Are you confused on what should go in your recycling bin and what shouldn’t at times – especially when it comes to the various Amazon packages? Listen to learn some tips on the right way to recycle & find out which metric of recycling Austin tops the nation in! In this episode, Jess and Mason chat with Richie Getter of Balcones Resources, a comprehensive environmental services company that specializes in recovering resources through recycling, document and product destruction, and alternative energy.
For more information on Balcones Resources, check out the video on the home page – https://www.balconesresources.com/
Check out Repreve, the recycled fiber company – https://repreve.com/
Here’s where to go to figure out how to recycle those flexibles – https://how2recycle.info/
Pretty ok transcript:
[00:00:00] Mason: Welcome to the mostly green life podcast. Today is one of our podcasts. We’re taking a deep dive into household waste. Richie getter is joining us from balconies resources who looks like a native Austinite. Is that true?
[00:00:24] Richie: That is true. Well, I was a born. I was born outside of Houston, but I grew up most of my life here, been here beyond 25 years.
So yeah, I’m an Austinite.
[00:00:35] Mason: It does count. And it’s my story as well. I was born in Memorial hospital kind of side of Houston and then been here since kindergarten.
[00:00:45] Richie: What high school did you go to you again? Dripping Springs. Oh, nice. Yeah, that was new back then.
[00:00:49] Mason: Yeah, it was
[00:00:50] Richie: still a little country country.
[00:00:54] Mason: Okay. So you’re also a second generation sustainability, pioneer. Thank you for. Third generation
[00:01:00] Richie: not. Yep. Wow. So runs in the family. I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing. Well, that in a long time, what was grandpa doing? Uh, he actually started a high-grade paper, stock recovery. Recycling plant in Dallas in the late seventies.
So, wow. He was kind of the pioneer, it was always paper. My uncle went to work with him, uh, Liam, not long after it started late seventies, early eighties. And then my dad, we moved to Dallas for a stint to join them. Uh, my dad joined them in, uh, sometime in the mid eighties, mid to late eighties. So yeah, I’ve been around it my whole life.
That’s also better or worse.
[00:01:44] Mason: And so as soon as you graduated college, you joined up with balconies. Yup. And it’s like a marquee story of you. Did you start out just sorting trash and then
[00:01:56] Richie: what else? It’s always been clean. Recycling, really? How we started was in, on a commercial, on the commercial side of recycling business to business.
So a lot of that. High-grade source separated material. So no trash whatsoever. Just to talk about my granddad a little bit, he was in the high grade paper stock, recycling business back in the day, Dallas used to be one of the largest printing hubs in the nation. So lots of huge printers there, huge printing market.
And that’s exclusively. What he did was, was set up recycling programs for the large. And, and all that stuff has a lot of value. All the higher grade white pulp sub type material stuff that you can put right in with a, with a Virgin pulp and make a nice, bright white product like tissue and tallying reading and writing papers.
So that’s kind of how it got started. And then we moved back to, we actually sold that business. My, my dad has. Help my granddad sell that business so he could retire. We moved to OSS back to Austin in 93, and my parents started balcony’s resources in 94. So I grew up in the plant as early as I could get on the payroll.
I was working part time started, you know? Yeah. I literally started sorting cardboard on the floor, you know, and like, Uh, I started working on my Spanish, you know, learning Spanish, you know, it was in the curriculum here, you know, in grade school, junior high and high school. So I almost actually minored in Spanish in college.
So, I mean, All of that, you know, as long with me as long as possible, uh, which has been a great value to this day, being bilinguals helped me out in many different ways. As you can
[00:03:41] Jess: imagine, we saw that your degree was in international relations. And so did that have to do
[00:03:46] Richie: with it a little bit? Yeah. And I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to go into this industry, um, I was at St.
Uh, back in oh 3 0 4. I don’t know if you remember. The job market was really tight. Um, that’s when I graduated. Yeah. Okay. So you
[00:04:01] Mason: knew it was December oh one, right after nine 11. And I graduated in the one year. After everyone could make money just by having a website, all of a sudden into nobody could.
[00:04:14] Richie: Right. And so the job market in Austin, as you remember, was so tight, like everybody was moving to Dallas or Houston to get there first to start their careers. I thought about moving to Colorado and just be in a snowboard bum for a couple of years and trying to figure it out. But I decided to go ahead really going into the business was my only way to stay in Austin.
And so I really wanted to stay in Austin. Yeah. Um, when I got out of school. So that was one
[00:04:42] Mason: does. Yeah. If we were one of the lucky ones I did too, there were, I graduated with a chemical engineering degree. And there was literally only two positions in Austin. Everyone had to go to Corpus Christi or Galveston, and Ryan joined on with one of the refineries and then a few people in it.
National instruments was hiring for a chemical engineer. And then I got hired by this, um, a consultant firm and we’re helping TCEQ file, uh, permits, uh, the oil. Industry. Yeah. So, and
[00:05:14] Richie: so you got to stay too. Yeah. And doing a little bit, it’s a hard decision. Um, and really balconies was still pretty small at that time.
So it wasn’t the, it was, oh, it’s a family business, which it actually, it was not if, uh, owned outright by my parents, um, a group of, uh, shareholders, you know, Get the whole company helped them get the whole company started. So it wasn’t like, I was just, oh yeah, come to work for balconies. Here’s your, your position Richie?
Cause you’re part of the family. Literally somebody who was leaving not long before I was graduating and my dad came to me and said, here’s a chance for you to, you know, if you want to stay in Austin, there’s a spot for you. And who knows when there may or may not be another one, you know, coming up. So I had to kinda try to figure out what I was going to do.
And that’s when actually that was when I was like a junior at St. Ed’s and that’s when I finally declared my major, because I didn’t know what I was going to do. Right. Um, and I was like, well, if I’m going to go stay in the recycling business, I might as well. Uh, cause we do a lot of business in Mexico and Latin America.
