Recent News

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  • 01 Jun 2022 12:01 PM | Jen Dabbs (Administrator)

    In this podcast, Matt James, Board member of the CRA, is joined by Will Sagar, the Executive Director of the Southeast Recycling Development Council to discuss the economics behind recycling. Will explains how demand works for recyclable commodities and why the market fluctuates.

    Listen now.

  • 19 Nov 2019 2:25 PM | Jen Dabbs (Administrator)

    What has been happening since EPA’s first ever EPA Recycling Summit one year ago?

    The November 2018 Recycling Summit brought together leaders from industry and all levels of government to discuss opportunities to advance and strengthen the domestic recycling industry and markets. Four action areas were identified to improve or advance a national approach to recycling: (1) education and outreach, (2) enhancing materials management infrastructure, (3) strengthening secondary materials markets, and (4) enhancing measurement. Workgroups have been active this past year on each of these areas. This webinar will provide an opportunity to hear from workgroup participants and leaders from the Southeast on each of the four action areas.

    Register now!

  • 18 Jul 2019 1:13 PM | Jen Dabbs (Administrator)

    Recycling has reached unprecedented coverage in the media and much of it has been negative. Now, more than ever, recycling programs have to efficient, monitored and defended.

    This workshop series will provide expansive information on topics such as:

    • Outlining current recycling challenges and identifying solutions to combat these challenges
    • Addressing contamination problems in the recycling stream
    • Developing effective messaging for your recycling programs
    • Working with hub/spoke system

    This workshop will help you improve and strengthen your programs and industry knowledge. The workshop is from 10 am - 3 pm in the time zone of each workshop. Lunch is included.

    Cost to attend:

    Free to Tennessee Recycling Coalition Members.
    $75 for non-members.

    Dates for Each Workshop:

    • Tuesday, July 23 at Y-12 National Security Complex, New Hope Center in Oak Ridge
    • Tuesday, July 30 at University of Memphis
    • Wednesday, July 31 at Montgomery Bell State Park in Burns

    Learn More

  • 26 Jun 2019 11:23 AM | Jen Dabbs (Administrator)

    The world’s largest plastics recycler is in Troy, Alabama.

    Every time you buy a gallon of paint, a bottle of shampoo or bleach, or even a new car, there’s a pretty good chance that not only are you buying recycled material, you’re buying material that was recycled in Alabama.

    The Alabama recycler supplies resin for some of the world’s largest brands, including Unilever, Kimberly Clark, Proctor and Gamble, L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, Sherwin Williams, Valspar, Toyota, Ford, ExxonMobil, GM, Scotts, and Xerox.

    But to provide the resin for that many products, KW needs used plastics and a lot of them. KW Plastics pays to have recyclable plastics shipped in from all over North America and the world, truckloads full of them every day.

    Last year, KW shipped used plastic bottles from Europe to Alabama to help meet demand.  Baker said she’d love to bring in more material from within Alabama, but the company needs more than the whole Southeast can give. The amount of plastic the entire state of Alabama recycles in a year would keep KW’s plant running for just two days, she said.

    Read entire story featured on

  • 26 Jun 2019 11:17 AM | Jen Dabbs (Administrator)

    While the first round of funding has closed, you can still apply for the next round of funds to improve the recycling infrastructure of your community.  If you're looking at increasing your collection frequency, adding recycling carts to your households or adding machinery to capture or clean up more materials in the stream, then let us know.  

    Read more

  • 23 May 2019 5:40 PM | Jen Dabbs (Administrator)

    Grant funding is available to communities in the Southeast region covered by SERDC for recycling infrastructure. Increasing the quality and amount of materials collected in a sustainable way is crucial for processors of the collected material and will lead to growth to the growth of demand for use in manufacturing.

    The first round of funds available is $250,000 and applications will be evaluated after the closing deadline of May 24. Let us know if you plan to apply and please forward this announcement to any potential applicants as the second round of funding will be available in the next quarter.

  • 23 May 2019 5:34 PM | Jen Dabbs (Administrator)

    Posted  May 22, 2019 on

    Lexington, Kentucky has temporarily suspended mixed paper recycling in its curbside program, which the city attributes to cost increases from recyclable material market changes. Local residents are now being asked to dispose of paper — but the move is affecting customers beyond city limits.

