ASTRX to "apply systems-thinking to recycling" to help recover more high quality recyclables
Initiative to map barriers and opportunities, then identify tactics to advance the industry and deliver more high-quality recyclables to the supply chain
National sustainability and recycling nonprofits The Sustainable Packaging Coalition and The Recycling Partnership are teaming up to build a roadmap for a stronger American recycling industry. The combined expertise of the two organizations, spanning from packaging design through material recovery, will be applied to comprehensively mapping barriers and opportunities within the recycling landscape, then identifying tactics to advance the industry and deliver more high-quality recyclables to the supply chain. They’ve dubbed this initiative ASTRX – Applying Systems Thinking to Recycling.
“Recycling exists to deliver material feedstocks back into the manufacturing process,” says Sustainable Packaging Coalition Executive Director Nina Goodrich. “Through ASTRX we will analyze the entire system and identify the most effective areas for improvement and intervention. In turn, this will lay the strategic foundation for bolstering supply and reaping both the environmental and economic benefits.”
Rather than a single, uniform industry, recycling is comprised of a series of public and private sector subindustries that work together to create a recovered feedstock supply chain. Understanding the interplay of those disparate, diverse components may unlock the key to new heights of sustainable recovery. Keefe Harrison, Executive Director of The Recycling Partnership, explains: “Recycling is a loosely connected, highly dependent system. By looking within and between each link in that system, we can route a considerably more informed and robust course of intervention.”
To fully capture the perspective of the entire recycling landscape, ASTRX will work closely with a number of other industry groups. “There’s no room for wishful thinking in this marketplace, and we expect this initiative to deliver real solutions,” says Steve Alexander, President of the Association of Plastics Recyclers. “There are many companies and other entities operating in recycling today, and through ASTRX we can collaboratively create a comprehensive plan to shape the future of the U.S. recycling system.”
Traditionally, waste management companies have operated using a simple "management of waste" approach to operating a MRF. Throughput targets and continuous operation (minimal downtime) were the main driving forces. The industry has changed however, and the focus moving forward is now on optimizing system performance and reliability, in conjunction with increasing recycling rates and a drive for a "greener" and more sustainable tomorrow.
When considering the addition of, or upgrade to, an "intelligent" MRF, for municipalities or private operators, the main factors should always be the client's (operator) current requirements, and evolving market needs, which include throughput, reliability, output quality, and adaptability. Equally important is a full understanding of what is really expected from any proposed system. Having an engaged and focused mindset for the project with the client from the beginning, will impact and drive the entire design process. This then impacts the overall project result, through to the productive, efficient, ongoing operation of the facility itself.