Andy Wise Investigates: Your recycling revealed - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Andy Wise Investigates: Your recycling revealed

Posted: Updated:
MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC TV) - If you live in the city limits, you can stop separating your recyclables right now. Soon, you may be recycling even more.

What started as a hidden camera investigation of the city's recycling collectors became a revelation of the promise of what's to come in the city's recycling program.

"We're trying to take recycling to the next step," said City of Memphis Deputy Director of Public Works Andy Ashford.

Residents of an East Memphis neighborhood asked The Action News 5 Investigators to track the crews who collect their garbage and recycling. They were concerned about two trucks making each weekly stop -- one collecting solid waste, the other collecting recyclables -- but both trucks are rear-loading solid waste trucks.

"They're taking all of the contents of the recycle bin and putting them in the regular trash truck," said resident April George.

For months, The Action News 5 Investigators tracked several crews in the neighborhood to see if they were delivering recyclables to a landfill.

Not one of them did.

Instead, each did what it is supposed to do.

Each crew delivered its load to the recycling facility of ReCommunity, 3197 Farrisview Blvd., the city's Charlotte-based recycling contractor.

Five months ago, ReCommunity retrofitted its facility for single-stream recycling. The process now allows crews -- using the city's current fleet of garbage trucks -- to mix plastics, glass, cardboard and paper products. Before, they asked residents to separate their recyclables, or ReCommunity's employees would have to separate them by hand at the facility as a part of a dual-stream process.

"When I was doing things in a dual-stream process, we would be running roughly about seven to nine tons an hour," said ReCommunity Plant Manager Brandon Colom. "Now, we can run upwards of 20 tons an hour, which is much more efficient and gives us an opportunity to capture more commodities."

The process, using proprietary technology, lifts piles of mixed recyclables by conveyor belt into a sorter. The sorter automatically recognizes differences in glass, paper, plastics, even different types of plastics.

Each is baled like hay into consolidated blocks of the same recycled material. 

ReCommunity then sells the material to carpet manufacturers, breweries and other clients as part of a revenue-sharing agreement with the city. The agreement guarantees a cash return to the city's public works department based on volume and market demand.

"It goes back into our coffers, obviously, to offset some of our (recycling) expenses," said Ashford. "Last year, we saved almost $3 million in landfill disposal by diverting it to recycling."

Ashford said the city has a $6 million plan to use projected single-stream recycling revenues to upgrade recycling bins to larger-capacity carts and to upgrade the department's fleet. New trucks would be capable of collecting solid waste and recyclables simultaneously. That would effectively reduce routes to one truck instead of two, lower fuel consumption and limit emissions, said Ashford.

"That's great," George said. "As long as I don't have to separate my recyclables anymore!"

According to the Commercial Appeal and ReCommunity, Germantown and Collierville are also benefiting from single-stream recycling.

Copyright 2013 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

  • More from WMCTV.COMMore>>

  • Memphis recycling stats

    Memphis recycling stats

    Friday, May 3 2013 11:33 AM EDT2013-05-03 15:33:45 GMT
    Memphis serves more than 200,000 household units/multi-families in solid waste disposal and recycling.Memphis generates 100,000 tons of recyclables a year.Memphis generates 300,000 tons of household garbage.CostMore >>
    Memphis serves more than 200,000 household units/multi-families in solid waste disposal and recycling.Memphis generates 100,000 tons of recyclables a year.Memphis generates 300,000 tons of household garbage.CostMore >>
Powered by WorldNow