So international relations. International business was interesting. And then continuing studying Spanish is important. And I started going down there with, with my uncle on the fiber recycling side of things when I was probably 18 or 19 or some of my first experiences down there at some paper mill. So anyhow, that’s kind of the backstory on how I got involved with balconies and staying in Austin.
And now we’re 27 years old and. Um, we’ve grown to five facilities, about 250 employees. I mean, it’s, it’s been, uh, it’s been very educational for fear and, and that’s what I love about our industry and recycling in general, whether it’s paper, plastics, um, metals, whatever it is, composting is like, you’re always learning, like, you know, no one has no one just, uh, you know, knows it all and things evolve so much and so quickly and progress.
It doesn’t really get old because you’re always learning something new. So,
[00:07:20] Mason: yeah. Fascinating. You know, it, um, I, I think it’s more, I definitely rebelled against my dad. I didn’t want to follow in his footsteps. He was an organic gardener and very much an environmentalist. And so I was actually a young Republican for awhile and chemical engineering did not think I would be going into the environmental field, but I ended up coming full circle.
Was that, was it tough for you? Did you want to not do. Because your family was doing it or were you, were you into
[00:07:48] Richie: it because it was good work? Well, no, I mean, I just, I thought it was interesting, you know, anytime somebody asks me, well, what do you do? And I’m like, I’m the commercial recycling business.
They’re just like, oh, wow. Really? What what’s that? You know? I mean, nobody knows what it is, right. It’s to me, it’s kind of, it was interesting in that same, it was not your typical career, right. Or a way to support the family. Right. And the fact that. I’m now third generation and decided to go down that path.
It’s um, you know, it’s been fulfilling. It’s been, it’s been a great experience. Um, I’ve been, I guess, some been there now with the company full-time 16 years. Wow. So over 16 years I actually started our plastics recycling part of the pioneer that, huh? Yeah, the company. Cause we were traditional paper recyclers.
Um, I started, um, kind of doing the due diligence and research and on how to different polymer types who were in your, the chemical engineer. So you should be the, actually the polymer expert here. I’m surprised most chemical engineers I’ve talked to. Polymer wizard, you know, I loved the
[00:08:58] Mason: materials. It’s my favorite class.
[00:09:02] Richie: And what’s funny is that I actually flunked chemistry in high school. And here I am like, you know, in the plastics processing plastics business. Anyhow, it’s relatable now though. Yeah. Yeah. I’m not as good with formulas on the board, but I can understand. How you build this stuff and blend materials together and make compounds and products and things of that nature.
But, um, anyhow, to your question, I started the plastic side of the business about 2008 ish, somewhere in there. So kind of when I got out of school, I was worked in the plant operations and then from there kind of stepped into a sales role and then sales slash business development got to know a lot of our local customers.
We have a facility in Dallas. Uh, or we, we do now, and that was all our only second facility at the time. Um, it started to get to know both markets, Austin and Dallas. And then that’s kinda, when I went off on my own, we were trying to understand how we could generate get some, uh, other, uh, revenue generate revenue from other sources besides just being a one dimensional paper recycler.
Um, and so that’s kinda what. Dug in and started to try to figure out the plastics thing, which was very difficult, trying to figure all that out on your own. However we did, what made it possible is that we had all the infrastructure in place to do it already. So, and then we had some of the customer, our current clients.
I already had some of these products, right. So we just tried to expand our services. Um, and we also did that in the product and document destruction business as well. Uh, just to try to diversify because when you’re in to save
[00:10:43] Mason: any documents for ACE in the hole, later on,
[00:10:49] Richie: they had been shredded already, but they’re there, but since we’re in the commodities markets and that that’s our finished product, those markets are up and down.
All the time. And so to weather those, the downmarkets yet, you know, you’ve got to have service revenue, you’ve got to be involved in a lot of different commodities, diversify, diversify. So do you have any,
[00:11:12] Mason: uh, jealous siblings that think that business has been handed to you?
[00:11:16] Richie: Uh, not really.
[00:11:19] Mason: Well. That’s good.
[00:11:20] Richie: Not really on TV. It seems like there’s always drama. Yeah. I only had one, two. I only have one sister. She didn’t have any interests. And being in the business, uh, had a couple cousins that, that worked with us for a while, but yeah, nobody really cares about being in the recycling. It’s a dirty job.
Just like the show.
[00:11:42] Mason: Yeah. I mean, I would want to, I would refer to myself as being at waste management and try to say it in an Italian accent, even
[00:11:50] Richie: though those recycling, but, and that’s what I like to call it, resource recovery. And that’s part of the reason why. We named the company, balconies resources, cause really what we’re handling our resources and have value within the supply chain.
So, you know, people often know you sort through the trash and when, when y’all bring the trash in, I’m like, we’re not, we don’t bring trash. We bring in recyclables, we bring in stuff that has value. Now it might be co-mingled. There might be a little bit of contamination in there. Um, now that we’re in the post-consumer world, Which happened in 2012.
Prior to that, we were strictly business to business commercial, um, light sorts, uh, very rudimentary, um, infrastructure in terms of sortation. Yeah. And a lot of source separated clean material. Now we still do that today, but now we’re handling post-consumer curbside material as well, which really is, which really is a little bit more of a dirty job than the commercial stuff.
All about training of the
[00:12:48] Mason: person is, yeah,
[00:12:50] Richie: exactly.
[00:12:52] Jess: There’s a certain threshold where if there’s contamination up to a certain percent, like the whole. Needs to be tossed. Is that correct? Or what is that
[00:13:00] Richie: threshold? That’s a good question. I mean, that’s subjective, right? Has sometimes half the live really 20, 30% is probably typically what we see, not on every load, but, uh, that comes in from say a third-party holler or even our own stuff.
Well, our own stuff is not curbside. Our own stuff is that we actually pick up and haul is single commercial single stream. Got to understand that commercial single stream is different than residential single stream. And you probably saw that in the video that I showed you, we separate the tipping floor into two piles.
