Recycling Works

Help Solve the Solid Waste Problem in Your Organization

Basic Standards for Designing a Recycling Program




Waste reduction and recycling are environmentally responsible and generally cost-effective methods for reducing the wastes generated by businesses and organizations.

Recycling, which has been around in various forms for many years, is a method of removing reusable materials from the waste stream and remanufacturing them into new products. While recycling provides the benefits of reducing the waste stream and conserving landfill capacity, it also does much more. It may result in a cost savings for waste disposal, known as avoided cost, and some revenue may be generated through the sale of the separated materials. Reusing materials generated through recycling programs conserves valuable natural resources. Reclaimed materials are often less expensive than virgin materials and require less energy when used in manufacturing. Lower energy usage generally results in reduced emissions to the air and water.

Until recently, recycling has not been a major part of the waste management system. The primary reason is economics. However, this was not always the case. Before and during World War II, many people recycled out of necessity and because it was the patriotic thing to do. But after the war, the economy grew rapidly and a multitude of new, and often disposable products began to flood the markets. Some industries, such as the food industry, developed around disposable packaging. Expansion in numbers of printers, copiers and similar equipment made duplication cheap and easy, and with the increased duplication came mountains of waste paper. It was easier just to throw away broken or unwanted products and buy new ones because both the products and their disposal were inexpensive. With all this newly created waste, existing landfills swelled.

Along with the reduction in landfill space came groundwater pollution problems. The first landfills were merely holes in the ground, with no systems to protect the environment. As awareness of the problems caused by landfilling grew, governments began to pass environmental legislation and regulation that resulted in an increase in design, construction and operation costs of new landfills. Since these costs are paid through tipping fees to those who dump trash, these fees began to rise dramatically. It has taken increases in disposal costs and Act 101 to make most of us aware that recycling and waste reduction can and should (and sometimes must) be a part of our waste management programs. Because of their contribution to overall waste generation (roughly 50% of the municipal waste stream), commercial, municipal and institutional establishments are affected more drastically by increases in disposal costs than are individual households, and therefore may have the most to gain by implementation of a recycling program. The purpose of these tip sheets is to help you look more closely at your waste generation and disposal habits and begin efforts to deal with your wastes in a more effective and appropriate manner.

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