Burrtec (Riverside, CAlifornia)
Burrtec Waste Industries and its sister company, EDCO Disposal Corporation, comprise the largest privately-held solid waste company in California. Burrtec has worked to help California’s statewide diversion goals, and cities’ goals for waste reduction, by accepting a variety of items including foodservice packaging (FSP).
Their materials recovery facility (MRF) in Riverside began accepting expanded polystyrene (EPS) with help from an EPS manufacturer, who purchased a pressure densification unit for use at Burrtec’s facility.
Foodservice Packaging Materials Processed
Burrtec's Riverside MRF handles all FSP items. The city instructs its residents to specifically include paper cartons, paper egg cartons, plastic containers, plastic cups, plastic utensils, and all EPS in their recycling. The city does not instruct residents to recycle paper cups, but some are received and handled by the facility.
The FSP materials come from a variety of sources, including curbside collection, drop-off centers, and restaurants. Burrtec does not track the volumes of FSP items but considers them a small part of the recycling stream.
Challenges and Solutions
While many MRFs are concerned with the amount of contaminants in their stream, Burrtec has not had many challenges with FSP recycling and contamination but continues to educate the public to stress the importance of clean materials. China is a market for Burrtec’s recovered materials, and the country’s "Green Fence" policy requires no more than 1.5 percent contaminants in all grades of fibers and plastics. This has made it very important for all materials to be clean. Although FSP coming to Burrtec comes from a variety of places, which could raise the contamination, public education has proven to help decrease any challenges the MRF has with contaminants.
FSP largely goes into mixed paper bales and mixed plastic bales. FSP is a very small amount of the bales’ volume and does not change the marketing of these bales. The recovered EPS material from Burrtec is sold to Nepco, which turns it into picture frames. Read more about Nepco in this case study.
Key Findings and Recommendations
Cups do not have much food contamination outside of the occasional dried residue since any unconsumed beverage simply falls out of the cup in transport or as it moves through the recycling plant. Public education must focus on emptying containers that hold solid food. A representative from Burrtec stresses that "all of those containers are okay, they just need to be as clean as they can be."