Cause those compositions are very different residential, having more contamination, more contamination, less Assisi heavy, which is cardboard. For those of you that start using I’ll start using acronyms here and people are going to be like, what are you talking about? Sorry about that. Commercial single stream is more OCC, cardboard.
Whereas residential single stream is more container heavy and it’s typically has more contamination. It’s a great video.
[00:14:03] Mason: We’ll put the link to it in the show notes. We, we wanted to go on a tour and unfortunately COVID, didn’t allow
[00:14:09] Richie: that dealing with some COVID madness and trying to protect our employees there.
But I think, you know, this was kind of just bad timing. I think literally within the next few weeks to a month, we’re going to kind of get back to. I haven’t people at the facility, but really only our essential folks or the
[00:14:25] Jess: video was really informative. I thought it was a really cool process. Something that I hadn’t considered, what it looked like and the way that everything is separated out.
It’s like an engineer’s dream. I’m watching
[00:14:36] Richie: those types of videos. Yeah. Yeah. And sorry. And we’re actually want to do a new one that one’s a little dated, but it was. The process is still more or less the same. Um, it gives you an idea, just kind of like what goes on at a single stream Murph, you know, how it works.
So what does mark stand for? Material recovery facility or materials? Plural. I don’t know what the. You could have a debate on that facility or material recovery? Probably not many people
[00:15:06] Mason: debate it, but
[00:15:08] Richie: no, they do. I would, yeah.
[00:15:10] Jess: I think one of our big questions that we have for you is, you know, Most people have several Amazon packages delivered throughout the month and they all come in various forms of packaging.
And so we kind of wanted to ask you which ones can be recycled and which ones can not, are you ready? So we
[00:15:26] Richie: got a layers, the samples I was going to say, I don’t see anything on the table. I mean, I can try to get back to your Amazon deliveries. I’ll tell you what I can’t. I just can’t believe. They would put out the white and blue bubble man.
Right? So that’s the first one. It’s a Jeff basis. If you’re watching, I mean, how dare you? Those are littered everywhere and you can’t do anything with them right now. They’re not recycled and they’re, and they’re very difficult
[00:15:54] Mason: because it says store drop-off. And so that’s just like a way around it. Well,
[00:16:00] Richie: You can go drop it off at a store.
That store drop-off is still going to probably be 50% contaminated. It goes back to DC, which then goes to a, say a film, flexible plastic converter. Who’s not happy about getting that, that material that’s highly contaminated because it was a store drop. You know, it was done at the front of the store. So that’s a way that that whole model has needs a ton of improvement for, for it to actually.
But really as a consumer, are you really going to take the time to go take your three bubble mailers back to the store? Like in your busy day? I just, most people don’t do that. They don’t have the time for that stuff like that. A big issue. Now you’ll see the flexible mailers. You know, if you’re not getting a box, a lot of folks are converting to paper, paper, mailers.
Obviously that can go in your mixed paper, your OCC. The
[00:16:56] Mason: one. What about the paper with the bubble wrap
[00:16:59] Richie: inside of it? Paper outside bubble wrap inside. Yeah. Still like a, yeah, like a landfill, basically like a Manila folder with a bubble. Yeah. You can’t, you can’t separate, you can’t separate it. Folks have in packaging manufacturers.
Are getting better at designing for recyclability. And that’s kind of, but not at Amazon, but well, they are actually getting better. They’re making some improvements there because those old, uh, blue and white mailers, you still get them a little bit today, but they’re phasing those out and those are kind of old school.
Yeah. So now
[00:17:34] Mason: you kind of get the gray bag and that seems like.
[00:17:39] Richie: There’s some soluble. Um, what do you call it? Basically the protection that would be the LDPE bubble wrap. There is, um, some water-soluble, uh, protection inside lined inside, like a corrugated flexible mailer. Right. And so all of that. That’s highly recyclable, which is great.
And so there’s been a big movement from some of these packaging companies to, to begin, um, put, you know, using those that are more, uh, recycled, friendly and designed for recycling. So when they come into a MERF, we can actually recover them. They’re not a container, they’re not a contaminant, they don’t hinder our process and they can go right into a couple of buckets of grades of fiber that we make.
So that’s great. Um, Progress being made. There’s a long way to go, but all right. So
[00:18:27] Mason: blue and white socks paper with the bubble wrap inside socks, the gray bags that they seem to be moving into. Those are better. I thought film though.
[00:18:37] Jess: Concept machinery sometimes is that,
[00:18:39] Richie: yeah, flexibles in G in general coming into our facility, like a single stream Murph, very difficult right now, a lot of folks, and these are all issues that y’all are hitting on that are at the height of the industry right now.
So all of this stuff is trying to be addressed because it’s been a problem for so long. That’s great. Uh, and we’ve got, um, you know, there’s a lot of corporate sustainability goals out there, right? Yeah. Folks are finally putting money where their mouth is, and really trying to drill down on some of this stuff to meet specific goals by certain timelines.
So, yeah, flexibles. Oh, gosh, man, we, we don’t have enough time to even get in that we can talk. We can do a podcast on flexible recycling if you wanted.
[00:19:24] Mason: Well, I think we’ll want to
[00:19:25] Richie: do that. Yeah, but I’ll do an overview. This one, I’ll try to sum it up quickly. There is being research with technology within the Murph space.
And, uh, separation from 2d and 3d in the Merce face on how to address flexibles coming in, say through your curbside program. Now you can, we recycle film on the commercial side all day long. Um, if it’s say from a distribution center, you know, where they’re unwrapping pallets constantly, then stick that right in a baler and bale their film or bail their, their cardboard.
And you know, that. That’s value added, clean, ready resource. So yeah, clean resource. So when it’s from the commercial side, plenty of market value, that works great. When you introduce it into a curbside program for the consumer, that’s where it becomes difficult on what we’re doing. Operating a Murph. Not only is it flexible and it wraps around equipment, it jams things up.
Yeah. All kinds of films out there right now. And you know, you got propylene films, you got multilayered films, you’ve got stuff with print, no print, LDP LLDP stuff with a whole bunch of nylon coatings on it. I mean, the list goes on and on. And so that’s where it’s, we’re trying to narrow as an industry, the design down.
