Fourth of July Tip: Flag Disposal

On a recent site visit in Waterbury, John Pizzimenti noticed a stack of American flags on Chris Follen’s desk. When he asked what they were for, Chris stated that they were all pulled off the tipping floor. Chris offered a little more insight into why they are pulled off the floor, and what it means to him personally to make sure they are properly disposed:

When I was a teenager, I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps- he was in the United States Marine Corp (1964-1969), so I joined an organization called Young Marines sponsored by the Marine Corp League. Most of the adults were retired or former Marines. This organization promotes all the qualities teenagers need to develop, including myself, and promote becoming  disciplined, respectful, handle authority and physically fit while gaining a greater understanding of sacrifice. Putting others before themselves. They put those who want to be part of something bigger on the path to Parris Island. The Young Marines teaches self-discipline, a respect for others, and Parris Island makes Marines.  I joined at the age of 14 until I was eligible to walk into a recruiting station.

As a kid, my father would always tell me never let the flag touch the ground. I didn’t understand why at the time, I thought it was just out of respect for our great country and I didn’t want to get yelled at if he saw it dragging on our deck.

When the Marine Corp League office in White Plains, N.Y. started putting flag drop off containers at some post offices in Westchester, we painted them in U.S.M.C. scarlet and gold and marked them as such. When they were filled, the flags would be properly disposed of. Here is the proper protocol and procedure for flag disposal. I have found out that most V.F.W.’s and American Legion posts also have flag drop off bins.

When disposing of the flag, DO the following:

  • Fold in the traditional triangle for stowage, never wadded up.
  • Proper disposal is by fire. It is important that the fire be fairly large and of sufficient intensity to ensure complete burning of the flag.
  • Place the flag on the fire.
  • The individual(s) disposing of the flag come to attention, salute the flag, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and have a brief period of silent reflection.
  • After the flag is completely consumed, the fire should then be safely extinguished, and the ashes buried.
  • Please make sure you are conforming to local/state fire codes or ordinances.
  • June 14 is Flag Day and is the most appropriate day for this ceremony.

I started collecting flags from the waste stream years ago because as marines we took an oath to protect what it stands for. The poem by Francis Scott Key which later became the Star-Spangled Banner explains why we never let the flag touch the floor, let alone be thrown out in the trash. I guess I made it a silent personal crusade to save as many flags as I can out of respect for those who have defended and all who have protected her. I have instructed the guys I work with to save any flags we see. 

This 4th of July please keep those who are protecting our Flag in your thoughts.

USA Hauling’s Frank Antonacci Brings Horsepower to the Waste Industry

Frank Antonacci, chief operating officer at USA Hauling & Recycling, has been running his family business with the same core values his grandfather had at its founding.

The Waste360 40 Under 40 recipient grew up in the waste industry, driving a 15-yard truck to small dump and construction jobs throughout high school and college….

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Millions of Meals Infographics

At the start of the pandemic, the Antonacci family started a fundraising campaign called Millions of Meals to contribute to local food banks and encourage organizations to do the same. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts has sent along these infographics comparing food insecurity before COVID-19 to March through June of this year. These charts demonstrate just how necessary the Millions of Meals contributions were, and continue to be.

Coronavirus: $125K from Antonacci Family Foundation launches Millions of Meals drive at Food Bank of Western Mass.

SPRINGFIELD — The Antonacci Family Foundation has donated $125,000 to launch the Millions of Meals food drive with the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The $125,000 donation was announced by representatives of the foundation and the Food Bank at Trinity United Methodist Church on Sumner Avenue on Tuesday morning…

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‘Trash’ men and women proud to serve public’s recycling and waste management needs during COVID-19 pandemic (Guest viewpoint)

By Kim Brodeur and Shawn Asher | Guest viewpoint

Annually, Massachusetts residents, businesses, and town buildings and schools create about seven million tons of trash, several millions tons of recyclables, and more than one million tons of construction and demolition debris and bulky waste — stuff like couches, carpeting, large toys, refrigerators, and wood from house repairs. We are two of the several thousand employees in Massachusetts who, every day, collect, process, and dispose the material. We bet that you have not wondered who picks up your trash and where it goes. That’s OK with us because it means we are doing our jobs…

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Thank you to everyone who participated in our photo contest! We had three winners who got very creative with their submissions. They won a dye cast model USA truck and a t-shirt!

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Shining a Light on Solar Panels

From Sonny’s Place to Lindy Farms to Mullen Road, you may have noticed the shiny solar panels on the roofs or carports. They may be an easy thing to overlook or ignore but solar panels serve an important purpose for us and the environment.

On June 12th, USA hosted a grand opening of our latest solar project – a solar powered CNG fueling station at Shoham Road in East Windsor.

Ribbon cutting at Shoham Road, East Windsor, CT

This innovative fueling station is the first of its kind in the country. USA’s fleet is now the cleanest powered waste and recycling fleet in the country- utilizing multiple forms of clean, sustainable, and cost-effective energy for fleet fueling.

Solar panels at Shoham Road, East Windsor, CT

The compression equipment that pumps natural gas consumes a lot of electricity which was previously purchased from the utility company and likely sourced from fossil fuels. This new solar array consists of 1,689 panels and will produce clean energy for the next 40 years, helping us reduce carbon emissions equivalent to 608,024 lbs. of coal burned or 1,288 barrels of oil.

