Alternatives for recycling: one-bin system

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The American cities of Longmont (Colorado) and Houston (Texas) are about to test a recycling system without waste separation that could potentially increase the recycling rates in these and other towns.


The choice of a recycling system can be a difficult decision indeed. A separation system with dedicated bins such as the one used in Spain and other European countries covers most of the daily waste from consumer products, but it may cause confusion among the citizens as many types of materials are left out of the equation. Other systems such as the bottle cap collection by cabins used in Germany certainly provide more incentives towards recycling, but these systems require a vast deployment of infrastructure and take up a lot of space only to cover a reduced set of materials. The cities of Longmont and Houston have signed contracts to test a system that already proved successful in Montgomery, Alabama: a one-bin recycling system with no separation, where all the waste is taken to a single treatment facility.

This system was originally designed by Organic Energy Corporation, an advanced waste treatment company based and founded in Louisiana, and the system has been strengthened with the contribution of IBM in the development of its IT system. OEC´s proposal is a process in which the citizens dump all of their waste into one bin, and all of the trash is then taken to the same treatment facility, where a detection and separation system called MaxDiverter separates all of the waste types at the plant itself. This separation system also covers organic waste, which is immediately prepared for compost.

This recycling system can raise a lot of doubts, but as it turns out, it was already tested at the city of Montgomery (Alabama) where the combination of an easier process for the citizens and the efficiency of the MaxDiverter system managed to increase recycling rates from 1 to 70%. This alternative system also brings important benefits to the administrations: since all of the collection system is unified under one destination and one truck fleet, a City Council can save up to 20% on their waste management budget.