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Tue, Sept. 17

Garbage 'bale-out': 'Single stream' quadruples recycling

Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier<br>
Workers separate recyclables on a conveyor belt at Patriot Disposal in Prescott Valley.

Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier<br> Workers separate recyclables on a conveyor belt at Patriot Disposal in Prescott Valley.

At the risk of contradicting that charming croaker Kermit the Frog, it is easy being green.

"Single stream" recycling makes conserving much simpler than it used to be, says Chris Kuknyo, chief operating officer of Patriot Disposal. He says the new system not only makes it easier for residents to recycle, it also helps divert far more waste materials from landfills.

"We do recycling in a completely different way," said Kuknyo. Kuknyo says Patriot Disposal, which started single streaming just over a year ago, is the only company in Arizona using the system.

Patriot Disposal customers no longer have to wonder if something goes in the recycling bin, or the garbage can. The system is "single stream" for Patriot, "single can" for customers.

"It's one container," said Kuknyo. "You don't even have to think about recycling, it just happens."

As Jay Eby, president/CEO of Patriot Disposal, puts it, "I get 100 percent participation - everyone recycles, whether they mean to or not."

Previously, only 25 percent were choosing the recycle bins in addition to garbage.

Instead of a dedicated garbage truck and another one for recycling, Patriot Disposal now has a single truck that picks up the mixed garbage and recycling. Patriot Disposal picks up from 18,000 houses and apartment complexes in Sedona, Oak Creek, Verde Valley, Prescott, Prescott Valley and Chino Valley.

The collection is hauled back to a Prescott Valley facility, where the sorting happens.

"Everything gets dumped out on the floor, then it goes up a conveyor belt," said Kuknyo. "We sort 100 percent of the waste stream."

Eby said the company is now taking around 100 tons of recycling out of the waste stream per week. Before single stream, Patriot Disposal was taking 20 tons a week to recycling centers, which means there are about 80 tons less going to landfills per week.

Each week, Patriot finds and removes recyclable materials that make up 13 to 25 percent of residential waste. "Our amount of diverted material has gone up 400 percent," said Kuknyo.

Patriot Disposal workers separate glass, paper products, plastics, metals - even motors. "We pulled out bales and bales of Christmas tree lights, that used to be landfill," Eby said.

With the new system in place, Patriot Disposal has boosted its work staff by 50 percent, going from 40 employees to 60.

Kuknyo says everything is great about the new recycling system, except the financial end. "We lose money," he said. "But we take the losses on the recycle end and offset that from profits on hauling."

He said he does feel that recycling itself is potentially profitable, but only once automated separation advances for greater efficiency, and markets that purchase recyclable materials improve.

Kuknyo, who is also a Prescott city councilman, was asked how he thought the City of Prescott departments were doing in recycling. "I think they're doing good," he said. "All of us could do better, but it's a matter of making it convenient."

The City of Prescott does recycling pickup for residents, but not in the single-stream manner.

"It's much more efficient for us to keep things separate," said Mike Carr, Prescott's solid waste superintendent.

Single-family homes receive recycling as well as garbage bins, but do not have to pay extra for recycling. Apartments and other multi-family dwellings must pay extra if they choose to have recycling pick up bins.

Last July, Prescott started collecting glass bottles.

"We've increased our tonnage by a thousand tons of recycling, which is pretty substantial," said Carr. "And our contamination rate is below 8 percent, which is pretty good." This means that less than 8 percent of what is sent by Prescott to recycling companies is listed as "contaminated" (usually by food) and sent to landfills.

For Prescott residents who live in apartment complexes that don't participate in recycling, Prescott has a recycling drop-off site for paper, plastics and cans. The drop-off is open around-the-clock at the transfer station at 2800 Sundog Ranch Road.

For information on what can be recycled in Prescott, residents can go to cityofprescott.net/services/trash and download a smartphone app called MyWaste.

The app is billed as another way to make it easy to be green.

Follow Tom Scanlon on Twitter @tomscanlonpress

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