    LEX-MRF, owned and operated by the city, provides service to more than a dozen neighboring municipalities, counties and schools through an affiliate agreement. The facility handles approximately 36,000 tons of material annually. According to Plant Operations Manager Barry Prater, processing and marketing fees were historically offset by the sale of recovered commodities. That began to change about a year ago, "when the markets went flat." Rebates were still being paid, but the MRF was no longer able to cover its processing fees.

    According to Prater, until March, it was less expensive for the partners to pay recycling costs than to landfill paper but the equation shifted in April. Material buyers indicated more changes were coming as regional paper mills reached an oversupply of material. Then, LEX-MRF was informed that vendors would only be able to ship an estimated 26 of its usual 40 truckloads of paper in June. OCC markets are said to remain strong, and the city is still recycling cardboard.

    "We are concerned, specifically for the immediate impact on the several surrounding counties … They're going to be in a bind," said Gary Logsdon, recycling and local assistance branch manager at the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection (DEP).

    "Telling consumers not to recycle this month and bringing them back in the future is going to add more complications for our confused participants who already don't know what goes in the bin. It's going to exacerbate our contamination problem, which is where we really need to be focusing our efforts," said Will Sagar, executive director of the Southeast Recycling Development Council (SERDC). "Mixed paper might not bring in revenue right now, but it's a staple of your program."

    DEP's Logsdon agrees, explaining that "it takes forever to train people what you want them to put in their recycling bins, so you don't want to be changing that a lot."

    This phenomenon prompted several of Lexington’s partners, including hauler Rumpke, to tell their constituents to keep recycling mixed paper as usual while they seek solutions. Lexington's own education campaign to reduce curbside contamination had a soft launch last year, but an official program isn't expected until the city's FY20 budget is finalized.

    The timing of Lexington’s decision is curious to some, considering paper markets may be less dire than they were a year ago. Earlier this month, the American Forest and Paper Association released data showing a record U.S. paper recovery rate of 68.1% in 2018 and a 3.3% increase in the use of recovered paper to make new products over the past two years. Domestic capacity is also increasing, as noted in a Northeast Recycling Council analysis from April that listed 18 new or expanding North American paper mills.

    "Paper still moves if it's clean — it's just that the price is not what some people want," Sagar said.

    Both the state DEP and SERDC report being in touch with LEX-MRF to offer support. They recommend that other communities facing similar dilemmas on whether to eliminate materials from recycling programs reach out to state authorities and recycling associations to devise collaborative solutions and identify end markets. They also strongly urge cities to look at recycling's overall role in the fabric of the community — and the potential long-term effects of removing it.

    Read Full Story

  • 23 May 2019 4:45 PM | Jen Dabbs (Administrator)

    As Coca-Cola North America continues to accelerate their World Without Waste efforts to meet 2030 goals, they have rounded out their team in North America with the hiring of Nicole Smith as Sustainable Packaging Program Director. Nicole will be working closely with the Sustainability team, TI&S, Public Affairs, Bottling System and other internal and external stakeholders to continue to meet the packaging needs of consumers and customers while maximizing environmental and social sustainability.

    Nicole formally served as Sustainability Manager, Customer Collaborations for Coca-Cola North America. Nicole originally joined Coca-Cola Refreshments in 2012, working with 80 manufacturing facilities, leading energy and water efficiency training/initiatives, as well as the recycling programs.

    Prior to joining Coca-Cola, Nicole created and ran an environmental division for six years at Design & Source Productions, a boutique product and packaging design firm in New York City. Nicole graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Design in Architecture. While living in New York City, she was active on the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, the NY Coalition for Resource Recovery, and a staff member of GreenHomeNYC, she also served on the Board and was President of the University of Florida Alumni Association for New York City.

    She currently serves as Board Chair of SERDC (Southeast Recycling Development Council).

              Congratulations Nicole!

  • 07 May 2019 5:36 PM | Jen Dabbs (Administrator)

    Recent article from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance referencing our colleagues from The Recycling Partnership and a statement from SERDC Executive Director, Will Sagar.

    After months of articles and broadcasts telling Americans that recycling is dying, that the recycling fad is passing, a new message is emerging. Recycling is not dying although it has been severely challenged by both China’s import restrictions and a pervasive single stream system that is no longer sustainable.

