Alabama Recycling Partnership

The Alabama Recycling Partnership (ARP) was established to assess the economic impact that recycling has in the state of Alabama, and will provide a roadmap for strengthening the material management infrastructure. 

The ARP is comprised KW Plastics, Proctor and Gamble, Carton Council, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, International Paper, SERDC, and five local governments. This public-private partnership will pave the way for a stronger infrastructure, improved material quality, and information tools that will drive Alabama's recycling economy even further. 

ARP has worked with the SERDC-led team to produce:

  • A report on recycling best management practices customized for needs in Alabama, 
  • An economic impact analysis of the recycling industry in Alabama, 
  • A measurement of the impact that the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) grant program has had on material recovery and how that feeds job growth, economic impact and environmental impact, 
  • A design for intentional locations for a hub and spoke system to service the state’s processing needs. 

View Full Report (pdf)

Executive Summary

In 2015, the State of Alabama requested that the Southeast Recycling Development Council (SERDC) evaluate the adequacy of Alabama’s material recovery and recycling system, and provide recommendations to improve it. The State also requested the participation of additional stakeholders in this study. The result was the Alabama Recycling Partnership, comprised of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), along with the cities of Daphne, Decatur, Florence, Guntersville, Troy and Tuscaloosa.  Financial support for the report was also provided by the Proctor and Gamble Corporation (P&G), KW Plastics, the Carton Council, and International Paper, as well as SERDC and its membership.

This report found that the recycling industry is an economic engine for Alabama. Modeling done for the state by Dr. Frank Hefner, a professor of Economics at the College of Charleston and an expert in determining the economic value of commercial and industrial activity, revealed that the current level of recycling in Alabama generates a significant economic impact.  His work, detailed in the appendix, determined that recycling in Alabama causes a direct impact of 32,400 jobs.  As the people employed in those jobs spend money induced jobs are supported creating a total of 84,412 jobs.  This generates economic activity estimated at $19.4 billion. 

The potential for greater economic benefit through expanded recovery of recyclables in Alabama is large enough to be pursued. The combined value of disposed materials, plus the cost in landfill tipping fees for disposal, is estimated at almost $117 million annually. Using Dr. Hefner’s model, the estimated 711,436 tons of recyclables discarded in 2015 could represent almost 1,200 new direct jobs and would induce another 1,920 jobs for the state of Alabama.

This report found that Alabama is nearing its statutory waste reduction goal of 25%, with a reported rate of 16.36% and an estimated achievable rate of 27.71% in 2015. However, material recovery and recycling is not reaching its potential in the state, with only 25% of the population having access to household curbside recycling. Markets for all materials are abundant either in the state or surrounding southeastern states, but Alabama’s processing capacity is insufficient to manage growth in recovery. Few large privately-operated material recovery facilities operate in Alabama, leaving local governments to manage small processing centers in a fragmented system.

This report recommends eight best practices that could transform the state into an engine of material recovery. The key best practice recommendation is that the state establish a regional recovery system based on a few large material recovery facilities that aggregate materials from multiple community recycling programs via a connected network of spokes along transportation corridors. The other seven best practices support this hub and spoke system by enabling maximum material recovery.

Recommended Best Practices for Alabama Recycling

The following best practices are recommended for the State of Alabama to achieve the goal of maximum recovery of residential materials for recycling.

1.    Optimize the collection, transportation, processing and marketing of recyclables along a system of “hubs” and “spokes”, which will enable a standard system of recycling practices to reach the entire population by transferring unprocessed or semi-processed recyclables from the rural areas and smaller towns to the larger cities where final processing and marketing can be done.
2.    Encourage and incentivize local communities of over 5,000 population to provide cart-based single stream recycling for all commonly recycled materials except glass containers, as well as encourage and incentivize curbside communities to promote drop-off recycling centers for glass containers.
3.    Encourage and incentivize curbside communities to provide drop-off recycling access for their multi-family populations, and rural communities for their entire populations. Drop-off centers should establish single-stream collection for the same suite of materials as curbside programs, should accept glass containers in separate receptacles, and should provide all residents with recycling opportunities for other materials such as appliances, scrap metals, lead-acid and rechargeable batteries, used motor oil, oil filters and tires.
4.    Encourage and incentivize local governments to adopt a common suite of materials in their recycling program. The state should also develop a toolkit of consistent material descriptions and terms for these materials, using available industry sources, and disseminate these for use in local recycling promotional and educational materials.
5.    Develop a standardized recycling education and outreach program that establishes a theme and a “brand” for recycling in Alabama, and then provide specific tools to communities to enable them to adopt the brand, and adapt the theme to their own situations.
6.    Improve the statewide data reporting system and ensure that it covers all entities that manage materials, including collectors and markets. The state should convene relevant stakeholders in a structured design process enabling them to have input into the system to ensure cooperation and understanding.
7.    Adopt certain programmatic strategies in support of the regional hub and spoke recycling system recommended in this report, including:
· Universal Access to Recycling,
· Disposal limitations for certain post-consumer packaging materials,
· Variable rate solid waste pricing, also known as “Pay as you Throw,”
· Provision of recycling through hauler licensing.
8.    Restructure its recycling grant program to support all of the facets of this report’s recommended new recycling system by being strategic in awarding grants to create a statewide recycling system; targeting grant funds to the four foundational building blocks of large-scale material recovery; and clearly outlining reporting requirements along with grant awards.

View Full Report (pdf)

For more information, please email Will Sagar.



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