Video: How to Recycle Right

Video Transcript:

[Tiana Lightfoot Svendsen]: Hello everyone, my name is Tiana Lightfoot Svendsen, or something like that, and I have the great privilege of working for the city of Garland, which is kind of like a modern day Mayberry, and for those of you who are super young and don't know what Mayberry is, think King Of The Hill. It's very friendly, it's very Texan, and we have over a quarter of a million people and we have a lot of residents who participate in our recycling program, and some do a better job than others so we're we're gonna address that today. Has anyone ever heard the name Echol Cole or Robert Walker? Sounds familiar? I have one, who are they? Just you're like yes, I know the names, okay. So February 1st, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, there was a torrential downpour, just crazy rain, and the sanitation workers who were all male, all black, requested to go home for the day, and the city of Memphis told them they could not do that, they had to continue working, and put things into perspective, a lot of our communities in north Texas have an automated side load truck which picks up the trash so there's not as much exposure. Like in Garland we have nice trucks that do a lot of the heavy lifting.

[Speaker A]:   Now that wasn't the case –

[Tiana Lightfoot Svendsen]: That wasn't the case, right, and in Memphis that really wasn't the case and so a lot of the containers that the men were collecting had holes in them, and so when it was raining the trash and the rotten material would get on them and they'd go home at the end of the day and they'd have to shake out their pants and maggots would fall out of their pants, and so the working conditions were very poor. They were horrible, and the men were discriminated against and they were paid pennies on the dollar, just deplorable wages. And these two men, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, during the torrential downpour, took shelter in the back of a trash truck 'cause there was so much rain, and there was an equipment failure and the gentlemen were crushed to death in the back of the garbage truck, and so that's actually what sparked I Am Man in Memphis and over 1,300 sanitation workers went on strike, and that warranted the attention of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who then came in support of the sanitation workers, and Dr. King was actually shot fighting for the rights of sanitation workers, and so there's there's been a lot that has improved over time but there are still a lot of challenges that the men and women who collect your trash and recycling face, and so you're aware, it is the most dangerous city operation. So the people that collect your trash and recycling, there are two times the number of deaths than you see in police officers and four times the number of deaths than you see in firefighters, and so it is the most dangerous city operation. So if you take nothing else away from from our time together today aside from coloring outside the lines, I hope that that you remember when you see someone coming and collect your trash, just give them a friendly wave or a thumbs up, or one of our guys, somebody baked him a batch of cookies five years ago and he still talks about her like she's his best friend in the whole world. So just the small acts of kindness and that recognition, or if someone's doing a great job, feel free to report them to their boss, right, in the city, because that means so so much to the people that do the hardest, dirtiest work. So who can tell me, what what are recyclables? We have some ringers in the mix from various city governments here, so if we get stuck, but what are recyclables? Cardboard, cans, paper, okay. Those are all types of recyclables, but I want you to think about recyclables as raw materials, and these are raw materials that compete, right, as manufacturing feedstock with other raw materials. So only when we recycle correctly and recycle content replaces virgin content, we can enjoy all the economic and environmental benefits that recycling promises and delivers. So contamination, who knows what contamination is? Have you ever heard this word, this is an industry term.

[Speaker B]:  Food waste on the materials that you're putting out –

[Tiana Lightfoot Svendsen]: Right, so that's a perfect example, so food waste. So a lot of the communities in north Texas have single stream recycling, which means you can throw everything in the bin together, right? So your glass – if some communities are exempt, a little asterisk right there with the glass – paper, cardboard, aluminum, teal, stem, a lot of different types of plastic. Well what happens to that paper and that cardboard if somebody throws a slice of pizza in the blue cart? It's contaminated, that's right, or a dirty diaper. So that degrades the value of that recyclable material and so it's not able to compete with virgin paper in the same way, so that's why it's so so important that we keep our recycling collection, our recycling streams clean, 'cause they're raw materials, okay? So clean recycling is better recycling. So you're likely familiar with this, but on a global scale, the National Sword in China scrap ban, so that happened in 2018 at the beginning, and we're still seeing the effects of that. A lot of communities are having to pay a lot more for our recycling because of the China ban. We're very fortunate in north Texas, we have a number of recycling processing facilities which will take our material and prepare it to be distributed. You can have a paper mill in Forney, TX, however, the communities that were sending material to China, because China's not taking anything anymore, that's putting pressure and it's it's making more competition here even in north Texas. So a lot of different types of materials were banned, and to put things in comparison why this ban was so important, is before – especially with paper or fiber and plastic – you could see that China was the recipient of a lot of that material, and the craziest thing to think about is, before the China ban, the number one thing we exported in the United States was our recycling. So we used to be known as as the country that made things, and now what do we make? We we essentially make trash, right, we make make things to be recycled. China stopped taking material as part of an environmental and public health stance, and so in the interest of time we'll move forward. As you can see, small children who are picking through the different types of plastic and the impact that that had on families. Okay? China's working on developing a circular economy, and just like with a number of things, when the price of oil is low, so is the value of recycling, and things that have happened with the trade wars, for instance, have further depressed the markets and put pressure. So on a national scale you can see a number of places that have had trouble with their recycling programs and they've either reduced what they're collecting or maybe they've put a pause on their program. Nowhere to my knowledge in north Texas is there yet, we're all doing our very best to preserve our programs. But clean recycling is better recycling, and that's where you come in and that's where you can help. Okay? So if we're able to reduce the contamination, the diabetic needles that we find in the recycling, things of that nature, then we're able to grow internal and external markets for the material, the material's worth more so it can be part of the circular economy, and it would incentivize new groups to create manufacturing facilities, which is already starting to happen. So even though we're not shipping material to China, there are Chinese groups who are investing in processing facilities here in the United States. Okay, so whenever people throw material in the recycling that shouldn't be there, there's a cost of disposal, right, 'cause it has to go to the landfill instead of being turned into a new item, the the value of the lost recyclables, and then labor. So a lot of our recycling facilities are highly technical and there's a lot of equipment, there's a reverse eddy current that pulls out the metals and there's machines blowing the paper to one end and and it's all a lot of robotics and machinery doing the work. However, with contamination, there are human beings that have to pick the dirty diaper and the plastic bag and the pair of pants out of that line, so there's a labor cost that's involved as well as a human health aspect. Okay, so when we think of tanglers, hoses, cords, clothes and plastic bags, plastic bags in particular may not weigh a lot but they're gonna be problematic. So anything you can wrap around your arm should not be placed in your recycling collection, and you're forgiven if you didn't know and you've been making mistakes, you're still a good person, okay, and we all love you, but plastic bags in particular, that's one of our top contaminants. Yes, Dr. Boccalandro?

