While first associated with environmentalism and the green movement, recycling can help turn a profit too. For some companies, using recycled materials may be the most economically viable option.
“There’s an increasing interest in buying recycled products,” said Will Herzog. “We’re always looking for local options, and I know that it’s an initiative that the city of Phoenix is looking to draw potential buyers of recycled materials to the market.”
Herzog is the director of marketing for ReCommunity, an organization that operates recycling facilities across the country, including in Phoenix.
According to Herzog, right now a majority of the materials processed in Phoenix and Arizona are exported out of state. That being said, between the two Phoenix recycling facilities ReCommunity operates, there is a high volume of recyclables processed.
“With the city of Phoenix, we handle all the city’s recyclables, and that works out to about 105,000 tons to 110,000 tons of recyclables per year,” Herzog said.
Any given inbound ton of recycled material can be worth about $100, not including operating costs. The materials consist of paper products, cardboard and cardboard-like materials, paper-cardboard combinations called fibers, metals, plastics and glass.
“Across the entire city of Phoenix program, we’re probably recovering between 70 and 80% of the stream,” Herzog said. “90% of the revenue generated goes directly back to the city.”
“Most of our buyers are major national and global manufacturers of products that we recycle,” Herzog said.
One of their buyers is Strategic Materials, which further processes recycled glass to be resold to manufactures.
Strategic Materials has a facility in downtown Phoenix where they take glass shipments from Phoenix transfer stations. These are then resold to manufacturers.
“We process glass,” said Strategic Materials Vice President Paul Faherty. “We basically take glass from recycling operations, clean it, color sort it, size it and sell it to people who make new bottles and fiber glass.”
Buyers vary from container manufacturers to general fiber manufacturers. At the small plant in Phoenix, glass from Phoenix and Tucson is processed and sold to companies primarily in California and Texas.
Faherty explained that for glass manufacturers, using recycled material have become the most economically sound approach to their operations.
“Recycled glass has a lower melt point than making virgin glass,” Faherty explained. “It’s an energy save. You’re burning less gas and getting the same amount of material.”
Burning at a lower temperature also reduces maintenance costs, making it more affordable to maintain a furnace. Additionally, because of emission caps, companies using recycled glass can produce more while staying under the emissions limit.
Although many manufacturers are using up to 80% recycled glass in their products, this does not happen as much locally.
“The problem with Phoenix is that nobody is making glass in Phoenix,” Faherty said. “It’s going to get shipped somewhere…that costs money. It does make the relative cost of shipping recycled glass higher…there’s an economic calculation these guys go through.”
Despite this, Faherty said that glass is one of the most widely reused materials.
Locally, many businesses will use recycled material both out of social responsibility and as a way to make the recyclable movement more viable.
The Arizona Diamondbacks, for example, are part of the Green Sports Alliance, an information sharing organization built to promote green venue operation.
Matthew Helmeid is the director of special projects and brand development for the Diamondbacks, and spoke to some of their efforts at Chase Field.
“If you walk through the ballpark, we’ve got over 200 recycling containers that are matched up with all our trash receptacles,” Helmeid said. “Everything they prepare for concessions…that they don’t sell, they freeze, and overnight, a local group, Church on the Street, comes to the ballpark…and then they distribute it to people in need.”
Helmeid said that they would love to begin composting at Chase Field, but Phoenix does not have the infrastructure for it. Until it becomes economically viable, some reuse projects have to wait.