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What is Going on with Recycling?

By Frank M. Antonacci

I am sure many of you, given the nature of your employment, are seen as the resident recycling expert at any summer picnic, family gathering, or kids sports event. I know I am. More than ever “RECYCLING” is the subject of everyday conversation and concern, sparked by a deepening concern by the general public regarding the environment, along with the considerable shifts in recycling markets worldwide turning the recycling business model on its head! Headlines about recycling are everywhere, and my goal is to arm you with some real answers from our industry leader’s perspective regarding the present and future of recycling in our business and in our communities and dispel some commonly held, misleading ideas.

Here are some of the questions and answers.

Is it true that we don’t recycle anymore because China stopped taking the stuff?

No, none of our companies have changed our policies regarding handling of recyclables. We have found different markets for all the recycling commodities, although they are at much different prices than they once were. In some cases, we are even paying to ensure that material we collect as recyclables are  being recycled or reused. We have also invested in our facilities to deal with the increased contamination we have seen in the recycling stream.

What did China do that ruined the recycling market so much?

China enacted a policy called the “National Sword” on January 1, 2018. This policy essentially made it impossible to import recyclables from outside of China into the country. This was a major problem as China previously purchased 70% of the recyclables generated in the United States and an even higher percentage from the United States coastal states. The domestic and global market for recyclables became flooded with material causing the prices for the commodities to plummet.

Why did the cost of recycling go up so much?

The cost of recycling to the customer- whether a municipality, an individual resident, or a commercial customer- did not rise because costs went up, but rather because the value of the recycling stream fell and that value was used to offset much of the cost to the customer.

How much did the recycling values drop?

The market for recyclables fell to the lowest levels we have ever seen. Cardboard once sold for $175/ ton dropping to $25/ ton while newspaper once fetched over $100/ ton and now can cost upwards of $50/ton to ensure that it goes to a recycler. The prices are end market prices that do not account for costs to collect, process, package and market the materials.

Is it even worth recycling if it may cost as much as trash now?

Yes, for many reasons:

  1. While we are experiencing one of the most challenging environments we have seen for recycling, commodity pricing is cyclical and historically we have seen recovery from other challenging times.
  2. Especially in the northeast, there is a finite space for final disposal capacity. Right now, about 30% of the materials we discard will never see a burnplant or landfill rather they are processed through local recycling infrastructure to be used in new products. Practically speaking, the disposal capacity just does not exist to handle these materials if they were no longer put through the recycling infrastructure. Abandoning recycling would cause pricing to skyrocket on all waste streams.
  3. Recycling is an investment in the future of our environment. There is value in ensuring that materials are used and reused as many times as possible until we truly must dispose of them.
Automated Material Handling

How do things get better for recycling?

Markets need to develop around the world, especially in the United States to handle these materials. On the positive side of the story many shuttered old paper mills are being purchased, revamped and reopened throughout the United States to take advantage of the supply domestically. The domestic development of these markets may provide the type of stability and opportunity in recycling like the discovery of natural gas did for the energy markets in the United States and would lead to a much more stable and sustainable recycling model for decades to come.

What can I do?

Recycle right, and encourage your friends and family to do the same. Since recycling became mainstream in 1994, the recycling stream has gradually become dirtier and dirtier. Much of this contamination (as we call it in the industry) comes from good intentioned customers seeking to recycle as much as possible and putting non-recyclables (contamination) in the recycling bin because it feels good to think you are recycling. The truth is that this “wishful recycling” contaminates the whole stream and makes it harder to sort out and market the right recyclables. There is a great resource at http://www.recyclect.com/ which shows you “what’s in and what’s out” of your recycling bin. This will not only improve the quality of our materials that we market, but more importantly it will keep our fellow teammates safer at our recycling facilities.

You can also encourage your local communities and politicians to support the local recycling infrastructure and the value it brings to all communities. Recycling and the accompanying services provide for all our families and protect the environment for generations to come. We must ensure that uninformed politicians and public officials do not make uneducated and shortsighted decisions that could be detrimental to the future of recycling. 

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EREF FELLOW SPONSORED BY THE ANTONACCI FOUNDATION

Komal Charania joined EREF in March 2017. She graduated with honors in May 2018 with a degree from North Carolina State University in Environmental Engineering. At EREF, she worked on the State of Practice of Landfill Leachate Management and Treatment in the U.S. project (see description below) within the Data and Policy program. This involved gathering available leachate quality and quantity data in order to get a better understanding of the state of leachate generation, treatment, and management in the United States. In February 2018, she attended GWMS with EREF and presented a poster on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in landfills.