[Dr. Boccalandro]: don't know why in Coppell they say we can put plastic bags in there. Is the sticker wrong?

[Tiana Lightfoot Svendsen]: So some communities have been taking them, however this is my personal recommendation is you always call the MRF, the recycling plant where it goes, to double check, and then my other beef with this is, you have this wonderful reusable bag right here, so instead of creating plastic bags continuously, yeah, go ahead and use your reusable bag and that way you don't even have to worry about it being an issue for the recycling plant or finding out is it recyclable or not. Okay? So in the state level, you can tell in north Texas we have a lot of recycling facilities, we're very fortunate, that are handling our material, and then for those of you that love money, want to know about that, there is a high value to the Texas economy. Over $3 billion in economic output because of recycling, so it's very very important to the state of Texas that we continue to recycle, okay? And to put things in perspective job wise, it's very comparable to broadcasting, pipeline transportation and paper manufacturing, so it's a big job creator as well, and I'm happy to share these slides in case your pictures aren't excellent. All right, so the average contamination rate in Texas is between 10% and 25%, and in Garland we're we're on par with that, which is problematic because when you think about, this is almost 25%, that means 1 out of every 4 item being put in recycling should not be there, and to give you a good visual of this, if you have a big truck that's carrying the recycling, 1 out of every 4 of those big trucks is filled with trash that someone is going to have to handpick out of a line and then we're gonna have to pay to send it to a different landfill. So it's costly and it's a health issue and so – and not picking on Garland, because a lot of places in Texas, Dallas has a similar contamination rate, are facing these same issues with educating our residents. Okay, so that's another economic value of recycling right there for data nerds. So when we're thinking about recycling, again we want to come back to what's within our scope of control, because our scope of concern is huge. We want to save the world, we want to be resilient, we're concerned about air quality and being in an ozone non-attainment area, we're concerned about transportation infrastructure, we're concerned about energy efficiency and water conservation. There are so many concerns, but when we're thinking about recycling, what's within our scope of control is what we're putting out for collection, and so everyone making sure they're putting acceptable materials out to be recycled is very very important, 'cause that's all we can control, right? We can't control what the president does with other countries or tariffs or trade wars or any of that, but we can control if we put a dirty, greasy pizza box in our recycling collection. Okay, so in Garland we have a drop off recycling center. We started off in the '90s with a blue bag curbside recycling program, then we moved to bins. This is probably one of my favorite stories about Garland, we were kind of hesitant with the bins. There was a Conoco gas station that caught on fire and it was next door to the fire department, and the fire department put it out so quickly that Conoco gifted the city a little money and they used that to buy the first batch of recycle bins, which is why for a very long time, we were the only place I assume in the whole world that had red recycling bins to honor Conoco gas station. And so since then we have moved to the 96 gallon roll cart Cascade brand collection which has been excellent, because that means that our drivers do not have to get out of the truck, because that's a safety issue when they do 'cause they're more likely to get hit by a car, right. But the downside is, as before with the bins, the driver would look inside and go, ope, wait a minute, that has a lot of plastic gloves in it, I'm not gonna pick it up, and they'd leave it behind. But now the first time they're seeing the recycling contamination is in the rear view mirror as they're emptying the cart into the back of the truck, so we're really really counting on our residents to make the best choices. So in addition to to our program for recycling, we own and operate our own landfill, so that that means it's even more important we put the right stuff in the blue cart because otherwise we're paying McCommas Bluff landfill in Dallas to take the trash out of the recycling, versus putting it in our own landfill and not charging ourselves for it. Those are our pretty blue carts. For communities that don't yet have blue carts or who need social media help, I highly recommend the recycling partnership, they have a ton of resources, and then this is an example of an audit. You can see the majority of material we recycle is paper, the next heaviest by weight is trash, and then after that, glass, which tends to have no or negative value, followed by cardboard and then plastic. So it's almost backwards, the materials that have the most value we recycle the least of, so we have some work to do there with the capture rate and the types of material we're encouraging people to recycle. Okay, so here's some examples of some common contaminants we see in our carts. Yard waste, food, electric devices, dryer lint, air filters – a lot of friends think those are recyclable, they are not, they go in the trash – lightbulbs, paint and motor oil, which are especially concerning 'cause of course, our staff members are paid a lot more than the gentlemen who work in Memphis, but I I've had occasions where gentlemen will come in and they're covered in paint because they didn't know what was in a pile or it compacts in the truck and then they're exposed to that material. So for their safety, please never ever put paint or any sort of hazardous chemical in either your trash or your recycling cart. You can see some wood right there, wood is another common contaminant, textiles, so things like pants and bags, we get a lot of seasonal contamination, so I feel like if I was in a coma for 20 years and then I woke up and someone took me to the recycling plant and I looked in the pile, I'd know what month it was based on what people are hiding in there, and so right now we're finally getting rid of all the Halloween masks and plastic buckets which shouldn't be in your recycle carts, and we're gonna start moving on to the Christmas lights very soon. Car bumpers, get a lot of those, and then used medical supplies, and that's especially concerning just from an infection control standpoint, right? An entire leaf blower, luggage, we talked about diapers, luggage is funny because I pulled this out of the cart and I put it on the carb and the lady's neighbor immediately ran out and grabbed it, she's like ooh, that's cute, and then you know, reuse happened in that moment which is great. Cigarette butts, another favorite, but the absolute worst was just a loose stool that someone placed gingerly on the top of their recyclable material, and so we we certainly don't want the people at the recycling plant exposed to – I hope it's a dog that created that waste, we just don't know.

