Showing posts with label recycling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label recycling. Show all posts

June 21, 2013

As China Goes, So Goes Recycling

A video and two links — all from the Pacific Northwest — about realities in the recycling business:

"Sorting through Piles of So-Called Recycling," about the disconnects that still exist between what is labeled as recyclable or thought to be recyclable versus what actually is recyclable.
Part of the problem . . . is that the recycling symbol shows up on things that can't really be recycled or can't be sorted at the sorting facility: Disposable coffee cup lids, giant pet food bags and all kinds of plastic.

"There are no regulations on whether you can put chasing arrows on your product," he said. "Most people do it right, but there are no regulations. A lot of people, as long as they see the chasing arrows, think it’s recyclable. And you can throw it in your curbside bin, but if it’s not part of the program, we can’t possibly sort through that many things."
The other factor is economic: "Recyclers Limit Plastic Collection As China Stops Buying."
Chinese recyclers are no longer buying plastic items with the numbers 3, 6 or 7 on them, and inspectors are checking for and rejecting shipments of mixed plastics from overseas. The list of plastics China no longer wants includes disposable coffee cup lids, PVC pipes, certain kinds of clamshell containers, and garden planters with flexible walls, to name a few.
The restrictions have left recycling companies across U.S. without buyers for many of the plastics they have traditionally accepted. They don't affect curbside recycling items like milk jugs and yogurt tubs, but they are limiting which miscellaneous plastics recycling depots will accept.
I have been stuffing our torn or otherwise not-usable plastic bags into the collection bins in stores, all the while if I am being conned by food-industry campaigns that say "Look! We're recycling!" but which in reality are about heading off plastic-bag bans. Supposedly the bags are used in making composite lumber.

October 01, 2012

Recycling is Good — Recycling is Bogus

Earlier this month I made the weekly drop-off at the recycling bins in town. While tossing the wine bottles into the "Clear and green glass" bin, I looked through the porthole and saw . . . a bunch of plastic water bottles. Like somebody could not read G-L-A-S-S.

But I'm sure that whoever did it felt virtuous about recycling, so virtuous that they did not have to even think about whether you can, in fact, recycle plastic bottles hereabouts. (You cannot, although I know that some places accept them.)

(When I taught a university composition class focused on environmental issues, early student writing would focus on recycling ("recycling is good") and riding bicycles — even though almost none of them rode a bicycle to school. But they knew how to recycle the platitudes of "green" virtue.)

When the paper-recycling stream is dirty, it raises costs at the mill — which in this case led to bankruptcy and thus further narrowing of the already narrow profit margin for recycling paper.

On the other hand, Denver Post reporter Aldo Svaldi does not explain how some recyclers can ask that shredded paper be bagged. Who removes the bags?

A university blogger (universities often try to be "green") explains the obvious:
But while higher recycling or diversion rates are generally better than low ones, that "conventional wisdom" kind of misses the point.  Recycling is good to the extent that it reduces the solid waste stream -- converts a portion of what otherwise would have been waste into a resource. 

But an individual or an institution can only reduce its solid waste output just so much without also reducing its solid stuff consumption.  Think about it -- however much stuff you buy, it all goes one of three places: waste, recycling, or storage.  For most of us, storage capacity is (in practical terms) fixed, so once that fills up the sum of waste out and recycling out is pretty much equal to the amount of stuff consumed.  We want to recycle as much of what we buy as possible, but we should want more to reduce the amount of stuff that we buy.  As individuals.  As institutions.
So, yes, recycling is good. It works well with metals (just ask the people stealing copper, brass, and bronze), pretty well with paper when the market is right . . . glass is still sort of iffy, I think. Plastic, I don't know, I wonder where all the bags dropped at the supermarket actually go.

But the real point is how much you buy (particularly packaging materials) in the first place.

December 02, 2009

Life without Plastic

Life without Plastic is a blog about finding alternatives to ubiquitous plastics, particularly in packaging.

More and more, I find store cashiers receptive to my line of "No bag, please." Many admit that they have too many plastic bags in their house too.

September 18, 2009

Tracking Trash Electronically

When I taught nature writing, I used to have students take the "Where You At?" quiz originally published in CoEvolution Quarterly and reprinted in Stephanie Fox's Whatever Happened to Ecology?

Question 8 reads, "Where does your garbage ultimately go?"

Now researchers are using tracking-chip technology to answer that question on a bottle by paper cup by aluminum can level.

“There is this hidden world of trash, and there are ramifications to the choices that people make,” [Brett] Stav [of Seattle Public Utilities] said. “People just take their trash and put it on the curb and they forget about it and don’t think about all the time and energy and money put into disposing of it.”