Montgomery County recycling bins will soon be evolving for the 21st century. Instead of diligently separating recyclables into two “streams” — mixed paper (newspaper, junk mail, etc.) and commingled containers (bottles, cans, etc.) — recyclers whose materials go to the Montgomery Regional Solid Waste Authority (MRSWA) will be able to put these two streams together in one bin, starting JULY 1.
The new program is called “single-stream” recycling. It’s the future for responsible resource conservation and an important step toward meeting our goal of building a cleaner, more responsible Blacksburg. Single-stream recycling makes it almost as easy to use the recycling bin as it is to use the trash can, so for the previously unconverted, there will be no excuse for not recycling.
Single-stream is new, it’s different from how we’ve collected recyclables in Blacksburg before, and there are a lot of questions associated with it.
Frequently asked questions
Q: Let’s start with the basics — What is single-stream recycling?
A. Single-stream isn’t anything fancy. It simply refers to a new system that takes the two recycling “streams” collected through the Blacksburg curbside program — mixed paper and commingled containers — and puts them together in one bin. Voila. Single-stream. Two bins, now one. It is still important to follow the same guidelines applied to the two-bin program, except you put the two streams together.
Q: Why are we moving to single-stream?
A. Using just one collection bin for all your recyclable items increases the ease and convenience of recycling so that more people participate and more resources are saved. We’re making recycling easier for you — at home, at work and on the go. Plus, it makes collection easier for our waste haulers, saving time and, more importantly, fuel, when collecting materials and hauling them away.
Q: But I don’t mind sorting my materials. Isn’t it better for recycling if we separate them like we’ve been doing?
A. We hear you. We’ve been addicted to sorting, too. But even those of us long-term recyclers will find it’s better overall for the recycling program. Yes, it is always good for recycling when the materials are properly sorted at “the source,” a.k.a. your home, school, or office. And sorting is still critical: you have to make absolutely sure you’re recycling only the items accepted. But it is also good for recycling if ever-increasing amounts of material are kept out of the landfill and sold in good clean condition to the remanufacturing companies that make new products from recycled material. Single-stream helps to increase this volume of materials.
Q: Are other communities using single-stream recycling?
A. Yes. Other communities diverting 50%, 60%, even 70% of their waste from the landfill have achieved these goals in part by switching to single-stream. Some of the communities currently using single-stream include San Francisco, Toronto, Denver, Tucson, San Jose, Philadelphia and Dallas.
(adapted from ecocycle.org)