May 2020

Monthly News & Updates in the Southeast
 Promoting sustainable recycling in the Southeast by connecting local supply and regional demand of recovered material.
Upcoming Webinars

Wednesday May 27, 2020: 2-3 pm ET

APR's Recycling Demand Champion Campaign has seen continuous growth, market impact, and expansion since its launch in October 2018. This webinar will provide an overview of the campaign and highlight two recent developments to expand its reach.

Wednesday May 27, 2020: 2-3 pm ET

Spend 60 minutes with industry experts answering the important question: What are the on-the-ground impacts of the COVID-19 health crisis on recycling workers and operations? The supply chain and solid waste have both been deemed essential work in this time that the country is dealing with the impacts of the COVID-19 on households and businesses.
Tuesday June 2, 2020: 2-3 pm ET
Chantal Fryer, Senior Manager, Recycling Market Development at Department of Commerce will discuss challenges and learnings from regional manufacturers. Will Sagar, Executive Director with the Southeast Recycling Development Council will discuss paper, glass, & aluminum supply chains

Tuesday June 2, 2020: 2-3 pm ET

Webinar Archives
Catch up on some great recent conten t


The Recycling Partnership:

NRC, EPA and Renew:
SERDC News & Announcements
SERDC Launches Recycle Right Tennessee
Communities across Tennessee are simplifying how to recycle
A new statewide campaign to unify recycling messaging in Tennessee, called Recycle Right Tennessee, was officially launched on April 30. The website explains the program developed by SERDC through funding from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. Communities across the state that have curbside recycling programs or convenience centers can have a recycling guide created for their websites to help residential participation. There is no cost for communities to participate.

Last spring, SERDC conducted research into the state’s network of material recovery facilities (MRFs) and community recycling programs operating either curbside or convenience center drop-off points. The goal of the study was to create a “common suite” of materials and identify the primary contaminants found in recycling streams. Studies have found that over 50% of residents rely on the internet to find information on recycling. 

The research found that while communities and MRFs were on the same page as far as items collected, there was a huge disconnect in how that information was being relayed on websites. Most online community resources that were evaluated scored average or below average in ability to easily understand the message. Websites had too much text and the important information that residents were searching for was often missing or at the bottom of the page.

Tennessee communities can go to to sign up. Recycling guide layouts are available for both curbside and convenience center programs. Convenience center guides will feature locations and a map of their locations. Once set up, communities will receive a link to their own webpage link, which they can post on their website. The recycling guide will allow residents to print a flyer of the guide for their own use. SERDC offers guidance for communities on simplifying their existing website pages as well. SERDC partnered with The Recycling Partnership to include the ability to print labels for curbside bins and convenience center signage using the same imaging for consistent messaging to residents..
SERDC Recycling Infrastructure Grant Application Form Now Available
The upcoming year seems to be pointing to a strain on local operating budgets. Recycling is a necessary service that needs to continue in our communities. Creating an efficient system will be crucial.

Communities can apply for grants through SERDC to implement curbside programs, improve collection vehicles and add processing equipment to capture more material. Switching from recycling bags or bins to wheeled carts for increased capture rates and messaging potential is just one project that SERDC is providing grant funds for.

Grants are evaluated upon submission and awards are made in ongoing cycles. An application form is now available for submission.

From SERDC Members
NC Dept. of Environmental Quality Awards 2020 Grants to Businesses
State recycling business grants awarded this spring are expected to generate approximately 61 jobs, spur more than $2 million in new, private business investments and further reduce the state’s dependence on landfill disposal.

Twenty companies that collect, process and manufacture new products with recycled materials will receive more than $665,000 in funds from N.C. DEQ's Recycling Business Assistance Center in 2020. Grants will support increases in plastic processing capacity, upgrades to material recovery facilities, expansion of recycled end-product manufacturing capacity and recycling processing for a variety of other materials.

NC DEQ is an Organization member of SERDC

Waste Management Designs MRF of the Future to Address Ongoing Market Issues
At full capacity, Waste Management’s highly automated MRF of the Future in Chicago will process roughly 1,000 tons per day.
Posted on April 15, 2020 from

In 2017, Waste Management (WM) began conceptualizing a materials recovery facility (MRF) that would help the company address two major ongoing market issues: high labor turnover rates and processing the highest quality materials for end markets.

Brent Bell, WM’s vice president of recycling, explains the idea was initially pitched to senior management as a research and development (R&D) facility. WM ended up building its new, 160,000-square-foot MRF in Chicago, due in part to its centralized location in the U.S.

At full capacity, the facility should be able to process about 1,000 tons per day, which would put it in the range of 21,000 to 23,000 tons per month. Today, the MRF is processing a little more than half of that and continues to ramp up.

Since the implementation of China’s National Sword, recycling commodity prices have fallen to historic lows. Many MRFs across the country have upped their game when it comes to implementing advanced robotics and sorting technologies to ensure sustainable end markets for their materials.