[Speaker C]:  This is now – [unintelligible] – with garbage.

[Tiana Lightfoot Svendsen]: Right –

[Speaker C]:  This is not all recycling, right?

[Tiana Lightfoot Svendsen]: Exactly, so this is an example of contamination. So the banana peel, contamination, plastic bag, the reason it's a problem when people bag their their recyclables is 'cause they're not gonna have time at the recycling plant to bust that open and shake out all the material, so if you're bagging your recyclables right now and your city has a cart, they're not able to get all that material and capture it. And of course the poo, anything good in there that the poo has touched is now not good to recycle. This is something else the recycle partnership has to offer with oops tags, those little love notes for people, as well as reminders of what to recycle. So these are some steps to assertive communication, and I want you to take a look at this real fast because we're gonna partner up and practice because then you'll feel more comfortable talking to people about recycling contamination, because it's not just about you and your behaviors, but we also wanna make sure that you're confronting people when they make poor choices. Okay, so clean recycling is better recycling, and I want to show you an example since someone asked about the Recycle Rangers.

[video playing]

[Speaker D]:  Oh hey.

[Speaker E]:  Did you just throw that can into the trash bin? You don't do that, grandpa.

[Speaker D]:  Oh, sorry.

[Speaker E]:  There's a recycle revolution going on. There is no way when we throw it away. If you toss it in the trash, it goes to the landfill. Recycling is a resource that can be collected and used again and again. Aluminum cans, plastic bottles, paper and cardboard should be recycled when we're done with them. When we recycle, we throw less away and save space in the landfill. This makes trash collection and the goods we buy less expensive. You'll also do your part to help protect the environment by saving our limited natural resources. Do your part, join the Recycle Rangers and help keep our city clean and green.

[Tiana Lightfoot Svendsen]: Yay, and just one more to make the Garlandites proud in the room.

[video playing]

[Speaker F]:   Sorry everybody, these things gotta go. Batteries, I'm sure they're recyclable.


[Speaker F]:   Ah, I guess not.


[Tiana Lightfoot Svendsen]: Perfect, and so please on Facebook follow Time To Recycle, and the hashtag is #knowwhattothrow because that affects everyone in the region, and batteries, we want to end on that note 'cause if there's just one thing you stop putting in the recycle bin, it's lithium ion batteries. Batteries is what caused the recycling plant in the Plano Richardson area to burn to the ground, we've had truck fires, the recycling center in Garland caught on fire and we were able to catch it in time so we didn't have a lot of structural damage which is quite fortunate. But again, going back to earlier in the presentation when we talked about the health and safety of the people who work in the sanitation department, and they should not have to put out fires. So thank you thank you thank you, I'll stick around for questions but I know we're out of time.