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Now you can kick unsorted recyclables to the curb.

Byline: Scott Maben The Register-Guard

For the vast majority of Eugene-Springfield recyclers, the sorting is over.

The metro area's two largest garbage companies, Sanipac and Lane Apex Disposal, have switched to commingled recycling for curbside collections.

Instead of sorting rinsed cans, plastics, papers and cardboard, customers now are free to toss everything - except glass - together in their recycling bins. No need to peel labels off cans and stomp them flat. No need to stuff plastics into one bag and newspapers into another.

Glass still must be separated at the curb, but all other materials are being dumped together in collection trucks and hauled to an automated sorting firm in Portland.

Haulers favor commingling because it shaves considerable time off collection routes, saving money. Eventually, roll carts for automated pickup will replace the ubiquitous colored recycling bins, making collections even more efficient.

Recycling advocates like it because it eliminates cumbersome preparation of materials, in turn increasing the amount of material people are willing to recycle.

"It's an industry-wide trend," said Alex Cuyler, solid waste and recycling analyst for the city of Eugene. "It's a nice thing for municipalities. That cheaper collection typically is characterized by increased participation in recycling because residents find it so much more convenient to throw it all into the same container."

Lane Apex Disposal announced its commingled recycling program this week. The company, second-largest of the area's four residential haulers, mailed an announcement to 23,000 households in the Coburg Road-Ferry Street Bridge, River Road-Santa Clara and Danebo areas.

The company converted a pair of garbage trucks into its new recycling trucks. Glass containers are separated out and everything else goes into the truck's main compartment, where it's compacted. That increases capacity and reduces the number of trips the driver makes to empty the load.

"It makes it much simpler for our customers and makes our routes go much quicker and more efficient," co-owner Sam Miller said.

Recycling collectors used to make up to 45 stops an hour when they tossed materials into separate bins on their trucks, Miller said. Now they can hit 85 to 95 homes an hour, he said.

"It's really just a wonderful advent for recycling," he said.

Lane Apex began testing the process last July and has gone to commingled on all routes. Every other day it sends a large truckload of materials to Portland's SP Recycling, where machines sort it all out.

Lane Apex didn't tell its customers to stop sorting, however, just in case it decided not to make it permanent, Miller said.

"We've not wanted to come out and say, 'Hey, we're doing this thing,' and have something pop up that wasn't expected," he said.

Sanipac has studied commingling for the past two years and quietly was testing the process on all its routes for the past few weeks, general manager John Hire said Friday.

The company, which serves more than 85 percent of customers in the metro area, wasn't quite ready to announce the change, Hire said.

"We're taking it that way now as we speak," he said. "We are picking up commingling," sending it north to SP Recycling as well.

Sanipac customers will receive more details in the next week or so. "We're really excited about it," Hire said.

The area's two smallest residential haulers, Royal Refuse and Countryside Disposal, are waiting to see how their larger competitors make out.

"If it goes well, I'll be on board, too," Countryside owner Jason Lovewell said. "We don't want to tell our customers we're going to commingling then have to go back again."

Royal Refuse has the same concern, owner Scott Bales said. If it proves itself in time, the company will give it a try, Bales said.

If anything, commingling has arrived late to the state's second-largest metro area. It already is practiced in the Portland area, Marion County, Albany, Corvallis and Medford, among other communities.

While more haulers are turning to commingling, some recycling advocates say it has its drawbacks.

"From a purist's point of view, sorting recyclables puts people in touch with what they use and what they waste," said Julie Daniel, general manager of BRING Recycling.

"The hands-on nature of sorting I think is good for people," Daniel said. "But I also recognize that most people are convenience-driven, and commingling does have a higher participation rate."

Another consequence, Cuyler said, is an increased risk of improper materials getting mixed in with recyclables.

Haulers have had a measure of control over what they collect as they sort bins by hand. That oversight all but vanishes with commingling, especially when haulers convert to automated collection using roll carts, he said.

The problem of glass contaminating batches of recyclables is the biggest concern. While haulers prefer to pick up just one container at every address, paper mills complain loudly about broken glass spoiling batches of paper and cardboard recyclables.

For now, residents are asked to place rinsed bottles and jars in separate bins or bags, and haulers will continue to sort them by hand at the curb. When recycling roll carts eventually show up, a separate truck may be deployed to pick up glass.

Daniel and Cuyler said commingling also will eliminate some jobs as haulers realize greater efficiencies on their routes.

That savings, however, is expected to be noted the next time haulers ask Eugene city officials to raise collection rates.


Dustin Van Der Sommen of Lane Apex Disposal empties an unsorted recycling bin into his truck, where it will be compacted and sorted later. Please turn to RECYCLING, Page A7 Brian Davies / The Register-Guard
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Title Annotation:Environment
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 19, 2003
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