Waste Management believes its MRF of the Future will set the stage for what the company believes a municipal recycling facility should do.

One of the most interesting things about WM’s MRF of the Future, according to Bell, is that its heavily automated equipment communicates with each other. He refers to this concept as intelligent sorting, meaning conveyor motors and optical sorters, which all print out a lot of data that historically don’t ever connect, communicate with one another and to technicians to help improve material quality and eliminate downtime. Control rooms at the MRF monitor motors and the performance of optical sorters and robotics to provide a better understanding of what’s happening in the plant from a centralized area.

Moving forward, Waste Management is looking at all its assets to see where robotics and AI can be installed to enhance processing operations.

“You’re seeing MRFs reinvest because they have to,” explains Dylan de Thomas, vice president of industry collaboration at The Recycling Partnership. “Most of the MRFs in the United States were built for a totally different packaging stream than what we see today. And this has been coming down the pike for the last decade plus.”

“This is the hardest possible time for a MRF to reinvest because of the economics, but it’s absolutely critical that they do to clean up the stream,” he adds. “MRFs and recycling companies are readjusting, and contracts are adjusting so that reinvestment can occur.”

“Some MRFs have terrific relationships within their communities and do the best they can to provide the highest level of service they can for the communities given the contracts they might have. But in other places, they are adversarial, with some MRFs charging outrageous processing fees for the cleaning out of recyclable materials,” he adds, noting that in extreme cases, communities have been forced to make the tough decision to stop recycling collections altogether.

Waste Management is a Bronze Sponsor member of SERDC
Around the Country
COVID-19 turns some recycled fiber market dynamics on their head
Posted on April 13, 2020 from

Surges in consumer toilet paper and e-commerce purchases are causing a boom in demand for certain types of recycled fiber, but supply is falling short. Fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is prompting many changes in the recycling industry, including notable shifts in the recycled fiber market as demand skyrockets for certain types and supply dwindles.

The well-known rush for toilet paper by United States consumers in early March has caused domestic tissue demand to surge. A lot of toilet paper, paper towels and some napkins are made from recycled fiber, explained Bill Moore, president of Moore & Associates. Corrugated cardboard demand also is booming as Americans rely more on e-commerce than in-person shopping.

Moore & Associates recently completed an in-depth analysis of the current state of the recycled paper industry that shows not all fiber sectors are being affected in the same way. One reason is that fiber supply-and-demand dynamics experienced a sudden, widespread shift due to changes in the economy.

“Commercial volumes are disappearing… So much of the country is not open for business,” said Dylan de Thomas, vice president of industry collaboration at The Recycling Partnership.

Mill closures are also a factor for global supply, especially for tissue. Many of China’s tissue mills idled as provinces implemented lockdowns, according to Fastmarkets RISI. Whereas U.S. and European tissue mills have been running at capacity for weeks.

The demand is further bumping up the already-rising prices for OCC and mixed paper, as they are in short supply. “It’s supply and demand 101,” Rusty Getter, president of the commodities group at Balcones Resources, told Waste Dive. The Texas-based recovered fiber processor and supplier has noticed alterations to its business as a result.

Mixed office paper markets were rising prior to the pandemic, Moore said, but very little of that material is being recovered right now as most people are working from home. That’s hurting the supply of material available for tissue production, which is the largest consumer of mixed office paper, he said.

Prior to the pandemic, India had emerged at the largest importer of mixed office paper from the U.S. But India’s government imposed a national lockdown – the world’s largest – on March 25 to curb the spread of COVID-19. Unlike the stay-at-home orders in many parts of the U.S., India's policy is incredibly strict. Very few businesses are deemed essential and allowed to remain open, and people found in public for nearly any reason face disciplinary measures.

“That’s clearly having an impact. The mixed paper price market is down almost solely due to India cutting us off,” Moore said.

Sources believe suspensions of curbside recycling programs have not had a significant impact on U.S. residential material volumes so far, because the changes are not widespread in most states and they’re generally occurring in small communities. 

Investments in new recycled fiber mills and expanded capacity increased over the past 18 months. Those mostly have come to fruition or are moving forward as planned, with sources saying project stagnation and mill closures are not prevalent. However, Packaging Corporation of America announced last week it will idle both paper machines at an Alabama mill that uses recycled fiber to manufacture printing and writing paper. The idling will begin in May and last for two months, according to Resource Recycling. It is the result of the drop in commercial demand brought on by the pandemic.

"We believe there’s some permanent changes that are going to come in the economy and the way people do business," Moore said.

Company shifts to produce recycled-content face masks
Posted May 19, 2020 on

A small manufacturer recently began using post-industrial materials to produce masks for the COVID-19 response.

Looptworks, a Portland, Ore. manufacturer of recycled-content apparel, accessories and other products, in March began producing masks from material generated during the manufacturing process.

Each reusable mask is made from 100% post-industrial material, containing a layer of cotton and a layer of polyester.

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