Does Waste Management really recycle

I’m sure many of you have seen all the commercials about what a great company Waste Management is and how they have this great love for the environment around us. It wouldn’t surprise me if a few people would disagree with that. If my memory is working properly I think in the past Waste Management has been in the hot seat for being less than kind to the land we live on. So the question is does the company really do all the things the commercials say they do? In one case I can firmly say yes they are in fact putting to use methane produced by their landfills. The company is doing this in Taylorville, IL. But are the recycles you put in that blue bin weekly actually being recycled?

Now some might wonder why anyone would even question if their blue bin contents are in fact being sorted and then processed into new products by other companies. However there has been more than one person in our area ask the question about how their recycles are being processed. It’s actually fairly easy to see why these people would question what is going on. What many Waste Management customers in our area have seen is garbage trucks taking the contents of their recycle bin away. In the past most of the waste haulers in our area have used trucks that have sort areas. Meaning that the recycle bin contents are sorted into various compartments of the truck picking up the recyclables. From a little bit of reading it seems Waste Management has shifted to a concept called single-stream recycling. Supposedly this allows for waste hauler customers to not have to sort their recycled material. Waste Management claims this increases the amount of material being put into recycle bins.

In some communities I guess this wouldn’t even be a concern. From what I have seen on television other cities have recycle bins that look more like regular garbage cans. These are just different colors but also have the easy to roll out to the curb wheels. Granted the smaller blue bins that are used in our area can be fitted with wheels. I’d personally prefer a large container. Many weeks we need two blue bins to meet our recycling needs. Unfortunately not many of our neighbors follow us in this regard. You would think that using a waste hauler that allowed you not to have to sort would be a bonus. Then again do to cost many in our neighborhood are using local haulers that don’t support recycling to the extent they should. When you limit what can be recycled for whatever reason you do nothing more than encouraging people to not care about changing their habits.

In some communities you are punished for producing waste and not recycling. As much as this may offend some people in the United States or make them feel as if their basic rights are being violated. I’m leaning more towards this type of strategy. Why? Because it forces people to do the right thing. Not to mention the fact that a country that uses it’s resources wisely is a more independent nation. This is something most people who live in the United States have forgotten. It sickens me to realize that we run very few facilities in this country that make products from recycled materials. Instead we ship a good amount of this reusable product to China or other countries to be turned back into saleable products.

As more and more landfill space runs out we will be forced to change our ways of thinking. It’s very apparent that when this takes place it makes people have to remember the concept of innovation. This is a concept that I feel has long been forgotten by many in the US. You can make new products that are worthwhile using materials that were previously something else. There are many examples of this being done today. What needs to take place is doing our best to make these products viable to the consumer from a cost perspective. While also showing these customers that these goods aren’t inferior or lacking in quality.

It is encouraging to me that at least a few people care enough to be concerned about where the contents of their recycle bin end up. These are the type of people you know are putting stuff into the recycle bin for the right reasons. They want the contents to be kept out of the waste stream and have them be used again. There are many reasons that we need to start seeing more companies take the cradle to cradle approach. I think it has been shown many times that when this is done right it reduces cost while still allowing for a quality product to be manufactured. Doing the right thing can in fact make good business sense. This is also good public relations material as well.

Hopefully Waste Management is collecting and reselling recycle bin contents like they claim. Lets hope what we put into our blue bins isn’t ending up in a landfill. It is fully understandable why people in our community would have concerns about where this material is going. Especially when you are used to seeing a different type of truck collecting recyclables. I can only relate my personal experience here. In Chatham, IL Waste Management runs two trucks that look similar. One truck collects the garbage bins while the other collects the recycled material in the blue bins. In the past what most us would consider a traditional recycle truck picked up these contents. I did witness my regular trash man throwing a brown bag containing recycled materials into the trash truck one day. The brown bag was located right next to the blue recycle bin. Do to that being full and wind I had placed the brown bag next to the recylce bin. Even though it was clear that this was recycled material the driver placed the contents in along with our regular garbage. It’s episodes like these that have citizens worried about what truly happens with the recycles they place curbside. Although I’d rather not see anyone out of a job it’s my opinion that episodes such as the one above should lead to termination. You would then encourage other employees to not be so blatantly careless with materials that can make the trash hauler money and be put to use once again.

9 thoughts on “Does Waste Management really recycle”

  1. Having worked for their competitor Allied Waste, I can’t tell you for sure that Waste Management is sorting all the recyclable material. What I can tell you is that at Allied Waste the recyclables are sorted and sent to recycling centers, and not put into a landfill. Though some of what gets put into those recycling bins is truly refuse. It would make the job of sorting the material in those bins easer if people make sure that they only put things in there that belong in there, and not other garbage. By the way, I’ve seen the guys that work on those sorting lines, yes it has to be sorted by hand, and it’s not a great job.