So it is more recycle, friendly, you know? And so anyhow, that, that, that is, uh, uh, flexibles in the. Is something that’s trying to be figured out right now with a couple of different studies. It’s okay. Still pretty early on. So
[00:20:54] Mason: question mark on that, I’ve come across as just a couple of times. It’s like a paper container, but then it stuffed almost with like yarn.
You ever seen it that it’s like loose material inside as patting? Or it’s like, it’s like an envelope with stuffed with stuff, um, in between like,
[00:21:16] Richie: like paper
[00:21:16] Mason: confetti. Yeah. Yeah. But almost yarn. There’s a little strings in there and threads. I feel like they had to have recycled something to then stuff in that, but it sounds like you’re not from,
[00:21:27] Richie: well, I mean, I’ve seen the, how they’ve shredded up, like fibers to be fluffy and protective.
Anything that’s fiber based is good to go. Good to go. Yeah. But as long as we’re not mixing fiber and. And plastic together, like literally gluing them together. It’s
[00:21:46] Mason: not that they’re
[00:21:47] Jess: a little messy, which is not a big deal if it can be recycled, but I think they’re messy because there is no plastic,
[00:21:53] Mason: the side,
[00:21:54] Richie: it goes anywhere.
And really that’s a better alternative to polystyrene peanut. ’cause, you know, the peanuts you get. I mean that can’t be recovered in a Murph again,
[00:22:06] Mason: and they just blow everywhere.
[00:22:07] Richie: And then the environment not hating on the polystyrene folks out there, but because I love my, my poly mix. I love my expanded polystyrene, styrofoam cup and the summertime.
Uh, they there’s great uses, but in terms of recyclability very difficult now, Difficult. And I have to say this within folks in our own industry, because some folks just don’t know difficult to recycle in a post-consumer curbside program for us to recover it in the. You can recycle EPS all day long, commercially again, back to my analogy on a distribution center, you know, you take a rooms to go distribution center.
I mean, they have their own EPS compactors in there. They’re, you know, they’ve got all that stuff coming back to them. A lot of foam they’re densifying that stuff. And there’s healthy markets for, for, for secondary EPS, but you just can’t. You can apply that into a curbside program. I mean, if you think about it, you think about putting peanuts and foam cups and all that stuff in your recycle bin, and then.
Compacted with everything else in the truck. And then it gets dumped on our floor. It’s just like, it’s snowing everywhere. It’s just like, it’s just, it’s just contaminating everything, you
[00:23:26] Mason: know? Okay. Big inside boxes. You have those air pockets that they use.
[00:23:32] Richie: For, um, you know, like seal there. Yeah. Yeah. So that’s just, that’s the going back to the flexible also anything that’s made out of LDPE or LDPE film, whether it’s protective or, well, most of it all is protective from a, um, from a shipping standpoint, it’s all considered flexibles.
So that falls into the conversation we, we just had.
[00:23:55] Mason: Yeah, I guess so then, should our listeners put those in the recycle banner? Not.
[00:24:02] Richie: No. Yeah, no flexibles as 20 going into 20, 22, do not put flexibles and he’s going to go, they
[00:24:09] Mason: have the little, they’ll have the symbol on it, which I guess we’ll get to in a little bit about misleading that, right?
[00:24:15] Richie: No. Yeah. Take your flexibles back to the front of best buy or whatever the store drop-off program. Uh, how to recycle label on there. You can QR code that there’s already questioning whether or not that works. I’m not, I’m not a policy expert. Okay. I’m I am literally an operational type guy and that’s my experience.
So I don’t get too involved in like, What’s happening in every state and who’s doing what and, but yeah, around the recycle label and how to there’s, there’s some stuff that will help you. And then there’s some stuff that’s misleading and it’s all about. The big push in the industry right now, which I’ll give a shout out to Steve Alexander and APR association of plastics, recyclers, and Emily DePaulo in the U S plastics pack is trying to consolidate all this information that is actually indeed correct information with regards to the recycling infrastructure that we have in north America today.
So everyone is on the same page. And there’s different municipalities states, all things sending mixed messages to everyone. And that’s why we’re here having this podcast because everyone’s so confused. Like what do I put in my bin or what, uh, you know, I don’t know what’s recyclable anymore. Cause you know, this Ben says you can put it in.
This has been says, you can’t like it’s. Yeah. It’s, it’s confusing as hell. So we’re trying to consolidate all that or those folks are, um, NGOs and, you know, other folks out there that, that are stakeholders in the industry, um, like ourselves and, and, and resin manufacturers and packaging manufacturers are all trying to understand how we wrap our arms around this massive gorilla and get some kind of consistent.
Of clean product through, um, after it’s been used from the, yeah.
[00:26:07] Mason: Um, okay. Last two, Amazon related. Uh, one is the, um, the grocery delivery insulated bag. It’s like silver and it’s kind of bubble wrap. I mean, it’s fun.
[00:26:21] Richie: Let’s wear out Amazon on this.
[00:26:24] Mason: Well, we’re, I mean, we’re going to do a little Amazon 1 0 1 and we, I mean, we
[00:26:29] Jess: get a lot of Amazon packages and we get a lot of whole foods deliveries through Amazon.
So this is like personal questions where like, what do you do? Sure.
[00:26:36] Richie: So, so like the refrigerated yeah. Bags
[00:26:40] Mason: and you know, it’s flexible. So
[00:26:43] Richie: good one. But is it reusable? They don’t even
[00:26:45] Mason: say. I mean, yeah. Yeah.
[00:26:48] Jess: I don’t think they like tout for consumers too.
[00:26:51] Richie: And that’s another big thing. If you don’t have it on your list is reusable containers and really, you know, to quit relying so much on single use plastics is let’s get into some reusable.
