Rising concern about the environment and global warming has put an increased focus on recycling. Tim Herman, VP sales, Greenstar, Houston, one of the country’s largest private processors of recyclables, spoke with
What is the biggest mistake that retailers make with regard to recycling?
A common mistake is to start a recycling program simply because the commodity value at the moment is high. Recyclables such as paper and plastic are commodities, and their values rise and fall with global markets. Unfortunately, some retailers invest money, time and energy only when the market is high, and then the recycling program weakens when the markets move lower.
Commodity value is not the only reason to recycle. Most retailers understand that employees and customers value companies that are committed to environmental stewardship.
What is single-stream recycling processing?
Single-stream, or fully commingled, recycling is a system in which all paper fibers and containers are collected in the same bin rather than being sorted into separate commodities in separate bins (source separated). In recent years, single-stream recycling has become the primary recycling solution for communities across the United States.
Single-stream provides an easier method for recycling since all recyclables are put into one large container that is simply wheeled to the curb—thereby eliminating any separation. Research has proven that the more simplified the recycling program, the more likely people are to participate. This is important because most new programs have a 10% to 25% increase in participation.
Greenstar is continuing to establish itself as a single-stream processing leader.
Is technology impacting recycling?
Advances in technology have enabled greater efficiency and higher quality in recycling. One example is optical sorting technology, which works similarly to an automated human eye with arms. With a 95% accuracy rating, optical sorting improves material quality and consistency.
Tell us a little bit about Greenstar.
Greenstar is America’s largest private processor of recyclables. We provide a full range of recycling services that includes processing (materials recovery facilities), global commodity trading (sale of recycled materials), management services (recycling-led waste management), and innovative solutions via the implementation of new recycling processes and expansion of recycling markets.
Currently, Greenstar handles more than 1 million tons of recyclables per year through a network of 15 material recovery facilities. We are focused exclusively on recycling (no solid waste or paper manufacturing businesses) and the creation of end-use value. We offer innovative recycling solutions for paper, plastic, glass and metals.
The parent company of Greenstar is NTR (
Can Greenstar help with LEED efforts?
Yes, Greenstar is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council and we are active with LEED projects. We help general contractors and retailers gain LEED points by recycling the waste generated during construction. Green-star will manage the construction debris at more than 200 major construction job sites this year. Additionally, Greenstar is one of the only recycling, or waste-management companies in the United States that is a member of the EPA Climate Leaders Program.
Does recycling have any impact on a company’s bottom line? Can Greenstar help in this regard?
Absolutely! Many national retailers now have “revenue positive” waste programs, meaning their recycling income is greater than their trash expense. The global economic growth led by developing countries such as China has generated record prices for recycling commodities like paper, cardboard and metal. Greenstar helps these retailers by providing capital dollars to invest in balers, conducting site audits and waste sorts (yes, this means sorting through tons of waste), and offering creative business terms such as guaranteed commodity prices.
Looking ahead, do you see increased pressure on retailers and other companies to recycle?
Yes. The pressure will grow from consumers and legislators as the green movement continues to expand. Retailers are very aware of the demand their customers have made to have their favorite store recycle and manage environmental concerns properly. With 2008 being an election year and both presidential candidates committed to climate-change legislation, retailers should expect an increase in recycling mandates and other environmental laws.