Momentum Recycling | Keep SLC Green

1/3/2013 | Amy Tibbals
Corigan Kushma

Our love for SLC demands that we make a COLLECTIVE effort to do our part in making it as clean and “green” as possible. In the spirit of making things easy on us [all], the stellar crew at Momentum Recycling is bringing unprecedented curb-side glass recycling to our city. Someone is taking bold steps that will enable us all to recycle empty wine bottles, salsa jars, and then some. Hollar.

I got to take an awe-inspiring tour of the Momentum facility with President/CEO, John Lair. He walked me through each step in the glass-recycling process, and blew my mind with fancy machinery and recycling facts. These folks are doing absolutely everything they can to be local, sustainable, and useful to our community, and we love it. Glass isn’t just being recycled here...it’s also being put directly back into local products such as fiberglass, containers, and water filtration. In fact, everything that the facility produces [the bottles, paper, bottle caps, even the dust] is being put to re-use as raw material in new manufacturing. The goal? a ‘zero waste’ facility that brings recycling to the next level. Momentum has also teamed up with the Odyssey House of Utah, providing employment to individuals looking for a second chance at life. Come on. Talk about good karma. It's all ‘environment first, business second’ 'tude over here, and it's moving Salt Lake toward a cleaner, brighter future. It's a big deal. Keep reading...

What is Momentum Recycling? Momentum Recycling is best summed up as a Zero Waste Company. Our mission is helping our community to reduce landfill waste. In pursuit of that goal, we have chosen to do a range of things: 1) help businesses recycle as much as possible, and help them change consumption patterns to result in lower landfill volumes. 2) Help our overall community to recycle things that have been hard to recycle around here; we’ve chosen to start with glass. In the future, we may work on how to keep other hard to recycle items out of the landfill.

How and when did Momentum get its start? Momentum started in March 2008, when we saw how hard it was for businesses to get help and advice on how to be more sustainable & environmentally responsible. The landscape has changed a lot in those few short years, but back then, there were few service providers to turn to for such help. Now there are a wider range of providers that can help businesses reduce landfill waste, and we hope we have been a part of that change.

Your slogan is 'Moving Communities Toward Zero Waste'.  Is that attainable? At this point, zero waste is probably not attainable, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Certainly, there is a lot of room for improvement in how we as a community manage our waste stream. We’re focusing on helping businesses at least start with the simple, easy to do things. The low hanging fruit, so to speak. Then alongside that, we’re also figuring out how to make the harder stuff easier, like we’ve been doing with glass.

What do you think is the best thing about Momentum Recycling? The amazing people who choose to work here. We have a very passionate, well-trained and educated staff who are all committed to reducing landfill waste in a friendly, cooperative manner; they know that we’re not here to judge or sound preachy, we’re here to educate businesses and residents on how to reduce their waste, and to provide such services where needed. And all of our staff gets that, and works hard at it every day.

What have been some of the challenges with glass recycling in Salt Lake in the past? The big ones have been requiring residents to sort by color, only having a few drop-off locations available along the Wasatch Front, and not having enough local uses for the recycled glass.

How much recycling is actually happening in our community now? And where would like to see it in the next 5-10 years? National average recycling rates are 34.1% for all waste (EPA, 2010), with glass recycling rates being 33.4% nationally (also EPA, 2010).

In Utah, our overall recycling rate is in the mid to high 20’s (%), with a glass recycling rate around 4-5%. In the next 5 years, Momentum would like to see the recycling rates in our community, the Wasatch Front, get more in line with these national averages. In the next 10 years, we would like to see closer to 50% of our waste stream being diverted away from landfills and into recycling facilities, composting facilities, and other environmentally-positive outlets.

Where do you see your company headed? How will you continue to expand to meet our city's recycling needs? We have a lot on our plates right now with the glass plant. So we are focused on growing glass recycling along the Wasatch Front, while continuing to serve the business community in SLC. Thankfully, many other (and larger) companies are increasing recycling services in our area; all the big waste service providers now offer single stream recycling, and more and more communities are getting on board. As this happens, Momentum will continue to look for those areas where recycling is hard; maybe we’ll look at food waste, or hazardous waste collection. We have no plans beyond our currently full plates, but my guess is that you’ll see Momentum taking the lead in something like that down the road.

How can each of us, as residents of Salt Lake City [and the world], be more responsible about recycling? Help us help you. Recycle more glass! And tell your neighbors to recycle their glass. Encourage people who live outside of SLC proper to contact their city and/or county to request that glass recycling options be provided. The more they hear that residents want recycling services, the more likely they are to provide them.

Empower us with some accurate recycling knowledge. Can you give us some rules and guidelines, or tips? By recycling about 30% of our waste every year, Americans save the equivalent of 11.9 billion gallons of gasoline and reduce the greenhouse gas equivalent of taking 25 million cars off the road. Recycling is a daily activity for more than 100 million Americans and a great way to protect our environment and stimulate our economy. Recycling saves resources, prevents pollution, supports public health, and creates jobs. It saves money, avoids landfills, and best of all, it’s easy.

· Nearly 90% of what we throw away could potentially be recovered through reuse, recycling or composting.

· More Americans recycle than vote.

· There are roughly 9,000 curbside recycling programs and 12,000 drop-off centers across the country.

· Some communities currently recycle and compost more than 60% of their waste [not ours!]

Landfilling is not a sustainable-planning approach. Landfills are the largest source of human-caused methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. When recycled materials are used in place of virgin materials during manufacturing, we avoid the environmental damage caused by mining for metals, drilling for petroleum, and harvesting trees. Recycling and remanufacturing are 194 times more effective in reducing green-house gas emissions than landfilling and virgin manufacturing.

Recycling creates jobs. For every one job at a landfill, there are ten jobs in recycling processing and 25 jobs in recycling-based manufacturing. The recycling industry employs more workers than the auto industry. Check out our signage attached for guidelines on what materials are acceptable and what are considered contaminants.

We focused mainly on glass, and you guys process all the glass there at the plant. You also offer a collection service of other recyclables. How much of your business is dealing with these other materials, and where are they going? From your collection truck straight to the appropriate recyclers? Or is there some sorting going on at your facility? Should we be doing anything different than putting stuff in our 'blue cans'? Yes, these other items go from our truck to the responsible recyclers; there is no sorting or stockpiling of these items in our plant. This includes styrofoam, batteries, CFL bulbs. We also partner with Metech for e-waste recycling; we don’t collect it, but if someone needs e-waste, we help them get set up with Metech. The only things we cannot handle ourselves is hazardous waste; we are not permitted for such activities, so we encourage our clients and any interested parties to take hazardous waste to the landfill themselves, or to the various hazardous waste collection events that occur in town throughout the year. As responsible citizens, we should all strive to keep these items out of our bins at home, and ensure that they do not get into our food and water supply!

 

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