RoadRunner RoadRunner

WASTE WATCHERS BLOG

Helping businesses improve their waste diversion & recycling efforts, one post at a time!

Ask Your Waste Hauler These Questions To Become A Better Recycler

In the waste industry, oftentimes the only time you realize you’re doing something wrong with trash or recycling is when it appears as a line item on your bill a month later. These questions for your hauler will help you set expectations and become a better recycler.

  In the waste industry, oftentimes the only time you realize you’re doing something wrong with trash or recycling is when it appears as a line item on your bill a month later. It’s not just carelessness; it’s ambiguity. The reality is that all the things you learned about recycling growing up in Chicago may have completely different rules of thumb in Atlanta. And no matter how many years you’ve been managing your company’s waste, if your service provider changes, all your “must-dos” turn into maybes. That’s because the waste industry doesn’t operate on the same playbook. Region to region, city to city, and hauler to hauler, policies differ based on market dynamics and infrastructure capabilities. For you, it’s a frustrating game to play when the stakes are high levels of contamination, low national recycling rates, and unchecked operational fees and penalties to your business. That’s why it’s helpful to set expectations from the onset by asking some key questions to your local waste and recycling hauler—the answers to which may never appear in your contract or handbook. To become a better recycler, these are the conversations you’ll need to have to get on the same page.

read more

How COVID-19 Has Affected the Waste Industry’s Workforce

Plagued by COVID-related labor shortages and supply chain disruptions that threaten delays and discontinued recycling service, haulers and customers alike are left scrambling. We provide our unique perspective on the current crisis.

  Across the world, the sharpest minds, most experienced think tanks, and smartest algorithms dedicate their existence to accurately predicting supply and demand. But with COVID-19, the economy is anyone’s guess. The global pandemic declared in March 2020 upended business and altered the way society consumed goods and traded services, sending even historically stable industries like waste & recycling management into turmoil—and the crisis is still peaking.  Plagued by unprecedented labor shortages and supply chain disruptions that threaten delays and discontinued recycling service, haulers and customers alike are scrambling for solutions. Meanwhile, an unexpected silver lining has emerged for companies seeking sustainability: the recycling sector hasn’t been this profitable in years. So, the million-dollar question: How does the waste industry respond? 

read more

Why Does Hot Weather Make Waste Management More Difficult?

From pests and smells to fires and service delays, the biggest problems for routine waste and recycling service pop up during periods of hot weather.

  Summer is the time to splurge on vacation days, long lunches, and company picnics for many businesses, but there’s no fun in the sun for commercial waste and recycling services. While the postal service might curse the falling of rain, snow, or sleet, the biggest problems for routine waste collection and disposal pop up during the heat. Now, with the historic heat waves of the US and Canada increasing and intensifying, the table is set for unprecedented challenges in waste management. While foul odors, pests, and overflowing trash plague the business side, hot weather wreaks even more havoc on the industry. Dealing with service delays, mechanical failure, and landfills primed like powder kegs, hot weather can turn the process into a real dumpster fire—for everyone involved. However, a little preparation and precaution can make all the difference during the sweltering season, and these are the things your business should know (and prepare for) to beat the heat.

read more

ABC's of Waste Management: Understanding Terminology and Acronyms

Few industries love slang, acronyms, and abbreviations as much as the waste & recycling industry. Unfortunately, waste haulers and service partners don’t always keep you in the know. Fortunately, RoadRunner has a simplified glossary.

  Few industries love slang, acronyms, and abbreviations as much as the waste & recycling industry. Unfortunately, waste haulers and service partners don’t always pass along the Rosetta Stone to decipher the meaning. From MRFs and APIs to “wishcycling” and “single-stream”, the language used in contracts, invoices, and everyday communication can be downright overwhelming (and sometimes lead to mismatched expectations for your business and its hauler). Fortunately, RoadRunner is in the know and has compiled a glossary of the most foreign and unfamiliar terms for those outside of waste management.

read more

Why U.S. Cities Are Ending Single-Stream Recycling

For nearly 30 years, Americans have been honeymooning with a recycling system that seems too good to be true. Now, cities are waking up the realities of single-stream and taking action to change how they recycle.

  For nearly 30 years, Americans have been honeymooning with a recycling system that seems too good to be true.  Devised and widely adopted in the 1990s, “single-stream recycling” overhauled the underperforming process, taking our national recycling rate from 10.1% in 1985 to 25.7% in 1995 to nearly 32% in 2005. The convenience and simplicity of single-stream recycling was an easy sell for consumers and commercial businesses alike—whereas all recycling materials could be collected in the same receptacle (we’ve referred to it as “the magic bin”). However, it was the lucrative commodities market (the buyers of post-consumer material) that made single-stream irresistible for cities, municipalities, and the haulers that serve them. So, in 2021, why would any city, municipality, or business elect to do anything differently? Because if you can see past single-stream’s golden façade, you’ll discover that the system stopped working years ago. Now, as U.S. cities grapple with overstuffed warehouses, landfills at capacity, and a mountain of bills where there was once revenue, places like San Francisco, Seattle, and more have added back material streams—and accompanying them, recycling rates that outshine anything achieved by single-stream. As a growing contingent explores a different future, we delve into how single-stream made its mark, why it failed, and the cities finding success in dual-stream, multi-stream, and clean-stream systems.

read more

These Items Don’t Belong In Your Recycling

While MRFs seem powerful and reliable, in reality, the American recycling system is incredibly fragile. And for a country that collectively throws away 804,090 tons per day without full knowledge of what is and what isn’t recyclable, we constantly break it.