Um, models. And that is, that is beginning to be more prevalent, become kind of in the limelight. There’s still a lot of how do we do it from an infrastructure standpoint and how did the logistics work and talk about entrepreneurial? That space is very entrepreneurial right now. There’s a lot of that going on in Europe, different set of circumstances there, but plenty of folks trying to.
Or in that space now in north America and it’s, everybody’s taking note and realizing, Hey, let’s just reuse something 50 times. And then recycle it versus making all this single use stuff. Yeah. Especially
[00:27:42] Mason: for kind of the plastic crisis that we’re in. There’s I know we’ve replaced a lot of our kind of household cleaners and such with the water-soluble pods, and then you’d throw them into one container that we reuse.
And, uh, we have a couple of brands that we love have that one last question. So on the boxes and even grocery delivery, those bags, the adhesive label, do you need. Tell people to remove tape and labels before recycling or does it
[00:28:10] Richie: matter? No, Adam labels are okay. Okay. Um, great. I can stop doing that. So when you, but on, on what kind of bag is it?
[00:28:20] Mason: the, the one where the label seems, the stickiest it’s grocery delivery again, but the plot, the paper bags, they send most of it in paper bags with the label where they close the lid. And so it’s a white label that identifies which order it goes
[00:28:34] Richie: with. Oh, okay. And that’s for the entire bag, right?
Yeah. It’s like with your name on it or whatever. Yeah. Yeah. You can, you can leave those on there. Okay. Um, I mean, if you want to take them off, it’s easier for the plastic convert. You know, to deal with. Cause, but cause he, you know, he doesn’t have that label in that adhesive. Yeah. But um, I’d say, well, I mean, don’t, you know, it’s like devil’s advocate here, but the plastic converters they’ve got equipment in for, you know, I mean, they’ve gotta be prepared for some level of contamination, just like we do at the MERF.
So, so there’s equipment to take that kind of stuff out to purify that. Well, you’re talking about paper, right? Thinking about plastic. Sorry, but same thing on the, on the fiber converters, they can, they can take small amounts of, of labels and labeling and adhesives, or like a S something. If it’s paper clip to a bag, or I make, I’m sorry, stapled to a bag, little pieces of metal.
That’s not a big deal. Little pieces of tape, et cetera. So
[00:29:37] Mason: going back to plastics could maybe give us a quick rundown of the, kind of one through seven. Uh, what’s good. What’s, you know, easy to recycle. What’s not
[00:29:50] Richie: sure.
[00:29:51] Jess: Um, context with that too, is something that we’ve read. It was specific to New York city in their immunity.
Thank you. Um, and they pretty much said you can’t there’s I think like four that you can’t recycle at all. And so the different organizations that you mentioned that are trying to standardize things would be helpful. So with that New York city information that we got, we were curious in
[00:30:14] Mason: Texas,
[00:30:14] Richie: right?
Yeah. So with regards to in markets and what really has value right now, it’s number one, pet bottles, number two, HDPE bottles, high density. poly-A. Well color and natural. So naturals, all your milk jugs, colors, all your detergent bottles, LDP containers, and polypropylene containers. As they’re going to be all your tubs and lids, all your margarine butter.
I’m trying to think of what else is now that you put me on the spot. I can’t think of a polypropylene and too deep in it tubs and yeah, I went to tubs and led soda bottles. Some of them are ice cream, uh, for. So two bottles are number one, pet Sarasota, water bottles, you know, your typical single serve, 12 ounce, whatever 16 ounce, 20 ounce bottle.
Um, so number ones, number twos, fours and fives, tubs, and lids heavily on the fives. But, um, polyethylene is still pilot recyclable. What’s difficult is PVC and polystyrene. And then of course, seven other is just honestly, it’s it’s garbage, unfortunately. And I don’t know. Who came up with the seven, Hey, it’s other, but it’s recyclable because really it’s just a blend of a bunch of polymers that nobody can really reprocess effect.
And that’s getting into the chemistry side of things that, you know, in, into your background in medical engineering background tells you why a number seven, it’s not going to be is not going to work for them. Yeah. My mind
[00:31:45] Mason: immediately went to there’s different polymers. I mean, how do you even separate them?
Because you can’t process.
[00:31:52] Richie: It’s at different temperatures. You’ve got people putting additives in this stuff to, to make it a more rigid or more flexible. I mean, you got color, you got all kinds of different stuff that it’s not just the polymer. So when you go to recycle it, it can, it can be very, if it’s not a clean designed for recycling.
Or for recyclability, which is where we’re all trying to move. Then it’s, it’s too difficult to process. Oh, polystyrene, great material. Uh, your number six polystyrene, just knowing market from a post-consumer standpoint, which is unfortunate right now. And what is it’s recycled? Yeah. That’s so that’s, that’s expanded polystyrene, so believe it or not, they make other rigid polystyrene containers, food grade containers, Thermo forms, things of that nature that could be, or sometimes, yeah.
So Thermo forms are all your two NGOs and all your, uh, produce packaging in the, in the grocery stores. Um, but you’ve got people making that stuff at all different. All different kinds of, of material. The main stay is pet, and there’s a big push for pet Thermo form recycling. Right now it’s still in its infancy.
But again, those folks that are actively seeking that material are just actively seeking pet, not the polystyrene. You know, there’s not enough polystyrene and you can’t. Um, P T makes up most of the market share in the, in the Thermo form world, if I had to guess. So the other polymers that are Thermo forums, it’s just not enough material in the stream for, for it to be recovered and send to an in-market.
But polystyrene is a good material is just not there. There aren’t any in markets for it from a post-consumer stage. So it all ends up
[00:33:37] Mason: in a landfill eventually. And you know, that it’s what we’re here in is basically on plastics. We as consumers, our goal should be to figure out how to reuse or use. And then kind of, you know, if none of that works, uh, then hopefully it’s something that can be,
[00:33:54] Richie: yeah, it’s reuse first, obviously.
Well reduce right. Reuse, recycle, just like we learned, but reuse is obviously what we’re trying to push society towards. Right? The new consumers, the younger folks like us, you know, that are. Uh, shift and, and consumerism as that’s began, why we’re sitting here today talking about it. We’re more conscious about this, right.