    The Recycling Partnership, comprised of leading national brand name companies is reassuring the country that recycling is here to stay in its Earth Day messaging:

    "Many of the opponents of recycling like to focus solely on the economics of collection and sortation. In doing this, they fail to account for the environmental and societal benefits of recycling that are crucial to our planet’s survival."

    A CityLab article concludes: In any case, there are strategies that local programs can use, either separately or in combination, to find their way back to health and continue recycling waste. China’s policy change may not represent the much-feared “end of recycling” in the U.S. so much as an inflection point.

    Will Sagar, executive director of the Southeast Recycling Development Council, issued the following corrective statement declaring, “Recycling is troubled, but not dead”.

    Recent articles in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, accurately point out that there are problems in recycling programs, but any inference taken that discounts the value of recycling to our economy is in error.

    Read More

  • 30 Apr 2019 10:39 AM | Jen Dabbs (Administrator)

    Many recyclers are upset and disheartened over the onslaught of negative recycling coverage in the press. So, what do you do when the press calls? Help them.  Our colleague Chaz Miller responds to the latest recycling press coverage.

    Is recycling finished? You might think it is based on the onslaught of negative recycling stories in the American press. They paint a woeful picture or imply that most recyclables go to the local waste-to-energy facility, or even proclaim the end of recycling might be right around the corner. With all this relentless negativity, you can’t help but think recycling is doomed.

    This problem is worsened because, unfortunately, reporters don’t always get all the facts right. These stories commonly claim that China took the bulk of our recyclables and now they’ve said no to all of them. In fact, export markets, including the Chinese, never took the majority of our recyclables. Domestic markets did and still do.

    Nor has the Chinese government banned them all. Yes, mixed paper and mixed plastics are banned. However, that government has made it clear it is happy to accept pulp made from recycled paper along with pellets and resin made from recycled plastics. It just wants the processing done elsewhere. Moreover, China continues to allow sizeable imports of clean old corrugated containers because they are a valuable feedstock for Chinese paper mills. These important points appear to be inconvenient nuances.

    Understandably, many recyclers are upset and disheartened over this coverage. I’m frustrated, but I understand that the press thrives on unexpected or bad news. An old journalism maxim says “dog bites man” isn’t news because it’s not unusual. “Man bites dog,” however, is news. After all, how often does that happen? Failing recycling programs are news. The thousands of curbside programs that continue to collect, process and sell recyclables are not.

    Part of the problem is simple. Most journalists are generalists. Very few specialize in the environment. Outside of the trade press, none have any expertise in recycling. Instead, when researching a new issue, such as recycling, they read what they find online. Early mistakes get repeated and magnified. After all, another journalist wrote it, so it has to be true. This explains the errors of fact about how much was shipped to China and what has been banned. Add to that the confirmation bias of looking for bad news and finding it and the result is inevitable.

    I’ve been dealing with the press ever since I started at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency several decades ago. I learned quickly that most reporters are just like you and me. They have a job to do and want to do it right. Just like you and I, they are not perfectly objective and have their own biases. Some may not like your industry or organization. Some might have already figured out what they intend to write and are looking to you for confirmation. But most just want to get the facts right and meet their deadline.

    So, what do you do when the press calls? Help them. Return their calls quickly. Ask what their deadline is and get your answers to them before it. Know the most important points you want to convey and stay focused on those key messages. Give them accurate data and never lie. Feel free to disagree, but don’t get nasty. After all, the press buys ink and airtime by the barrel.

    If a story upsets you, write a response. Keep it short. You have a better chance of getting printed if your response is fewer than 200 words (the first three paragraphs of this column). Stick to the facts. Don’t call the reporter an idiot. Be calm and make your case. If they decide to print your letter, newspapers will usually contact you before they print it. They often do minor editing and want your approval. They also may want proof of claims you made.

    Over the years, I’ve had far more good experiences than bad with the press. Sometimes, they may have disregarded what I said. Sometimes, they may have included the key points I made. As long as they listened with an open mind, I’ve been happy with the encounter. I’ve run across a few obviously biased reporters and researchers. But those are relatively rare experiences. They do seem to be increasing, though, especially if plastics are involved. Something about plastic products seem to bring out the worst in some reporters. But even those instances are relatively rare.

    Above all, treat the press with respect. When you do, they are more likely to call you back when they need more information.

    Chaz Miller is a longtime veteran of the waste and recycling industry. He can be reached at  Reposted from Waste

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