“USA Hauling and Recycling is proving out such an important model for businesses in the state of Connecticut,” said Dykes. “We know at the department that this project sits at the intersection of our highest environmental and climate priorities, from waste management to renewable energy deployment and greening transportation. It presents a model we hope many others follow.”

Katie Dykes, CT DEEP Commissioner

This state-of-the-art multi-year project is a partnership between USA, Clean Energy Fuels and Earthlight Technologies.

What’s Next for Solar?

We currently have 13 solar projects with the ability to annually produce more than 1,500,000 kilowatt hours of electricity.

To put our projects into perspective, that is sufficient to supply the electricity of 150 average sized single-family homes for an entire year!

Solar panels are expensive to install, but a worthwhile investment for our future. Electricity is provided on site and the company earns one ZREC, or credit, from the state for every 1,000 kilowatt hours produced. These credits are then sold back to the state, as an incentive for installing the solar panels. Our company continues to proactively seek and implement the most innovative and environmentally conscious solutions.

The solar production and cost savings of the panels are checked monthly to determine the best opportunities for investments in solar power at our sites. Some of our sites do not receive an ideal amount of sun to justify the cost of installing solar, but as solar panels and other energy innovations improve, we will explore expansions and continue to be leaders within the industry.

What Is Going On With Recycling?

By Frank M. Antonacci

I am sure many of you, given the nature of your employment, are seen as the resident recycling expert at any summer picnic, family gathering, or kids sports event. I know I am. More than ever “RECYCLING” is the subject of everyday conversation and concern, sparked by a deepening concern by the general public regarding the environment, along with the considerable shifts in recycling markets worldwide turning the recycling business model on its head! Headlines about recycling are everywhere, and my goal is to arm you with some real answers from our industry leader’s perspective regarding the present and future of recycling in our business and in our communities and dispel some commonly held, misleading ideas.

Here are some of the questions and answers.

Is it true that we don’t recycle anymore because China stopped taking the stuff?

No, none of our companies have changed our policies regarding handling of recyclables. We have found different markets for all the recycling commodities, although they are at much different prices than they once were. In some cases, we are even paying to ensure that material we collect as recyclables are  being recycled or reused. We have also invested in our facilities to deal with the increased contamination we have seen in the recycling stream.

What did China do that ruined the recycling market so much?

China enacted a policy called the “National Sword” on January 1, 2018. This policy essentially made it impossible to import recyclables from outside of China into the country. This was a major problem as China previously purchased 70% of the recyclables generated in the United States and an even higher percentage from the United States coastal states. The domestic and global market for recyclables became flooded with material causing the prices for the commodities to plummet.

Why did the cost of recycling go up so much?

The cost of recycling to the customer- whether a municipality, an individual resident, or a commercial customer- did not rise because costs went up, but rather because the value of the recycling stream fell and that value was used to offset much of the cost to the customer.

How much did the recycling values drop?

The market for recyclables fell to the lowest levels we have ever seen. Cardboard once sold for $175/ ton dropping to $25/ ton while newspaper once fetched over $100/ ton and now can cost upwards of $50/ton to ensure that it goes to a recycler. The prices are end market prices that do not account for costs to collect, process, package and market the materials.

Is it even worth recycling if it may cost as much as trash now?

Yes, for many reasons:

  1. While we are experiencing one of the most challenging environments we have seen for recycling, commodity pricing is cyclical and historically we have seen recovery from other challenging times.
  2. Especially in the northeast, there is a finite space for final disposal capacity. Right now, about 30% of the materials we discard will never see a burnplant or landfill rather they are processed through local recycling infrastructure to be used in new products. Practically speaking, the disposal capacity just does not exist to handle these materials if they were no longer put through the recycling infrastructure. Abandoning recycling would cause pricing to skyrocket on all waste streams.
  3. Recycling is an investment in the future of our environment. There is value in ensuring that materials are used and reused as many times as possible until we truly must dispose of them.
Automated Material Handling

How do things get better for recycling?

Markets need to develop around the world, especially in the United States to handle these materials. On the positive side of the story many shuttered old paper mills are being purchased, revamped and reopened throughout the United States to take advantage of the supply domestically. The domestic development of these markets may provide the type of stability and opportunity in recycling like the discovery of natural gas did for the energy markets in the United States and would lead to a much more stable and sustainable recycling model for decades to come.

What can I do?

Recycle right, and encourage your friends and family to do the same. Since recycling became mainstream in 1994, the recycling stream has gradually become dirtier and dirtier. Much of this contamination (as we call it in the industry) comes from good intentioned customers seeking to recycle as much as possible and putting non-recyclables (contamination) in the recycling bin because it feels good to think you are recycling. The truth is that this “wishful recycling” contaminates the whole stream and makes it harder to sort out and market the right recyclables. There is a great resource at which shows you “what’s in and what’s out” of your recycling bin. This will not only improve the quality of our materials that we market, but more importantly it will keep our fellow teammates safer at our recycling facilities.

You can also encourage your local communities and politicians to support the local recycling infrastructure and the value it brings to all communities. Recycling and the accompanying services provide for all our families and protect the environment for generations to come. We must ensure that uninformed politicians and public officials do not make uneducated and shortsighted decisions that could be detrimental to the future of recycling.