  The standard compactor truck (aka “garbage truck”) will crush anything at approximately 2,750 psi—enough pressure to pulverize a pickup truck—while its mechanical arms can lift up to 1,000 lbs. Those compactor trucks then deliver our waste and recyclables to materials recovery facilities (MRFs), the centerpiece of the American recycling system. The largest MRFs can process up to 700 tons of material per day or more, with recyclables whizzing past at nearly 20 mph. While all of these specs would make you believe in its strength and reliability, in reality, the American recycling system is incredibly fragile. And for a country that collectively throws away 804,090 tons per day without full knowledge of what is and what isn’t recyclable, we constantly break it. While we’ve recently covered the types of valuable recyclables we tend to throw in the trash during spring cleaning, the COVID-19 pandemic, and beyond, this is a case of the opposite. Through contamination and the act of “wishcycling”, we’re tossing nonrecyclable items known for their troublemaking into our recycling bins. Plastic bags, leather belts, and more—we’ll cover the often-recycled (yet nonrecyclable) items that break the system, endanger its workers, and spike your business’s waste bill.

read more

What is Wishcycling?

When you try to recycle a “disposable” coffee cup, greasy pizza box, or the ink cartridge from your office printer, wistfully expecting them to embody the next new product on the shelf—you’re actually an unknowing participant in the act of wishcycling. And the practice is one of the biggest challenges facing the recycling industry today.

This article was originally published March 2020 and has been updated. Americans are united in the urge to recycle. About 90% of U.S citizens support the practice of recycling, and for 28% of the country, their communities consider it an important civic duty. It’s actionable, too. Amid heightened interest in the environment and enlivened participation in the nation’s sustainability efforts, we’ve been given an avenue to curb our wasteful ways. An estimated 94% of the population has access to forms of recycling like curbside bins, commercial dumpsters, or drop-off centers, which mollifies many of our concerns. For the majority of businesses and individuals, the ends justify the means. The thought is if you do your part—putting an item you hope can be reused or recycled in the bin or dumpster instead of the trash—the collectors will somehow find a way to recycle it.  However, expectations and reality are very far apart. When you try to recycle a “disposable” coffee cup, greasy pizza box, or the ink cartridge from your office printer, wistfully expecting them to embody the next new product on the shelf—you’re actually an unknowing participant in the act of wishcycling. And as you’ll see, you’re not the only one who’s crossing their fingers.

read more

APIs: How Your Waste Bill Can Double in 5 Years

Trash and recycling services might be an afterthought—as routine as keeping the lights on and water running. But, unless you understand the traditional waste industry’s concept of APIs (annual price increases), and the forces that drive them exponentially higher, your waste bill could double in just five years’ time.

  No company can make significant progress by accepting the adage “it’s always been this way.” And at face value, the statement “that’s just the way it is” is rarely a justified defense. However, even the most forward-thinking businesses can be lulled into complacency by something as mundane as a waste bill. Trash and recycling services might be an afterthought—as routine as keeping the lights on and water running. But, unless you understand the traditional waste industry’s concept of APIs (annual price increases), and the forces that drive them exponentially higher, your waste bill could double in just five years’ time.

read more

Landfills: We're Running Out of Space

All over the country, subterranean garbage heaps called landfills are rising, fueled by the 292.4 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) the US produces each year. For many Americans, “out of sight, out of mind” is good enough. But inevitably, major problems will surface. From hazardous waste to running out of space, we may be overwhelmed by the rising cost of landfills this century.

This post was originally posted March 2018 and has updated with recent data and analysis March 2021. What if we told you the biggest cover-up operation in America had to do with where we send trash? All over the country, subterranean garbage heaps called landfills are rising, fueled by the 292.4 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) the US produces each year.  According to the EPA, in 2018, almost half of that trash (49.997%) went to landfills around the country. Worse, yearly MSW production has been steadily climbing, year over year since recording first began in the 1960s—and the US has never had a national recycling rate (recovered material + composting) higher than 35%. For many Americans, “out of sight, out of mind” is good enough. But inevitably, major problems will surface. From hazardous waste to running out of space, we may be overwhelmed by the rising cost of landfills this century.

read more

TOOLS & GUIDES - NEW!

New call-to-action
Learn how our custom recycling system can work for your business
GET GUIDE
New call-to-action
Find out what items cause recyclable contamination issues
GET GUIDE
New call-to-action
Learn about common waste invoice charges and how to avoid them
GET GUIDE
New call-to-action
A step-by-step guide to conducting your own waste audit
GET GUIDE

GET THE SCOOP ON WASTE & RECYCLING

SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER TO GET UPDATES SENT STRAIGHT TO YOUR INBOX.