The DSWA: "We need to do something."
House Majority Leader Richard Cathcart, R-Middletown, said it was unlikely that the House would schedule immediate action on the other bill.One problem cited yesterday is that the Delaware Solid Waste Authority (DSWA) is already losing money with its incremental approach to recycling:
Delaware Solid Waste Authority chief executive Pasquale S. Canzano cautioned during the debate that DSWA expects to lose more than $6 million on services to support voluntary recycling programs this year, and was examining options for the service.Perhaps that something should be rethinking the agency’s business model. As I wrote earlier this week, recycling, like many industrial processes, is most cost effective when taking advantage of economies of scale.
"I have to be frank with you, I can't afford to continue to do that, whether or not this bill passes," Canzano said. "We need to do something."
As more material goes through a recycling facility, the facility become more cost effective; increasing the throughput of a fixed cost facility improves its operating efficiency. As for collecting, consider the relative costs of Wilmington’s city-wide program versus the DSWA’s voluntary program. The city now collects recyclables from 28,000 households, at a maximum cost to the city of $150,000 (which is not charged to residents) for the coming fiscal year. If the city achieves 50 percent diversion, the net cost drops to zero. The maximum cost comes to roughly $6 per household per year. Right now the DWSA offers curbside recycling, requiring residents to sort their material, for $3 a month.
The difference in convenience is as striking as the difference in cost. The DSWA requires households to sort their materials before putting them in the little blue bins. This means the collection crews have to handle each category (newspaper, office paper, glass, metal and plastic) separately when picking them up and when delivering them the DWSA recycling facility. Additionally, the DSWA’s crews pick up materials from a small fraction of Delaware households, which increases transportation time and costs per ton of material collected.
The city, which uses a Philadelphia company called RecycleBank, does not require such labor intensive handling. Residents put all materials in one bin, which is weighed and dropped into the city’s regular trash trucks and delivered to the a facility which sorts the material mechanically. In contrast to the DSWA’s cumbersome process, materials collected by the city are untouched by human hands from the time they are placed on the curb to the time they are delivered to the sorting facility.
The city’s single stream approach is easier for residents to use, easier for collectors to handle, and easier for the sorting facility to process.
The results are starkly different: The DSWA recently boasted that it had signed up 15,000 households. The state’s diversion rate for household waste is just 14 percent. In contrast, the city has already achieved a 37 percent diversion rate for its 28,000 households. If the DSWA is concerned about the cost of its recycling program, there are models that clearly demonstrate that single stream systems greatly enhance participation and reduce unit costs.