CASE STUDY

Redding, California

 

BACKGROUND AND DRIVERS
Redding, California Solid Waste Utility provides materials management services to the city and surrounding Shasta County, with a city-owned and operated transfer station, a full-scale materials recovery facility (MRF) and the only household hazardous waste facility in the county. The city’s facilities accept waste, recyclables and other materials from both residential and commercial customers. Redding supplies over 90,000 residents, half of the county’s population, with curbside trash and recycling collection.

The city strives to provide multiple material management services and options for its residents to maximize diversion.

FOODSERVICE PACKAGING MATERIALS PROCESSED
The city instructs residents to include plastic bottles and jugs with #1-#2 labels, paperboard packaging, aluminum and tin/steel cans, and glass containers in their curbside recycling carts. 

Since mid-2017, residents and businesses can also drop-off clean, dry foam polystyrene at the city’s transfer station. Accepted foam products include egg cartons, coffee cups, take-out containers, light-colored meat trays and protective packaging.

CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS
Many cities lack sufficient funding for recycling equipment to be able to process unique materials, like foam. Redding was able to offer residents a drop-off program for foam polystyrene because of a grant from the Foam Recycling Coalition (FRC). In 2016, Redding was awarded $49,000 from FRC to buy a foam densifier, equipment that allowed the city to manage loose foam and transform it into dense, stackable blocks. Densified foam blocks are easier to store, pack and ship to end markets. The FRC grant was awarded to the city in part because the city’s transfer station was already undergoing a facility expansion, adding floor space for the densifier and foam storage. While the facility expansion took longer than anticipated, the additional space and the densifier allowed the city to provide this new foam recycling program to its residents.   

For the new foam recycling program to be successful, residents and businesses needed updated information on which foam materials to recycle and how to prepare them. Redding promoted the addition of foam polystyrene recycling on its website, including an update to its popular Waste Wizard search tool. The foam recycling program was also promoted through local news coverage.

With the expansion of the facility, the densifier purchased with the FRC grant, and foam recycling promotion, the city began collecting polystyrene for recycling in late summer 2017. The facility collected over 10,000 pounds of foam from residents and businesses within the first quarter of operating the densifier. Residents have been using the foam drop-off program at the transfer station, and the facility is also collecting container loads of foam from local businesses. With the success of the drop-off program, the city is considering adding polystyrene to the list of accepted recyclables for residential curbside collection. Currently, the city is testing how the foam would be processed and sorted in the MRF.

END MARKETS
Polystyrene foam is a marketable commodity that can be recycled to produce more goods. While the city has not yet shipped any densified foam, they have multiple interested buyers in the quality polystyrene blocks being produced at the transfer station.  The city is considering shipping materials to a local recycling broker in Sacramento, California, further reducing transportation costs.  

KEY LEARNINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Redding Solid Waste Utility was able to use the FRC grant to remove the cost barrier for the foam recycling equipment, resulting in a new recycling opportunity for foam packaging in the community. The new equipment, along with Redding’s work to educate the public about this recycling opportunity, has made the program successful in diverting foam polystyrene from the landfill.

Redding’s foam drop-off recycling program will continue to grow as more residents and businesses participate and potentially expand if foam is added to residential curbside collection.  

 

 Loose polystyrene foam pre-densification

Loose polystyrene foam pre-densification

 Pallets of foam blocks ready for shipment

Pallets of foam blocks ready for shipment