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2008 NRC Congress & Expo: Pitching In

Municipal, Nonferrous, Conferences & Events, Additional Commodities

Panel hights away-from-home recycling successes.

October 3, 2008

Recycling at public venues presents challenges to recycling coordinators and facility managers everywhere. But a few have managed to successfully address the challenges associated with recovering recyclables consumed away from home at festivals and football games, and even at bars and restaurants.

A panel of speakers that included Al Matyasovsky, supervisor, Central Support Services, Penn State University, University Park, Pa.; Rick Meyers, the recycling manager for the city of Milwaukee Department of Public Works; and Scott Mouw of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Raleigh, N.C., provided examples of away-from-home recycling successes during a panel titled “Away from Home” at the 2008 National Recycling Coalition Congress & Expo, Sept. 21-24.

While Matyasovsky successfully initiated a recycling program, beginning in 1995 at Penn State’s football stadium, he said the program was not without its problems. For instance, the later in the evening games were held, the less material the fans tended to recover for recycling. “It’s like they forget what we want them to do with the blue bags,” he joked.

Time is often the best teacher, and Matyasovsky said he recognized that the stadium gate and perimeter areas were in need of extra attention during the games. While the program includes those areas now, he said they were all but ignored when the program began in 1995. Based on his experience, Matyasovsky said he would have involved Penn State students earlier in the process in addition to seeking other funding opportunities.

Meyers outlined his success in developing a recycling program for Milwaukee’s Summerfest, an 11-day music festival. Prior to 2006, the venue only recovered cardboard for recycling. In 2006 the program was expanded to include beverage containers. Meyers said three-quarters of beverages were dispensed in plastic cups, but bottles plastic bottles were a steadily growing part of the waste stream.

In developing the program, Meyers met with the venue’s facilities and grounds management staff to examine the waste items generated as well as waste reduction opportunities. The meetings were held well in advance of the event and included collaboration with other stakeholders, such as waste haulers and nonprofit community groups, he said. To ensure success during Summerfest, Meyers started with a small pilot project to work out any issues.

Clearstream containers from ClearTainer, Palos Heights, Ill., were used to collect recyclables because Meyers said he wanted them to be clearly distinguishable from garbage receptacles. “It works well to use see-through containers at public events because they provide a clear cue,” Meyers said. “Most people don’t read signs.” The Clearstream containers also used restrictive openings to discourage trash disposal.

Meyers said contamination was relatively low, with a 95 percent purity rate for the collected items.

Before embarking on such a project, Meyers advised ensuring local markets were available for the items collected.

North Carolina’s Mouw discussed the ABC Container Recycling law in the state, which mandates recycling at establishments that hold liquor licenses. The North Carolina General Assembly passed a measure in March of 2005 that required holders of certain Alcoholic Beverage Commission permits to implement a program to separate, store and recycle beverage containers generated at their establishments. Businesses holding ABC permits for on-premises malt beverage, on-premises unfortified wine , on-premises fortified wine and mixed beverage permits were affected.

“I’m shocked we got this law through,” Mouw said. The state was able to make a case for economic development and job creation through recycling, he added.

The law, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2008, took an establishment’s access to recycling facilities into account, Mouw said, and violations did not led to a revocation of the establishment’s liquor license.

Local markets already existed for the plastic and glass bottles and aluminum cans collected through the program, Mouw said. The area is home to three glass plants that were hungry for clean cullet, he added.

While major haulers were slow to get onboard with the program, according to Mouw, they contracted with small local haulers, realizing the business development the state predicted.

The program has helped to recover 33,000 tons of containers, with 50,000 tons expected before year end. “It took a lot of work to get there,” Mouw said. “Every ton is a hard ton to get.”

The 2008 NRC Recycling Congress was Sept. 22-24 in Pittsburgh at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. The 2009 event will be Oct. 4-7 in Portland, Ore.


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