Last December, the Windham Solid Waste Management District informed member towns that they would close the district’s materials recovery facility on June 30. The move forced towns in the district to find alternative providers for recycling of household materials, which is mandated under Vermont statute.
In replacing WSWMD’s limited, dual-stream recycling service, Dover sought a single-stream service that would accept most, if not all, household recyclables. Under WSWMD’s recycling program, residents were required to recycle paper and cardboard separately from plastic and metal containers. Several types of plastic containers were not accepted, requiring residents to determine the recycling symbol number before deciding whether their container was trash or a recyclable.
Under the single-stream system, Dover residents will place paper, cardboard, plastics, and metal food containers together in the same compactor at the transfer station. Almost all household recyclables are accepted, including plastics marked 1 through 7, large plastic containers such as laundry baskets and 5-gallon buckets, aluminum and tin cans, foil, glass, and paper and cardboard. Their new recycling contractor, Triple T Trucking, takes care of the rest.
Although single-stream recycling is generally more expensive than traditional dual-stream recycling, Dover officials are hoping that the simplicity of the single-stream system will encourage more domestic recycling, perhaps reducing the annual cost of regular trash haulage. “We’re hoping it will be less,” says Dover Selectboard Assistant Jeanette Eckert, “But this is brand new for us and we don’t know what will happen down the road.”
Triple T Trucking General Manager Peter Gaskill says his company collects the full recycling containers and delivers them to a regional materials recovery facility in Rutland run by Casella Waste Systems. Although some recyclables generate income as a salable commodity, recycling does cost money. But Gaskill says Casella’s economy of scale works in their favor. WSWMD, which serves a small region, decided to close their MRF after the largest town in the district, Brattleboro, sought another contractor for their recycling needs.
“WSWMD only had so many tons of recycling they could take in, a small footprint,” Gaskill says. “A larger facility reduces the cost per load.”
According to Warren Keough, of Casella’s Rutland MRF, the facility processes 150 tons of mixed recyclables each day from all over the southern half of the state. Casella also operates another large regional facility in Williston that serves the northern part of the state.
The initial processing at the facility is done by machine. “The recyclables come in trailer loads, and we put it through a machine with special disks and wheels that separate the larger items and things like cardboard out of the mix,” Keough explains.
The remaining plastic and metal containers are sorted by hand. “We have people who pick the bottles, cans, and plastic containers and put them in separate cages,” Keough says. “Once it’s all separated, it’s bailed and loaded onto trucks.”
Recyclables are a commodity, and Casella ships their recyclables to manufacturers all over the world, from New York to China. Some of Casella’s recyclables may end up right back in Vermont in the guise of new consumer goods. “Some of our aluminum is used to make things like bicycle frames, some of our paper products have been used to make home insulation, cans are turned into rebar, and some of our PETE plastic soda bottles are turned into fleece items.”