What’s the Difference Between Recycling & Single Stream Recycling?

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Recycling is clearly something that is beneficial for our environment. However, many people do not understand the process.

There is a lot involved in getting recyclables from your home or office to the recycling center, processed and the materials reclaimed. One of the points of confusion is the difference between recycling and single stream recycling.

Learn more about what these processes and what they entail to better understand recycling as a whole.

What is Single Stream Recycling?

Single stream recycling is a type of recycling where the consumer does not have to separate items. This means that you put glass, paper, plastics and other recyclables into a single recycling bin. Then, the recycling firm picks them up, sorts them and sends them for further processing.

Sorted Collection

The other main alternative to single stream recycling is sorted collection. In this recycling method, you sort the recyclables before the collection company picks them up. While this may be a little bit more work for the consumer, it is often a very simple task. The recycling company may even provide multiple bins to make sorting easier.

What are the Differences?

From a consumer standpoint, single stream recycling is simpler. It just means one collection basket and one pickup. However, from a waste collection standpoint, there are many considerations. Single stream recycling means that the waste collection facility needs machinery and/or manpower to separate the different materials. However, collection is simpler because there is just one standard truck. Collecting sorted recyclables means that the waste removal company needs multiple trucks or divided trucks.

At the end of the day, the collection company takes recyclables to the same place for processing–no matter how the waste removal company chooses to collect them. The single stream versus so-called traditional recycling debate boils down to what method of processing the waste collection company prefers to utilize.

In some markets, one type is preferable or more economical than the other. As a consumer, it is simply important to pay attention to the collection program your service uses so you can handle your recyclables properly.

Key Takeaways:

In summary, some of the important things to remember about single stream recycling versus sorted recycling include:

  • Single stream recycling does not need to be sorted before pickup by the waste removal company.
  • Sorted recycling may require a special vehicle or multiple vehicles for pickup.
  • Consumers need to learn about the system their recycling company uses so they can properly prepare recyclables.

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