What is single stream recycling? What is dual stream recycling?
Single stream and dual stream recycling are terms that describe whether recyclable materials are all mixed together (as a single stream) or whether recyclables are separated into two streams: paper products in one bin, and bottles, cans, cartons, and containers in another bin (as a dual stream).

The following communities collect recyclable material from residents using the single stream method: Agawam, Chicopee, Cummington, Granby, Granville, Huntington, Ludlow, New Marlborough, Orange, Springfield, UMASS, West Springfield, Westfield, and Westhampton.

All other towns in western Massachusetts continue to use “dual stream” where paper is separated from containers.

If you are still not sure what to do in your town, visit the local information page and click on your town.

What happens to my recyclables?
After your recyclables are collected they are transported to a material recycling processing facility that separates the material. The material recycling facility (MRF, pronounced merf) uses a combination of sorting equipment and people to separate the paper, glass, cans, and plastic. Once each material is separated it is baled. The glass is crushed. After this process, they are hauled to a variety of companies that use the material as feedstock for new products.

Is recycling mandatory?
Every municipality in western Massachusetts that sends recyclables to the Springfield MRF has a mandatory recycling ordinance.  Check with your town clerk for specific language about mandatory recycling in your town.

Why is it important to recycle according to guidelines?
The processing facility is made up of sorting machines designed to produce the highest quality materials at a manageable cost. Too much time spent handpicking contaminants out of the material stream or unclogging machinery increases expenses and decreases the quality of material that is sold to end-markets. It is important to remember that your recycled materials will be used to make new products so it is important to follow the guidelines on what is recyclable.

What happens to the materials that aren’t recyclable? Don’t they just get recycled anyway?
As much as we would like to recycle everything we receive, market demand limits what can be recycled. We cannot collect and process materials if there is no one to buy them. Similarly, if we include too much “junk” with our materials (such as plastic pools or laundry baskets mixed in with milk jugs), we risk losing buyers or getting a lower price for our materials.  In fact, the recycling facility has to pay a disposal fee for materials that can’t be recycled.

What does it mean when recyclables are contaminated?
Recyclables become contaminated when unacceptable materials are placed with the recyclables, making it impossible to recycle effectively. Some examples of contamination are food spilled on otherwise clean paper or cardboard, or non-recyclable items, such as flower pots or window glass, mixed in with the containers.

What product is taking up the most space in landfills in the United States?
The item most frequently encountered in  landfills is plain old paper — on average it accounts for more than 35 percent of a landfill’s contents. This proportion has held steady for decades and in some landfills has actually risen. Newspapers alone can take up as much as 13 percent of the space in US landfills. This proportion has held steady for decades and in some landfills has actually risen.

Organic materials, including paper, do not easily biodegrade once they are disposed of in a landfill. Paper is many times more resistant to deterioration when compacted in a landfill than when it is in open contact with the atmosphere. Research by William Rathje, who runs the Garbage Project, has shown that, when excavated from a landfill, newspapers from the 1960s can be intact and readable.

What materials are most commonly recycled in the United States through collection programs?

U.S. recycling rates for commonly recycled consumer goods in 2010 are listed below:
Newspapers: 71.6 percent
Corrugated Cardboard Boxes: 85 percent
Mixed Paper: 45 percent
Steel Cans: 67 percent
Yard Trimmings: 57.5 percent
Aluminum Beer and Soft Drink Cans: 49.6 percent
Plastic Soft Drink Bottles: 29.2 percent
Plastic HDPE Milk and Water Bottles: 27.5 percent
Glass Containers: 33.4 percent

What effects do waste prevention and recycling have on climate change?
Everyone knows that reducing waste is good for the environment because it conserves natural resources. What many people don’t know is that solid waste reduction and recycling also have an impact on global climate change.

The manufacture, distribution, and use of products — as well as management of the resulting waste — all result in greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gases, which trap heat in the upper atmosphere, occur naturally and help create climates that sustain life on our planet. Increased concentrations of these gases, though, can contribute to rising global temperatures, sea level changes, and other climate changes.

Waste prevention and recycling — jointly referred to as waste reduction — help us better manage the solid waste we generate. But reducing waste is a potent strategy for reducing greenhouse gases because it can:

Reduce emissions from energy consumption. Recycling saves energy. Manufacturing goods from recycled materials typically requires less energy than producing goods from virgin materials. When people reuse goods or when products are made with less material, less energy is needed to extract, transport, and process raw materials and to manufacture products. When energy demand decreases, fewer fossil fuels are burned and less carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere.

Reduce emissions from incinerators. Recycling and waste prevention divert materials from incinerators and thus reduce greenhouse gas emissions from waste combustion.

Reduce methane emissions from landfills. Waste prevention and recycling (including composting) divert organic wastes from landfills, reducing the methane that would be released if these materials decomposed in a landfill.

Increase storage of carbon in forests. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in wood in a process called “carbon sequestration.” Waste prevention and recycling paper products allows more trees to remain standing in the forest, where they can continue to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

How does recycling save energy?
Harvesting, extracting, and processing the raw materials used to manufacture new products is an energy-intensive activity. Reducing or nearly eliminating the need for these processes, therefore, achieves huge savings in energy. Recycling aluminum cans, for example, saves 95 percent of the energy required to make the same amount of aluminum from its virgin source, bauxite. Making recycled steel saves 60%, recycled newspaper 40%, recycled plastics 70%, and recycled glass 40% of the energy needed to make products from raw materials. The amount of energy saved differs by material, but almost all recycling processes achieve significant energy savings compared to production using virgin materials.