Then maybe our parents were, and our grandparents were so there’s this big shift in consumerism. And, um, I just think that the reuse model is, is very credible and it’s just going to take some time for that infrastructure to be built out. But yeah. The reuse, then you recycle what you can, you design for recycling.
So in the event you can’t reuse, it can go back into the supply chain and have value for someone somewhere into new packaging. And then beyond that, I mean, there’s some, you know, whatever’s left over out of that, which hopefully at the end of the day, it’s not much, you know, you’ve got all the discussion of chemical recycling, pyrolysis and gasification, some of these other processes.
That can de polymerization. It’s a bunch of, there’s a bunch of them out there that basically break the monomers down into two, um, the plastic down into single monomer, feedstocks that they can put back into the new resin, but that’s still, there’s still a lot of that has to be proven on that ground.
There’s a lot of hype and there’s a lot of money being thrown at that right now. So we’ll, we’ll see what that looks like in another five years, but yeah,
[00:35:28] Mason: there’s a lot of. There’s a lot of byproducts there, which is probably not very nice chemicals.
[00:35:34] Richie: And then carbon into your point, carbon emissions, you know, does the Kim, what does that look like from a carbon footprint standpoint?
You know, just to keep something from being, um, headed to the landfill, but in general, that’s kind of pallets laid out there now as an industry in, in terms of landfill avoidance, right?
[00:35:53] Mason: Um, are there things that you wish people would stop putting in recycling that they’re currently putting in?
[00:36:03] Richie: The wish cycling. That’s just throw up a thing of just Google, a YouTube wish cycling
[00:36:10] Mason: or aspirational recycling. It
[00:36:12] Richie: was the same thing. Yeah. So I mean, Gar garden hose, bowling balls, tennis shoes, uh, diapers. Um, I mean they do the full gamut. Oh my gosh. I mean, they might not even know. What they’re there? Oh, this cans, just whatever.
It’s a, it’s a trashcan, whether it’s blue or brown. I lineation just throw it in there, which is unfortunate because we’ve seen contamination rates rise over the last couple of years in north America across the board and yeah, it’s, it’s approaching and on average, in a Murph setting around 20%. It used to be less than that.
When we started in 2012 processing post-consumer curbside material, our contamination was only like 13, 14%, which is pretty good. And so, um, and we’ve seen that now get closer to 20, I think it’s like 18, 19. Um, as a wish cycling, cycling, not enough education, producer responsibility, not designing for recycling.
I mean, we’ve got to basically go through the recyclables and take out what has no value or no market today. Now, if we could recycle it, if we, if there was a market for it all, we would, it. Yep. You know, we would spend the money on technology and equipment to do that, but until that kind of catches up, there’s this big gap in, in, um, infrastructure now in north America.
So until that kind of catches up in the demand for some of these other materials picks up, we can’t go, we wouldn’t, we would, we would go broke. If we were trying to sort everything that came through, you know, we ended up with
[00:37:50] Mason: a fair amount. Got it, entrepreneurial, um, conversation on those podcasts. So if anyone wants polystyrene, someone needs to figure out how to use polystyrene.
[00:38:01] Richie: Right? Well, and, and, and not necessarily EPS for anybody that’s watching out there, maybe EPS, but not in immerse setting, but polystyrene containers, anything is polystyrene. Create a market for that. And a while you might have a winner there,
[00:38:18] Mason: Jessica’s got a beta. Recycled plastics. Right. And,
[00:38:22] Jess: um, yeah, it’s made from recycled water bottles.
Each bathing suit has made from six laundry where?
[00:38:31] Richie: Yeah. Polyester. So pet bottle can go back to a bottle or it can be broken down into yarn and just go back into textiles. Cool. So it’s got, got a few different applications, which is cool. And that’s, you know, that’s a big deal right now is, you know, when we go to buy stuff, it’s nice to see that, oh, wow.
You know, this is 30%, 50% recycled polyester, which comes from a bottle. And you know that they went through the recycling system.
[00:38:57] Jess: You guys have you seen a larger demand for y’alls bailed or cube? Materials, because of all these companies that are coming out and trying to utilize. Um,
[00:39:08] Richie: finally we have this year has been a little bit of an anomaly that the, actually the prices for ethylene and propylene and pet the bottles have risen significantly.
They have started to come down now. So 30 days or so, and that typically happens towards the end of the year anyway, in our industry, in the commodities, uh, world. But, uh, we have, we, you know, which is a good thing. I mean, just folks are more conscientious about buying recycled stuff with recycled content.
So therefore, you know, these companies are saying, Hey, What’s our Delta on the shelf, essentially, you know, by do we have, if we have to pay a little bit more for recycled content versus Virgin to have maybe a better shelf space or to have our product fly off the shelf faster. Because again, going back to the shift in consumerism.
They’re starting to recognize that and see those dollars and cents. And that’s kind of my big question is what is the Delta on that for a say, uh, and I’m not picking on anybody, but let’s just say like a Procter and gamble that makes a lot of our household goods. If they’re paying more for this strictly an example, more for recycled resin content in the products that they have in the grocery store, what is the Delta between that versus.
If they didn’t do that, if they didn’t use recycled content and their products didn’t move. And so that’s a, you know, talk about data that we were talking about earlier, before we even hop on the mic here, that’d be a good one to see on like what, what that really looks like from a, from a modeling stance.
[00:40:44] Mason: it kind of fits with other things. We’re hearing that. I mean, really this is a place where consumers really can have an impact if you’re actually going out and buying these things that are made from recycled materials. Sure. That it’s impacting
[00:41:00] Richie: the market. Sure. It is. And I mean, you should buy recycled, um, because that’s just, you’re helping the environment.
I mean, not, not only are you helping businesses like ours thrive and. Going out there to justify raising capital and investing in building out infrastructure. I mean, it’s, it’s what the good for the earth, right? It’s, what’s good for carbon emissions. You know, all these things that tie into everything that we love is traveling, being outdoors, all these things that we like to do.