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Thank you to all of our veterans!

Thank you to all our veterans; past, present and future, including some of our own employees!

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All American Waste Drivers Participate in the Annual Truck Driving Championships

This past weekend the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut (MTAC) hosted its annual Truck Driving Championships at the FedEx Freight Facility in Windsor Locks.  All American Waste proudly sent drivers Scott Stoeckle Sr. (AAW- New Milford) and Irving Martinez Jr. (AAW- New Haven) to represent our company this year!  Both of these drivers did a great job in all aspects of the competition and were both very close to placing in their division!

Many thanks to the friends, family and other drivers that came to show support!

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All American Waste Sponsors The HRRA’s 2018 Billboard Contest

We recently sponsored the Housatonic Resource Recovery Authority’s (HRRA) 11th Annual Recycling Billboard Contest. The theme this year was Reduce Reuse Recycle, as students created billboards to help promote and educate the public about reducing, reusing and recycling. Congratulations to all the winners! To see more winners and honorable mentions, visit HRRA’s Billboard Contest 2018 page.

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All American Waste Helps Clean Up Streets In Bridgeport

The Stratford Historic District organized a cleanup event which our very own John Ortiz participated in and gave out All American Waste sweatshirts to volunteers on April 21, 2018, cleaning up streets in Bridgeport, CT.  Along with 11 students participating from Sacred Heart University and other volunteers, we were able to fill 25 bags of trash and help make the neighborhood cleaner. Thank you to the Stratford Historic District for organizing the event, John Ortiz and to all the volunteers who made it a great success!

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All American Waste Participates in Hamden’s Earth Day Event

On Saturday, April 21, two All American Waste drivers, Phill Zabo and “Zak” Zollie Hyman, along with Gary Hoefling and Ken Vallera, participated in the Town of Hamden’s Earth Day event.  We brought a front load and a side load truck to the “touch-a-truck” part of the event, which was held at Hamden High School. The event ran from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.  where we met with and talked with any and all visitors that stopped by our trucks, including the Town of Hamden’s Recycling coordinator, Haley Starvaggi. Thank you to everyone who made this a fun and successful event!

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Our Commitment to Employee Wellness

Our Commitment to Employee Wellness
By Mike Lauro – Human Resources

All American Waste has a deep commitment to the wellness of our employees. In addition to providing great health insurance benefits, we have a wellness committee, a safety team, and a commitment to technology that is for the benefit of each and every employee.

Our wellness committee runs programs throughout the year to teach our team about healthy living. Throughout the summer, we host healthy picnics at each of our sites teaching individuals the benefits of making the right choices when deciding what to eat. This healthy eating translated into our fall “Biggest Loser” competition. As a company, we lost 802 pounds in six weeks of competition! Our employees loved it and we will be running the program again continuing the message of healthy living.

While our wellness committee teaches us about how to live a healthier lifestyle, our safety team is committed to the wellness of employees on the job. The team analyzes any potential job hazards and what we can do to mitigate them to keep our employees in top shape. Looking at employee safety and wellness is what brings technology to our industry. While in years past you would see our workers lifting heavy trash cans and recycling bins that lead to injuries, we now use automated hydraulic systems operated by a joystick so employees can have less strain and prevent injuries.

A side-loader All American Waste truck using an automated hydraulic system to lift a residential trash bin. This system saves employees from lifting heavy trash bins that could potentially lead to an injury.

We continually strive to make our employees safer on the job and are even launching a “Safety Boot Program” where we will provide our safety sensitive employees with a Safety Boot allowance each year to help reduce the risk of injuries. Another step forward for the health and safety of our employees!

Whether it is creating programs for the health of our employees or preventing injuries with technology, All American Waste is committed to our team’s wellness.

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Source To Sea Cleanup 2016

The Connecticut River Watershed Council’s (CRWC) 20th Annual Source To Sea Cleanup was held this past Friday and Saturday, September 23-24. From their website www.ctriver.org: “The Source to Sea Cleanup is an annual trash cleanup of the Connecticut River system – rivers, streams and banks, parks, boat launches, trails and more. Each fall, thousands of volunteers of all ages and abilities head out to places of their choice all along the four-state watershed (NH, VT, MA, CT) to clean the Connecticut River and its tributaries on foot or by boat.”

