there are now eight. Broken glass is the most worrisome contaminant, but even that can be removed. ....

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