That should weigh on your mind. I think it’s the right thing to do. I think a lot of folks, our age are beginning to realize that, Hey, you know, I’d rather have this container that’s, you know, by this detergent container that has 30% recycled recycled content or by the swimsuit that has 40% polyester content.
And it’s just praises the folks like Patagonia and yeah, they were a leader in putting. Recycled polyester from bottles in their products, you know, and that, at least for me, I love Patagonia and I love the outdoors. So when I S when I kinda noticed that years, I mean, they’ve already been doing it a long time.
Yeah. But when they really started to market it, it was, it was so new to people, you know, and just think about all the soft goods now, out there that. You know, have some form of recycled content in there. Yeah. And I think
[00:42:22] Mason: there’s been a major strides made in the aesthetics of the product made with recycled.
My first pair of shoes that I bought that had. It had recycled. Um, I think it has rubber in it and literally the soles were a tire. All right. I’m like, okay, this is kind of hard to walk in, but helping the environment now Adidas has an entire sheet of made from recycled materials and it looks like a normal Adidas.
[00:42:48] Richie: So exactly. And it’s comfortable and it works. It’s just like, you know, over time things, progress and technology advancements. You know, it’s not the iPhone two anymore on your foot. You know, you got the deal we’re in the 13th generation. And so, you know, a lot of these companies have done well with trying to figure that out because it is hard.
It is to a certain extent. Or it can be more difficult to implement recycled content into a product just because it’s just sometimes not as consistent as Virgin material. I’m not going to say that that’s always the case, but it can be more difficult in terms of handling the material. But yeah, it’s the right thing.
[00:43:32] Mason: In our house. Uh, sometimes alcohol containers can make a, I’d probably say north of 80% of our, of our waste stream, depending on the
[00:43:41] Richie: weekend, depending on the weekends, Austin has the highest glass recycling percentage in the nation. But
[00:43:48] Mason: so in the store now you can buy wine in a box. Do you know if there is a hierarchy, if you’re going to the store and you’re getting some drinks for the weekend, or they’re like, what’s best practice.
[00:44:02] Richie: poor. I mean, aluminum and glass are highly recyclable. Glass is basically dirt. It’s silica very hard on our equipment. Very tough to manage, but it is highly recyclable. So really aluminum is the best choice that cause that’s infinitely recyclable. Right. And you’ll see a lot of folks that are moving their products out of a plastic bottle into an aluminum can.
Now the plastic number one P T bottle is still highly risky. But aluminum has been highly recyclable for much longer. Yeah. Pet bottles. So, you know, you see some brands moving to aluminum, which is, uh, which is great for sustainability.
[00:44:40] Mason: So aluminum can top pet yeah. Matter what you’re buying.
[00:44:43] Richie: Yeah. I mean, well, I don’t think I’ve ever had a whiskey guy, so, you know, I might get braided if I say aluminum over pet right now, either both of those are great.
What we, you mentioned wine in a box, a pouch in a box that, you know, again, not a good design for recycling. Um, again, the pallet is what we’re calling flexibles and then you’ve got that of
[00:45:11] Mason: less waste. But. It is actual waste, whereas the bottle is actually recyclable,
[00:45:17] Richie: right? Yeah. So, I mean, even if you take that pouch out of the box and recycle the box, you’ve got this patch that really doesn’t, it’s not flexible.
It’s not doing anything for anybody right now
[00:45:29] Mason: have several layers of
[00:45:30] Richie: films on it. You’ve got it. Then you’ve got a spout on there. That’s like polypropylene and that, which is a different polymer contamination is just, yeah. Plastics together. Well,
[00:45:40] Jess: you have wine in aluminum pants now. So
[00:45:42] Mason: yeah, we had them at ACL.
Yeah. Which was amazing that in a, I hadn’t really thought about it, but a 12 ounce can, is half a bottle of wine. Yeah. It made me think about my wine consumption, ACL. They were selling path, bottle wine, and they hand you a 12 ounce kid. I’m like what?
[00:46:02] Richie: Okay. How did you take note of the recycling containers at ACL where they, the see-through bags?
Could you tell, or they were, did you ever look closely at them? I mean, I do. I’m goofy and I do that stuff just because I’m in the industry, but do you ever look closely at one. And what did it look like? A bunch of contamination, a bunch of bunch of contamination.
[00:46:23] Mason: I looked at them. Yeah. The ones that were near the bar.
[00:46:27] Jess: Yeah. Yeah. Not really
[00:46:29] Richie: carried it. There you go. People don’t know what’s your site. I mean, you’ve got trash. I’m sure they had compost. Right. And then you’ve got recycling, probably cans and bottles or
[00:46:40] Mason: whatever. Went through their food containers and the
[00:46:42] Richie: recycling. Which should have gone in the compost. I mean, it’s an uphill battle on the educational front.
And so we
[00:46:50] Mason: here in this house, we do, we have the blue bags for recycling. We found, we used to just take straight up to Ben and we’d have to go pour it out and we’d break glass occasionally. So now we have these blue bags or those
[00:47:03] Richie: don’t do that. I do that. Who could shame on you again? You’re introducing flexibles and.
Who picks up your stuff here. Here’s your contract. And you know,
[00:47:13] Mason: for us it’s waste
[00:47:15] Richie: management. Okay. Then that comes to our place. Oh, okay. So machines. Yeah, just throw it in the can loose if a bottle breaks. It doesn’t matter. Cause it gets broken on our floor anyway. And if it’s not broken on our floor, it gets broken by a glass crusher on the line.
So it’s getting broken either way. So the recycling, good to know. Plus you don’t have to buy another, you know, plus you’re lessening your consumption of a flux. Single use back tourists. And now you’re not buying that bag at the store, but no, seriously. And that’s, that’s a myth. People say, oh, our recycling needs to be in this bag to keep it separate.