  2. While I was aware that hand sorting took place and that many recycle bins have stuff in them that shouldn’t be there. I thought I had seen several shows that made it look as if some of that hand sorting had been reduced to a small degree. It would also make sense if we saw more facilities that could put some of the waste material to use as a fuel source. With more recycled materials being put to use and burning of other safe materials. We could in fact reduce the need for landfills and become a bit more self supporting in regards to our energy needs.

  3. This same question just came about at our neighborhood assoc. meeting. A few people swear that WM does not recycle the goods labeled recycle. How does one verify that items are being recycled? I see class action lawsuit if they were not. In such a green time, someone is always watching someone! I live in Belleville, IL. 10 min from St. Louis. I hope there is a larger facility there that things are recycled at.

  4. To be honest I’m not sure there are any real checks and balances. Since Waste Management & others collect recycled material for profit they could argue at times that it’s not in their interest to process these materials. However I think in some communities they may have contractual obligations to do so.

    I’ve never heard of any organization that keeps an eye on this type of thing. I’m also not aware of any municipalities that do spot checks to make sure the materials are in fact being processed.

    Have you ever seen this guy in Belleville, IL.?

    Segway at Grafton boat docks

  5. Hi, my name is Bill Plunkett and I work for Waste Management. WM is committed to increasing recycling volumes and has established a goal to triple its volume from 8 million tons a year to 24 million tons by the year 2020. We plan to reach this goal by increasing efficiencies in our operations, adding more recyclables to the materials we collect and by improving the technology involved in our collection and processing operations.

    To address Chris’ concerns in Belleville, I must first tell you that WM doesn’t provide service within Belleville city limits; this area is serviced through the city using its own municipal trucks. However, WM does provide subscription recycling and garbage services in the communities surrounding Belleville. In these areas, WM employs single stream recycling, which allows residents to put all of their recyclables in one bin for collection. Since the materials don’t need to be separated by customers, WM is able to use traditional garbage trucks for collecting recyclables, which increases efficiency. These trucks bring recyclable items to the materials recovery facility, or MRF, where they are separated and prepared for shipment to end markets by automated equipment.

    I’m happy to help with any other questions you may have regarding WM services. To get information specific to your community, you can contact your local WM facility.

  6. interesting! i just spoke with a client who lives in the Milwaukee, Wi area and as a business owner he deals with WM and have been on their site. To his dismay he has seen the recycling sorting center barren, he has seen them just dump all the goods right into the landfill! And all WM gets is a fine for doing so. Apparently WM is suppose to recycle a certain percentage of material by law, but the excess?! Well let’s face it, it’s not cost effective!! I am extremely outraged at this, but I am not totally biased either. I understand that some landfill owners or whatever do recycle (everything recycleable) but that we have no overseeing agency for other landfill operations seems a little less committed to me. I am going to research this more and do everything i can to change ignorant, lazy, just for the money behaviors!!!

  7. In Morrison, Il I have spoken to a former WM employee and he tells me that once the trucks enter the Prairie Hill Waste and Recycling center they all go to the dump site and it all gets dumped into the same area and nothing is recycled. I really want to challenge them on this but do not know the proper channels.

  8. A few notes. Single stream recycling is a process where the items are sorted at the transfer station and not at the truck so if they are all put into the same truck and not in a sorted compartment, that is by design. Recyclables can be collected in a variety of containers to include 96 gallon cans, front load and read load containers and 30-40 yard dumpsters, its based on the customers needs. Second to the comment it is more profitable to landfill then to recycle. That is incorrect, recyclable materials are a commodity and there is a world market for them.( it fluctuates like the stock market) Example large carpet makers buy the plastics and they are often converted into carpets. Countries like China buy large quantities of recyclable items for production. Simply put would you throw away that old coat if your neighbor was willing to give you a dollar for it? Of course not!

  9. It looks a little fishy to me. It was the first time I caught them (Waste Management)putting the recycle materials that we collect for them into a regular garbage truck. This allows them to recycle if they want or just dump it if they don’t feel like messing with it. We pay a fee for curbside recycling but I just called the parish (St. Tammany, LA) and they told me all that they check is that the trucks are permitted, etc. Typical government to sign contracts with vendors and then not confirm that they are doing what we are paying them to do. I wonder how much of the stuff we send actually gets recycled. I’m betting not much. The parish should only pay them for recycling if they have receipts and confirmation by weight of how much they actually recycled. Only a few people on our block recycle anyway so it may all be just a waste of time at this point.

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