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Single-Stream Recycling vs. Source Separation

Single-stream and source separation. You may already know these terms, or they may mean nothing to you. Each is a different way of handling recycling; two schools of thought on the best way to collect and process all reusable materials. And while recycling in any form is obviously a good thing, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. So let’s look at the differences between single-stream and source separation recycling:

Single-Stream
All recyclables, including newspaper, plastic, aluminum, cardboard, and tin, are placed in the same bin. They’re collected and sorted at the recycling facility. This method has gained popularity over the last decade or so.

Advantages: Single-stream is more convenient for the customer, which can lead to more people deciding to recycle. It also is preferred when it comes to ease of collection and has lower collection costs.

Source Separation
Often called “sorted” recycling. The customer sorts each different type of recyclable – paper, plastic, and metal – into separate bins. Source separation was the predominant way of recycling up until the late 1990’s, and is still used in many communities today.

Advantages: While collection costs are higher, processing costs are considerably lower for source separation, because the sorting has already been done. Also it can reduce the risk of cross-contamination from different containers.

So which is better?
We want to stress that ANY method of recycling is a thousand time better than not recycling at all! But between the two, RedFish has chosen to use single-stream recycling because it’s easier for our customers. Time and time again, our customers have told us they love the convenience of combining everything in one bin, and it makes the whole process easier. An easier process equals more people recycling, and that’s good enough for us.

Learn more about single-stream recycling, along with what you can and can’t recycling with RedFish, by clicking here.