Single Stream Recycling

Scrap piled hile in Skagastrond, Iceland - their home of country music

The home of country music

I’d had this nagging question about the imminent introduction of the new single stream recycling bins here in Austin.

So, if we are going to dump all our recycling into a single bin, including lots of stuff previously not accepted, where is all this stuff going to get separated for recycling?

Having been to a few less than glamorous locations in China, and seen some of the hard hitting documentaries on electronic waste, I wondered, where will ours get sorted? I read through the cities single stream recycling FAQ(thats easy questions, with obvious answers to all you non-IT types) and couldn’t see anything. So this morning in the break before my next work call, CONTACTED THEM.

I asked “How and where will the stuff get recycled?” The how question was answered by machine and some people. I asked again “Where, overseas or here?” – “here” came the response. So, thats all right then. Unless you know better?

Although sort of tangential, for an insight into some of the the issues of electronic recycling, see this short video from Good Magazine. Although, if you’d seen women and childern working on their knees for 8-10 hour sessions, hand sorting garbage outside their homes, this is just an extreme illustration to make the point.

When it came to choosing the photo to accompany this post, I resisted the various pictures of children sat amongst foreign waste in developing nations, too easy. The picture above is a scrap heap pile in the town of Skagastrond, Iceland. Population 650. Skagastrond is the music capital of North Iceland(I’ve been there too, Iceland that is, there is a north??).

Photo by Wendy Crockett, licensed under creative commons, some rights reserved.

2 Comments so far

  1. tthomas48 on September 9th, 2008 @ 10:48 am

    From what I can tell they’ve contracted with Greenstar Recycling which is out of San Antonio.

    Here’s Greenstar’s page on how the single-stream recycling works:

    They don’t explain their process in particular, but they do mention that they use robotics. It’s my understanding that a lot of this technology comes out of the R&D after 9/11 into bomb "sniffing" technology. It appears a lot of the players have turned their focus to recycling.

  2. lauratex on September 14th, 2008 @ 10:19 am

    Well, e-waste isn’t going to be accepted in the "single stream" recycling… if you have a Dell, you can send it back to them for recycling (, and they state that they don’t send e-waste to developing countries. Texas Campaign for the Environment has been working on this for at least 10 years –

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