How many recycling containers do you have in your house? I think most families have at least two, one for glass and plastic, one for paper. Philadelphia is switching to a system that will only make you keep one bin for all your stuff. That will make Philly the largest city on the East Coast to go with single stream recycling.
Mayor Michael Nutter named July 7 "BINdependence Day." The system has been in trials in some neighborhoods since 2006, according to Waste News Report, increasing recycling in those areas by 35%.
That's the main point of single stream recycling -- it's easier, so people do it more. Also, pick-up is cheaper. Philadelphia is also making it easier on residents by allowing them to just label other bags "Recycling" -- either with a special sticker or their own sign.
Although processing tends to be more expensive than with pre-sorted recycling, all this is possible because of improved sorting technology. At recycling plants giant conveyor belts stream recyclables past optical scanners. The scanner tell the machine which way to divert each item, sometimes by an airjet that blows it into the right bin.
Philadelphia had to do something. Its recycling rate was atrociously low before the program -- about 6%. By contrast, San Francisco has a 70% recycling rate. It'll be great news for recycling -- and for the space in your kitchen -- when more towns sign onto single stream recycling.
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