Full stream ahead

Single-stream recycling

Waste Management publicist Sarah Sciarani looks through a sample single-stream bin.

Waste Management publicist Sarah Sciarani looks through a sample single-stream bin.


Learn more about single-stream recycling at www.truckeemeadowsrecycling.com.

“We are told often, ‘I’d like a better way to recycle,’” said Justin Caporusso, communications manager for Waste Management. Northern Nevada residents might be able to better recycle with WM’s new single-stream recycling program expected to begin next year.

Single-stream, sometimes referred to as “single-sort” or “commingled,” recycling lets residents, businesses and organizations put more materials into one recycling bin without having to sort through each item. Two 96-gallon bins will be distributed to each household—one for trash and one for recyclables. Currently, only plastics 1 and 2 and specific uncontaminated items can be recycled locally (see “Getting Wasted,” Nov. 10), but single-streaming will allow for plastics 1 through 7 to be included, as well as items with laminate. It’s called single-streaming because it takes two types of material—papers and plastics—and combines them into one bin to allow for convenient recycling.

“Winter is a tough season,” Caporusso said. “Recycling can be tedious.”

Single-streaming is especially effective for food packaging. Residents will still have to rinse out items and remove the caps from bottles and jars but can leave the labels on the outside.

Caporusso said that the new program will help the county meet its mandate for a 35 percent diversion rate—diverting the amount of material that ends up in a landfill.

“We did a lot of research to make sure that this was an effective program” said Caporusso. “We think that single-streaming is the best option.”

From October 2007 to January 2008, 866 homes in northwest Reno participated in a pilot program. The amount of material recycled tripled.

“The pilot program was extremely successful,” said Sarah Sciarani, public information representative for WM. “It really fit with our climate for our residents.”

The University of Nevada, Reno also conducted a study to ensure that single-streaming was “the most efficient, effective and cost effective” option.

“The results released in May mirrored our results,” Caporusso said.

Research by institutions like University of California, Berkeley suggest that single-streaming has economic and environmental downsides, such as the abundance of unrecyclable broken glass that occurs when materials are tossed into one bin. Also, contaminated materials with food or other substances can reduce the effectiveness of some materials to keep their form during the recycling process. However, Sciarani and Caporusso believe that participants can be educated in how to best clean and dispose of recyclable items. Several outreach resources are available, such as the interactive Truckee Meadows Recycling website, and Sciarani visits classrooms and organizations to share information about the program.

WM is in planning stages for an LEED-certified “eco-center” which will allow for large quantities of community waste to be processed and recycled. Tours for students and the public will be available. The land for the building has already been purchased on Commercial Row.

Single-streaming is already in effect in other places around the country such as Boulder, Colo., which has set a goal to achieve a “zero waste” status by 2020. Single-streaming, in conjunction with composting, could have a significant impact on reducing the waste that ends up in landfills.

“We have to get to 50 percent [diversion rate] at some point,” Caporusso said. “This is a good place to start.”