November 15, 2007
Building A Better Big Bottle Buster
By MICHAEL CUSENZA
There’s a new name in beverage container recycling and it currently calls Maspeth home.
It might sound like a comic book villain spawned from the mind of Stan Lee, but the BulkMaster is actually a machine that is set to revolutionize the way aluminum cans and plastic and glass bottles are collected and recycled.
“This is light years ahead of what we had,” said Nick Stafanizzi, vice president of sales at Boro Recycling, Inc. and MTL Recycling, which houses two BulkMaster machines – one for plastic and glass, the other for cans – at their warehouse on 48th Street
Developed in Germany and owned by Envipco Recycling Systems, the BulkMaster can accurately count, sort and validate beverage containers at a rate of four items per second.
Stefanizzi said the BulkMaster, which was unveiled in October, has changed the way his company operates the Sort After System of recycling.
Previously, stores had to separate beverage containers according to brand or supplier – a process that called for a space-consuming receptacle for each supplier. But now, collecting companies like Boro/MTL can simply pick up three receptacles – glass, plastic and cans – from participating establishments and bring them back to the BulkMaster for processing.
The containers are sorted by the machine based on information scanned from its barcode. Plastic bottles and cans are crushed and sent to a baler, while glass is separated by color.
“It’s a fantastic piece of machinery to watch,” Stefanizzi said.
Stefanizzi said the machines cost approximately $100,000 to $125,000 each. The cost of the service is shared by suppliers and storeowners.
Steffanizzi also said wide implementation of service through BulkMaster would mean significant employment opportunities for Queens.
The development of the BulkMaster technology brings the Bigger, Better Bottle Bill back into the fold. First introduced in the State legislature in 2002, the BBBB updates the Returnable Container Act of 1982 by including non-carbonated beverages like bottled water, iced tea and fruit juices that have become wildly popular. It also calls for bottlers to return unclaimed deposit revenue to the State.
The BBBB has been a high priority of Gov. Eliot Spitzer, but the State Senate rejected it this past June.
While Stefanizzi thinks the passage of the bill is “inevitable,” he said it will be extremely difficult for smaller stores to comply with the new rules if and when it is passed.
“They could never have enough room in their store to sort all those containers by supplier to get their money back,” Stefanizzi explained.
Proponents of the expansion of the bill say it will significantly reduce litter and contribute funds to important programs, among other benefits.
Opponents, like supermarket chain chairman and CEO John Catsimatidis, say the expansion will have little positive effect on recycling and place a heavier burden on storeowners.
“Instead of a bottle bill, we should be looking for a more comprehensive approach,” Catsimatidis, a possible 2009 mayoral candidate, wrote in a July “New York Times” op-ed. “With some more support, community-recycling programs, along with community-based litter programs and the availability of more recycling receptacles, can be more effective than redeeming a bunch of soda bottles.”