It’s like, no, no, no, no, no. Don’t do that. Just don’t put that, put it all loose in the container and that’s how it should come out of the truck to us. Just lose no, no film. Noted
[00:48:08] Mason: noted. And I think that’s about all the time we have
[00:48:11] Jess: one last question. Um, I was just curious. So the people that, uh, are the companies that you guys sell the end product, is it cubed or
[00:48:18] Richie: bales?
I’m not sure they’re bales or finished product is
[00:48:21] Jess: a bail bail. Who do you guys sell that to you? Do you have any like local companies or cool projects? Or is it like larger organizations that we would be unfamiliar with?
[00:48:31] Richie: Um, you know, I’m trying to think paper mills and plastic converters, you might notice.
I mean, we sell to, to one of the two, the biggest box manufacturer in the world, international paper, um, Pratt, Pratt industries. If you look on any box that you receive, From anywhere at your house, look on it. And you’ll most likely it’s going to say international paper or Pratt industries. There’s some other ones out there as far as plastics go.
It’s mainly converters that you wouldn’t know of because plastic. Reprocessing is a little bit different than fiber recycling. There’s more steps involved anyway. But one is, I was when I was talking about Patagonia and some of these companies using recycled polyester is unified manufacturing. We do sell product to them and they are strictly in the fiber reprocessing business.
They don’t do bottle of a bottle. And so they sell. They are material that’s what’s in the PA Patagonia, the north face, the Pronto, you can go to their website, look them up, unify manufacturing, the reprieve brand. And you’ll see all of the brands that they supply recycled content too. So that’s pretty cool.
You know, a lot of people don’t, a lot of people don’t know that. Cool. We, we sell material to real people that convert it to go back into real products. See again. So, um, is, is many. Misconception and myth there is around recycling. Yeah. It’s very robust. It needs to be in terms of demand and moving product and getting it through the supply chain.
There’s always room for improvement. So that’s what we’re trying to do as an industry right now is make things more of a cycle fringe. So we can capture that value at the Murph and send those onto the converters and keep that, keep that good value within the supply chain. Yeah, that’s the
[00:50:19] Mason: whole, yeah, there are areas of the world where recycling is as very poor right now, but it sounds like here in Austin and probably in a lot of places in, in the us that, um, there’s good.
It’s a recent. And it should be recovered in that. Recycling is a
[00:50:39] Richie: good thing. Sure. And in Austin really compared to a lot of cities in north America does a great job. Now, again, we are one of the highest class content producers on a national average. I think it’s up to like 25% of our material stream is glass.
So. It’s taken all the colleges, all the wine knows, Hey, I’m a red wine drinker. We are too good red wine. So I get it. But yeah, it’s w there’s a lot of glass in our street and our stream that comes in the material. But, um, in general, you know, people are conscientious. Minds are educated in the ways of recycling and Austin, just because of the art kind of demographic here.
Right. So people do a good. You know, I mean, there again, there’s always room for improvement. We’d love to see less contamination, but for the most part, people are participating in the, in the cities and outlying municipality programs. So that’s a good thing.
[00:51:36] Mason: Wonderful. All right. Well, thanks again for being on the show.
Thanks for having
[00:51:41] Richie: me mostly green pockets. Yeah. Right on. Thanks.
[00:51:50] Mason: Well, Jess, we’ve been doing things all wrong. Maybe not all wrong, but we’ve got some ways to mend
[00:51:56] Jess: over here. Yeah. So true. We really need to curb our wish cycling and of course immediately stop putting all the flexibles, which means plastic bags of any kind, really in the recycling bin. I’ve actually started collecting them in a drawer in the kitchen, by the way.
I don’t know if you’ve opened that. Um, but the next step is finding a drop off store. So we’ll add links to these locations in our show notes for every. And we hope they just don’t end up as contamination somewhere. What else was a takeaway for you? Mason? I
[00:52:24] Mason: find it really fascinating that commercial styrofoam, which he was calling expanded polystyrene is very recyclable and there’s a robust market.
I basically, you know, I demonize that material anytime I see styrofoam, I think it shouldn’t exist in the world, but it sounds like businesses who I will admit seem to get a lot of use out of it can responsibly recycle it as long as it’s a clean stream. So very cool.
[00:52:49] Jess: I mean, I think the Austin stat is hilarious about how much glass the city uses.
[00:52:54] Mason: Not particularly recycling. And I don’t know. I kind think I, I take a little pride in that.
[00:52:59] Jess: Oh, that’s beer bottles and wine bottles, like, is that what it comes down
[00:53:04] Mason: Yeah. Sixth street and how much the city parties, which I think okay. No, it makes for a happy
[00:53:10] Jess: city. Yeah, definitely. So one quick modification, Richie talks about United manufacturing.
Having created the reprieve brand of recycled fiber. It looks like came in to say unify, but reprieve is the brand of recycled fiber and you can go to www.reprieve.com. That’s R E P R E V e.com to see all the brands they sell recycled fiber too. And it’s a massive list, which is very exciting.
[00:53:36] Mason: Check ours socials to find a useful infographic to help you remember what can and can’t go in the recycling bin.
And lastly, something we’re excited to share is in just a couple of weeks, we’ll start giving away our favorite products randomly to members of the mostly green what’s that Mason, the mostly green crew. So glad you asked is our support network to help fund and guide this podcast. Our. They’ll get discounts on future product rollouts through our site, and any discounts that we get along the way we will share with the crew.
And as we just mentioned, there’ll be automatically entered into a weekly podcast giveaway of our favorite items. We’re already lining up the items to give away. These are things that we use regularly and love, and some of them have values up to 250. So for as little as $5 a month, you’re entered into each weekly giveaway and our
[00:54:27] Jess: $25 a month members get direct access to us to share what they’d like us to dig into and ask questions about sustainability in their lives that we can brainstorm together.
And since we’re starting from zero, if you sign up in the next couple of weeks, your chances of winning are likely, very strong, very
[00:54:42] Mason: strong. We’ll put a link to sign up in our show notes and we’ll be your best friends forever. Thanks again for listening. Thanks.