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It was a beautiful morning to help keep the Connecticut River clean.

All American Waste was a sponsor and also assembled a group of volunteers to help with the event. The group included employees and their friends and families, totaling 38 volunteers of all ages, from throughout the state meeting at the Barnes Boat Launch on S River Street in Enfield, CT. From there the group split up to clean the surrounding area along the Connecticut River. Some went on kayaks to access harder to reach areas, some went down the street to Parsons Road, while others spread out to clean other areas along the river. The combined effort brought in over 2.5 tons of waste along the river in our location alone, including a couch, mattress, chairs and tires, along with many bags of trash.

Taking Out The Trash
Some of the items were a little harder to collect than others…

Make sure to vote for your favorite photos from the event at CT River Photo Contest 2016 starting at noon on Monday, October 3 and running through noon on Tuesday, October 11. You can vote for each photo once a day so make sure to vote for your favorites. Thank you to all the volunteers who helped make this event a success and we hope to see even more volunteers next year!

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Customer Service – What Makes Us The Best?

Customer Service… What makes us the best?
By Sean O’Toole – Customer Service Manager
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To be the best you must first have a clear understanding of what customer service is; as it is such a diverse area.  Most people think customer service is a department that treats customers with a friendly attitude and tries to resolve their problem or question as efficiently as possible. This is true, however, there is so much more that has to happen for a customer to be serviced to their satisfaction. For example, if a customer calls us to change the removal date of their container, we have to then update the scheduling which must be relayed to the driver through dispatch. The route must be subsequently recalculated to ensure other customers experience are not effected as the driver may have been counting on the removal to make his next delivery.  This is simply one example of how customer service is truly handled by the whole company instead of just the Customer Service Department. In our company, the whole company participates in customer service. We believe working as a team across all departments is what truly makes an exceptional customer service experience.

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Michael Jordan is considered to be one of the best basketball players of all time. However, despite his great skill he could not have won any championships without the assistance and support of his team. His fellow teammates would aid him on the court by doing things like setting a pick for Jordan to make the crucial shot or making the tough pass to him for a game changing layup. He had such a long time in the spotlight due to his good team and great teamwork.

Our team knows that providing superior customer service needs to be solid much like an oak tree which consists of many living parts working & growing in unity. The root system is akin to our vast variety of service; our team is equipped to cater to all your needs, from the home, to your business or construction site.

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The trunk of the tree represents our working platform for the day to day operations of our company. This includes our billing staff, operations workers, IT staff, web designer, and everyone that works to carry out the needs of the customer to ensure their satisfaction.

The branches of the tree are our Customer Service Representatives. These representatives are part of a diverse group with expert training, with plenty of experience to ensure all your individual needs are met in a timely fashion.

Most importantly are our leaves, our customers. The customers are the lifeblood of our company who provide the most valuable part of it all, their insight. This insight allows us to shape our company around our customers’ needs, which create the foundation of our company.

By providing your insight and opinion we are able to ensure the tree thrives. Without this, we slowly shrivel up to become a past memory. Your input combined with our experience has allowed us to grow over the past 41 years.  Our service has a reputation of being seamless. From the person that takes your request to the driver that delivers the container. We understand it needs to be an all in effort with company wide participation.

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To meet customer expectations reliability needs to be second nature. This is why we are selective in the equipment that we purchase, the mechanic that works on the trucks, and the drivers that provide the service.  We know that we can not be the best without having the best to assist you.

Our oak tree is standing proud, thriving and growing every day. Through storm and calm, we have stuck with our core values. We do not run for cover when a storm comes, we in turn view it as an opportunity to gather rain to fuel our growth.  These opportunities to learn, to adapt, to improve, and to keep doing what our customers love; has molded us into what we are today.

We are a diverse group of departments with one desire in common.  We strive to provide paramount customer service, to internalize an instinct to assist you, to grow and to continue to train as a team.  We accept that we may not always grow the fastest or make every shot; however, this is where our passion & purpose unite. As Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress: working together is success.” Over time we have come together from many departments into one company, standing united against any adversity ready to serve you.  This is what makes our customer service the best!

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