ONARCHITECTURE- Single-streamin': Why not try private sector recycling machine?
"Help is on the way, help that's really going to work," says Peter van der Linde, whose $11 million recycling facility should be operational in 60 to 90 days.
Developer and entrepreneur Peter van der Linde has a proposal that could save the City and the County millions and make recycling "everything on the planet except food waste" as easy as tossing it into a trash bin. The problem is, no body appears to be listening.
In the Rivanna Sewer and Water Authority's ongoing strategic plan to improve waste management and recycling services, one idea under review is the feasibility of building a $7 to $10 million Materials Recycling Facility (MRF). However, as previously reported in the Hook ["Coming soon! van der Linde's amazing recycling machine," February 14], van der Linde already has one– an $11-million, 100,000-square-foot recycling center near Zion Crossroads that includes a 270-foot state-of-the-art sorting machine, that he now hopes will be operational in 60 to 90 days.
Last December, van der Linde says he contacted RSWA director Tom Frederick and RSWA board chair Mike Gaffney– the two who are also leading the community into a controversial $143 million water project– to explain his services. Van der Linde, who already owns a container rental business, says he offered to rent his containers to the RSWA for free and process recyclables for "half the price that the RSWA says it could do it for."
While the RSWA projects a recycling rate of $100 per ton at its facility, van der Linde says his rate will be $49 per ton. (RSWA charges $66/ton to accept garbage.) Moreover, van der Linde says his facility will be capable of processing 340,000 tons of recyclables a year, while the RSWA's proposed facility would only process 25,000 tons annually. According to its own documents, RSWA is aiming for a recycling recovery rate (the amount of material that will actually be recycled) of 51 percent, but van der Linde says his facility will be LEED certified and have a 90 percent recovery rate. Finally, the RSWA says it could be years before a facility like this could be built, at taxpayer expense, while van der Linde's is nearly complete and ready to roll.
Van der Linde says he has yet to receive a response from RSWA officials, but he has had some interest from the City.
"He's talked with our public utilities manager but hasn't provided any formal proposal," says city spokesperson Ric Barrick. "We're certainly interested in finding out more about his plans."
As for the County, spokesperson Lee Catlin says it has been holding off on any decisions about committing to a future recycling program (she had no knowledge of van der Linde's proposal) until the RSWA completes its strategic plan– "so that we can make sure our efforts are coordinated with RSWA's future approach," she says.
Calls to recycling operations manager Bruce Edmonds were directed to Frederick, who says that it's too early in the RSWA's study to make a decision on the private sector machine.
Undeterred, van der Linde now says he's prepared to offer individual neighborhoods, schools, and other municipalities the same deal he offered the RSWA. For example, his container company would supply a neighborhood association with a permanent large container like the ones common on construction sites for free (neighbors would decide where to put it– perhaps on some municipal property, he suggests), and charge only a standard transportation and tonnage fee.
Unlike the City's curbside recycling program, or the popular recycling center on McIntire Road, which still requires donors to separate recyclables and takes only certain ones, literally everything but food waste can be tossed into van der Linde's containers, and they would be conveniently located nearby.
"Not only are we going to be separating materials," he explains, "but we're going to be preparing the materials for re-use."
This is where he hopes his gamble will pay off– in the emerging market for recyclables.
"All the recyclables that go into the facility will leave already processed," he says. "This stuff will basically go out the door gift-wrapped."
For example, a concrete and rock crusher rigged with a magnet can sort though construction debris, removing rebar and other metals, and leave it ready to be used as fill. The same goes for cardboard, paper, plastic, cement, carpet (including pad), glass, metals, brick, yard waste, wood, drywall, asphalt, styrofoam, and nearly everything else imaginable, which will all be prepared on site for re-use. (Anything intact, he says, will be sent to Habitat for Humanity.)
Van der Linde says he's come to the conclusion that source-separated recycling systems are inherently flawed because they're too complicated and labor-intensive. "People need to be real green to make it work on a large scale," he says.
In 2003, the County stopped its curbside recycling service for everything but newspapers because it had become too expensive. In its absence, the RSWA published a guide directing folks to drop various materials at different facilities– some of which can be dropped off only at certain times. The recycling guide is three single-spaced pages long. Meanwhile, the RSWA's strategic plan continues to analyze what one man may have already figured out.
"Participation in single-stream recycling skyrockets when it's put in place," says van der Linde. "Simply stated, I do the grunt work, and the public gets the glory. We can all be recycling evangelists when it's made this cheap and easy."