Recycling is without a doubt an intensive effort — if you are doing it right, that is. But here at Karl Schmidt Mfg. Inc., we dedicate our workdays to developing material handling systems like conveyor systems, dumpers, fluffers, and sorting systems so that recycling operations like yours can operate more efficiently. 

When it comes to the recycling industry, there is a lot of controversy regarding whether or not single-stream or dual-stream recycling efforts or more efficient than one another. That being said, when it comes down to it, the method of recycling that becomes more efficient is solely dependent on the size and intent of your recycling operation, as well as what material handling systems that you have in place. 

In today’s blog, we are going to be discussing in-depth the difference between single-stream and dual-stream recycling systems, as well as the positives and negatives of using each recycling method.   

What Are The Recycling Material Categories?

Category #1: Fibers

  • Mixed office paper and envelopes
  • Old Corrugated Cardboard (OCC)
  • Newsprint
  • Magazines and phone books 

Category #2: Containers

  • Glass and plastic bottles
  • Metal cans (aluminum)
  • Plastic

Non-Recyclables (Local Pickup)

  • Styrofoam
  • CDs, DVDs
  • Batteries
  • E-waste
  • Plastic bag/film plastic

Single-Stream & Dual-Stream Recycling — What’s The Difference

While recycling as a whole might be a complex process, the difference between the two most common material streams is rather black and white.

Single-Stream Recycling

As you might guess by the name, single-stream recycling is a material handling methodology that mixes all recycling materials (categories 1 and 2). If you have never heard of single-stream recycling, you might know it by its alternative name of “commingled recyclables.” Once the recyclables are collected, they must be sorted and processed using human and mechanical processes within the recycling facility.

Single stream recycling is the ideal form of recycling for the consumer that does not have time to sort the large volume of recyclable materials being used by their company or operation. That being said, single-stream recycling is still offered in residential settings. 

Dual-Stream Recycling

Dual-stream recycling is exactly what you might think that it is — a recycling system where paper and cardboard (category 1 materials) are separated from metal, glass, and plastic containers (category 2 materials) by the consumer before the recyclables are picked up by the recycling operation. Dual-stream recyclables are then inspected and sorted, but the sorting process is much less intensive as most of the sorting has already been completed. 

Stick Around For Part 2 Of today’s Blog Post

In today’s blog post, we began to discuss the difference between single-stream and dual-stream recycling and the differences between the two methodologies of sorting. However, as a material handling system manufacturer, we are a little more interested in discussing the logistics regarding the operational benefits and challenges associated with each recycling style — after all, for recycling companies like yours, the efficiency of each sorting style has an impact on your bottom line. 

Join us in part two of our blog to learn more and please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about single and dual-stream recycling systems, as well as how our material handling systems might interface with each sorting style.


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