More profitable end results despite public complaints about Omaha recycling
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – The beginning of the recycling cycle can be ugly. That’s what we’re seeing, overflowing recycling bins and trash dumped around centers meant to keep trash out of the landfill that could otherwise be recycled.
But when people show up and see there’s no room for what they want to recycle, they leave it anyway.
“If a site is full and you can go to the next site, or wait until the next day for our contractor to empty that container (please do it),” said Jim Kee, quality control manager for the public works department of ‘Omaha. “They empty these containers about seven days a week, they’re even there on Sundays to empty them, so it takes a while.”
There are also questions about where the recycling goes and if it is actually, well, recycled. It turns out that the end game for Omaha is increasingly successful and profitable, which was simply not possible 20 years ago. In the first year of a $2.4 million contract with the city to manage the city’s mixed recyclables processing, the CEO of First Star Recycling and Firstar Fiber says improving technology and the demand for maintaining profits on American soil are paying off.
“There has been a lot of investment in infrastructure to make sure the material is recycled,” Dale Gubbels said. “The economy is such that if you take these materials as an alternative to using virgin or raw materials, it saves quite a bit of energy… Paper mills, plastics operations, metals, all of that, they find that by using these reclaimed materials, they reduce their energy costs.
The road to profitability is multifaceted. First, machines had to be created to help better recognize sorting, which has improved considerably.
“It goes through several different phases of recycling,” Kee said. “They’re going to come out with different types of material, the cardboard is going to go one way, the paper is going to go another, your plastics, your metal, they’re going to go a different direction, and so as all of that material is sorted, it’s is’ will be baled and then it will go to different end markets, it will go to a different mill if it’s paper or cardboard and then they turn that material into something that will then be recycled.
Paper, for example, is a revenue stream for recycling in Omaha. Although there are no paper mills locally, they can sell to markets in Kansas City, Oklahoma and Minnesota for a solid return. These are relationships that the Midwest has long enjoyed when they didn’t have the convenience of shipping containers to Asia for someone else to handle, as often happened in major markets. ports.
Nationwide investments in plastics recycling technology, something technologically nearly impossible not long ago, are paying off.
“Right now, demand is outstripping supply on a lot of these materials,” Gubbels said. “If the plastics industry, for example, had a say, everyone complains that plastics aren’t recycled, they never have enough. they want more.
Gubbels said taking full advantage of technology development requires a legislative push for something called “extended producer responsibility,” requiring manufacturers to make what can be recycled.
“But it has to be everyone’s responsibility,” Gubbels said. “Producers are brand makers, they have a lot to say about what gets recycled, but there’s none of us who don’t have a role to play in that.”
As for the beginning of the process, more and more Americans, and those in Omaha in particular, are doing their part. In 2021, nearly 25,000 tonnes were recycled there.
According to the US Census Bureau, “the recycling rate has risen from less than 7% in 1960 to the current rate of 32%. The EPA reports that recycling and reuse accounts for 681,000 jobs and nearly $38 billion in wages in the United States each year.
One of the many companies contracted to deliver the contents of these recycling bins to First Star Recycling is FCC Environmental Services.
So yes, your recycling is paying off. Yes, we keep tons and tons out of landfills, which is a good thing.
It works as long as we all remember that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, as long as it’s in the right bin. After all, we are still teaching our children: reduce, reuse, recycle.
“We’ve created a recycling program that accepts a lot of different materials, which makes it easier for consumers, so a lot of people ignore those first two Rs, reduce and reuse,” Kee said. “So when you’re making your product selection, do you choose a product that has less material that needs to be recycled or thrown away or could you reuse that packaging?”
“When you look at different generations, for example, a glass jar was repurposed,” Kee said. “They can put buttons or nails or something like that as storage, whereas now it’s much easier to just drop that off at one of our recycling sites. So many people overlook those first two Rs that we grew up with, in terms of reducing our potential waste or reusing those products rather than recycling directly.
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