Understanding Single vs. Dual Stream Recycling

The problem with Single Stream.

At Vangel we’re passionate about recycling, environmentalism and protecting our client’s data. But as someone who works directly in the industry, it’s easy to forget that not everyone lives and breathes “this stuff.” We know there’s some confusion out there about different types of recycling, so we thought we’d share some definitions and a bit of historical perspective.

Single Stream Recycling

Single stream is a method of recycling which allows paper, cardboard, plastic, glass and metal to be mixed together for pickup, and has been on the uprise in residential recycling (or collection) programs, in particular. Although the items are sorted at a processing facility, the process has been described as “trying to unscramble a scrambled egg.”  Many of those single stream recyclables collected never make it to their next life. Paper ends up with the bottles and cans and the paper mills struggle with unwanted containers, particularly glass. These misdirected recyclables are contaminants and are disposed of rather than recycled.

Single stream advocates claim that it’s easier, so it results in an increase in participation. However, participation isn’t recycling; it’s just the first step. Moreover, studies show that this increase can be explained by the upswing in education and larger recycling containers that are often provided when converting to single stream.

The real reason advocates rally around the single stream system doesn’t really have anything to do with what is best for the industry or the environment. For trash haulers who have adopted single stream, it’s about cutting collection costs. With single stream they are able to reduce the number of employees per truck. This method may be easier and good for the collection companies’ budgets, but should it be encouraged when the ripple effect is causing so many negative consequences on the industry?

Dual Stream Recycling

Dual stream recycling is also referred to as source separated recycling. This means keeping the fiber component –– paper and cardboard –– separate from containers, including glass and plastic containers and cans. Some of the benefits are:

    • Lower levels of contamination;
    • Higher quality and more valuable recovered material;
    • Lower costs to process the collected recyclables.

Here at Vangel we stand strongly behind the dual stream recycling system. Most professional recycling firms believe this is the right option for most businesses and institutions. In a professional situation it’s straightforward to keep recyclables separated. That gives the organization the maximum financial benefit from recycling, and it supports American markets, manufacturers and the environment. Of course, businesses also need to protect their confidential data, so companies like Vangel are ideal for adding an on-site or off-site secure shredding option.

When you choose to recycle with Vangel you can rest assured knowing you are helping to uphold these environmental and best practices standards, too.