All You Need to Know About Single-Stream Recycling

Do you find recycling tiresome and time-consuming despite the economic and environmental benefits it offers? You need to understand what recycling mode you can leverage to make your life easier and how to keep your identity safe when recycling certain items.

The most common mode accepted by most recycling service providers, dual-stream recycling, requires one to separate different materials into respective recycling bags, which, as a consumer, you may find daunting. On the other hand, single-stream recycling brings in order as you will only need one bag for all items to be recycled.

This article will discuss all you need to know about single-stream recycling, including its benefits and comparison with dual-stream recycling.

What Is Single-Stream Recycling?

Single-stream recycling is a process where all materials to be recycled are placed in one bin. Here, the consumer does not sort out the different items, but they are separated at the material recovery facility after being collected by a single truck.

There are many restrictions surrounding items that can be accepted for single-stream recycling, and these restrictions vary from one region to the other. The items most commonly accepted include cans, plastic bottles, shredded papers, paper, clean aluminum foil, paper bags, cardboards, clean glass jars, empty drug prescription bottles, newspapers, catalogs, and magazines.

However, it is essential first to consult the recycling company or the city’s public works department to know the items accepted for recycling in your area.

The Difference Between Single-Stream Recycling and Dual-Stream Recycling


Single stream recycling refers to recycling mixed items, usually combined in one stream, while dual-stream recycling involves recycling different materials in separate streams. Make sure you know what or how to recycle personal documents.

Sorting out items

In single-stream recycling, the consumer does not sort out the materials, but the sorting is done at the material separation facility. In dual-stream separation, consumers must separate their waste into category one, including paper and cardboard, and category two metals, plastic, and glass.

Collection cost

Single-stream recycling translating into lower costs since it is highly efficient; while dual-stream collection has high collection cost since the process is complicated and labor-intensive.

Recycling rates

There are high recycling rates for single-stream recycling since the process is easy, making more people willingly participate in recycling programs. There are low recycling rates for dual-stream recycling since most people find it daunting to separate recyclables into different streams.


In single-stream recycling, materials are first separated by workers using hands, followed by separation by vibratory equipment that separates materials based on weight and size. For dual-stream recycling, materials are just sorted for purity before further processing.


Unfortunately, there is a high level of material contamination in single-stream recycling since the items are combined in one bin, but following contamination tips, this is easily avoided. Dual-stream recycling has very little contamination since the materials are stored in different bins depending on their category.

Benefits of Single-Stream Recycling

The advantages of single-stream recycling are straightforward, and they favor both consumers and recycling companies.

  • Single-stream recycling encourages many people to participate in recycling: This process is straightforward as you are not required to separate your materials. Hence, many people end up participating in recycling.
  • Leads to decreased garbage collection costs: Most household items are recycled, and the waste disposed of decreases. This means the frequency of garbage collection is reduced, and therefore, the costs go down.
  • There is an efficient collection: Collection of items to be recycled becomes efficient since the trucks accept all the recyclables in one bag, and no time is wasted inspecting the content of the bags.
  • It increases recycling rates: With no sorting, consumers find it easy to participate in recycling, and hence more items are recycled.
  • Single-stream recycling brings about a reduction of collection cost: Only one truck is required to collect all waste streams, unlike dual-stream recycling, which requires several different trucks to ensure the recyclables do not mix up.
  • There is an increased possibility for all material types to be recycled: Consumers can place more recyclable materials since there is no extra cost or space required for new bins. In the same breath, the number of compartments in the truck is limited when using dual-stream recycling, limiting more types of materials to be collected.
  • There is increased productivity in using the truck: With dual-stream recycling, if one compartment is full, the truck must be emptied even though the rest are not. This is eliminated using single-stream recycling since no compartments are involved, and before offloading any item, the truck has to be full.

How to Avoid Single-Stream Recycling Contamination

The main downside of single-stream recycling is the contamination of recyclables at separating facilities, but this is controlled easily.

The following tips are used to ensure recyclables are not contaminated:

  • Contact the recycling company to determine what should be recycled and what can’t be recycled.
  • Always recycle empty and clean containers and jars.
  • Put clean paper and newspaper in a clean paper bag before placing them in the bin to avoid contamination.
  • Place only standardized versions on the bin.
  • Never dispose of food waste, drinkware, or dishware in the single-stream bin.
  • Avoid using plastic wraps or paper bags in the recycle bin.

The Sorting Process of Materials Collected Through a Single-Stream Process

The sorting out is comprised of manual labor and automation.

  • Materials are unloaded from the truck and placed in a conveyor.
  • Employees sort out items separating recyclables from non-recyclables.
  • The recyclables are taken to vibratory equipment, where they’re separated based on size and weight. Light items such as cardboard, papers, and containers head to the second level while the heavier ones drop to the bottom level.
  • Glasses are broken using a screen for the convenience and safety of workers.
  • The rest of the bottom material from the vibratory equipment is passed through a magnet to remove steel and tin cans.
  • A reverse magnet is used to remove aluminum through an eddy current which causes the cans to fly off the conveyor belt into a bin.
  • Workers separate office paper, cardboard, and newsprint, and each is dropped in a bunker.
  • The final step is to bale and ship all separated materials to respective processing companies for recycling.

Why Single-Stream Recycling is Popular

Single-stream is an easy recycling method as you’re not required to sort out your recyclables. It is convenient to use since only one collection bin for both the consumer and collector is required. The one-stream factor makes the process less money and time-consuming.

These plus points have encouraged many people to participate in recycling leading to increased recycling rates. The convenience offered to both consumers and collectors has made single-stream recycling exceedingly popular.

Recycling is beneficial to the environment, and this simpler way has been improvised to encourage more people to recycle. It would help if you participated in single-stream recycling to enjoy the benefits it offers. Many people are already using single-stream recycling, so do not be left behind.