Monday, January 3, 2011

Rapid City Helping Raise Recycling Rates

Anybody who knows anything about steel will immediately remind you that it is North America’s Most Recycled Resource. Perhaps the most amazing part of that fact is that we can do better.

One way that the 83% recycling rate of steel is getting boosted is through manual landfill separation. When residents forget to responsibly dispose of their steel products, this can be another fail-safe to help minimize the lost product. Solid Waste Operations of Rapid City, South Dakota is looking to make a difference.

“The attempt to collect scrap steel from the landfill face has only been going on for the past three years,” says Karl Merbach, the Superintendent of Solid Waste Operations. “It was not until this year that we have been able to have a dedicated employee on the landfill operating face. This has only been possible through the use of a dedicated person supplied by the South Dakota Department of Corrections.”

Because of this dedicated person they were able to increase the amount of time spent on separating recycling from previous years of only about 20-30 hours per week to presently approximately 45-50.

“It was frustrating for staff to see the amount of steel being dumped just in our regular municipal solid waste and construction and demolition debris,” says Merbach. “For the past 6-7 years we have had a separate location for residential and small business customers to drop off their scrap metal at our material recovery facility at no charge. However, there was still a significant volume of scrap metal going to the landfill.”

The amount of shredder steel scrap that has been recovered has increased dramatically from it’s beginning in 2005, when 422 tons were recycled. Through only nine months this year, 631 tons have been recycled. With an onsite bailer, the processing of steel scrap for sale is a simple part of the process.

Most people around the country have multiple methods of recycling steel but many choose not to properly dispose of their steel cans, aerosol cans, or scrap steel. The infrastructure and processes are there but the responsibility falls mostly upon residents.

“[It] is very easy to drop off their scrap materials in Rapid City,” says Merbach. “Many are still throwing metals in residential and commercial trash containers. Education is a key to this process.”

The more residents are aware of their options, the more successful they can be at properly disposing their steel which will benefit all of us.

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