Anyone care about Recycling?

In an age where we constantly here about being at the tipping point of the environment, it's quite ironic that we hear hardly anything about how to actually recycle properly. I would like to know more about how materials are recycled, but for some reason it's quite difficult to source out information about this. Most people don't even know how to recycle properly, let alone what goes on at a recycling plant. For example, they won't know that non-rigid plastic can't be recycled, Or they'll think that you can recycle plastic that's laminated with foil.

In my country, most places that cater for recycling don't supply proper instructions for how it should be done. Even when you go out of your way to source out such information - that is apparently making life easier for the people in the recycling facility - you can't find it on their own website. Sooner or later you realise it's because they don't care if you do it incorrectly. A lot of the recycling companies are subsidized and are paid based on the amount of weight they take in, so no wonder they don't care. Well at least that's the case in my country. Tell me what the situation is in yours.

Another thing is that most people also think that plastic actually gets recycled, in the sense that your empty bottle of coke gets transformed into another bottle of coke. But it doesn't; it gets down-cycled... meaning that plastic might be used for the plastic in a fleece or in a mattress. I've been getting the impression that the reason for this is because it doesn't make economic sense to recycle a lot of the plastic that citizens dispose of... even if they're doing it the correct way. It's too energy intensive to do so. Having looked into it more, from what I understand a lot of plastics are like an alloy. Apparently what makes plastics so difficult to separate, is that unlike metals, plastics of different types can have near identical weighs, densities, colours, melting points, magnetic properties, and spectral absorbsion properties. So naturally this would make sorting difficult at the best of times.

But that begs the question of "does one really care about the exact type of plastic that is in a plastic item?". Look around the place you're in right now. I would say that probably 90% of the time that it's not important, that the exact plastic make up of any given item needs to be known. And then the other question following that is, does this have to mean that such an item can't be recycled again just because that exact composition isn't known? Very hard to get answers to those questions. I've recently become aware that even individual items that we buy off the shelves are actually made up of several different materials, so even recyclable items are only partially recyclable... as demonstrated in the photo I've attached. So if a bottle of coke has only 3-10% recyclable material, then what in the name of God else is put into the bottle? I thought it was just made of PET, as it reads on its recycling triangle! Likewise with the glass glass bottle! I thought glass was glass!

It's frightening to think that if non recyclable plastic is put in with recyclable plastic, that the cost of sorting it removes any financial incentive. Buying virgin plastic pellets is obviously going to be cheaper. And even if it wasn't, getting it from China would still probably be cheaper. Then there's the whole question of whether or not it really gets recycled. A huge amount of it doesn't meet the quality needed, and therefore, upon inspection, is diverted to general waste. And that's only if things are done correctly! A lot of waste sent for recycling is known to end up in the Philippines, or wherever, where it is burned in the open. I recently came across the below video on what really happens to a lot of electronic waste:



I could never get a clear answer on the issue of why black plastic can't be recycled? Again, citizens are not told that they shouldn't recycle black plastic. I think reason is something to do with the fact that black plastic can't be seen by the laser systems in most recycling facilities. But if that's true, then doesn't that mean that all the black plastic, that people 'correctly' put into their recycling bins, would end up causing havoc at the recycling plant? Another reason i heard for this is because the colour of black plastic can't be changed. So if they can't change the colour of black plastic, then why can't they just change such plastic into another piece of black plastic?
 

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kel

Pelican
As I understand it, metal recycling is environmentally and economically feasible (it's actually reducing usage of resources and can pay for itself), glass recycling is more borderline, and everything else not really.

In any event, always remember that in the the "Reduce, reuse, recycle" mantra those of us who grew up in the 90s got, there's an implicit "then" in there that should've been made explicit. "Reduce, reuse, then recycle". Start by buying less stuff, then try to put to immediate use the junk from what you did have to buy (there's only so many jars one person needs, but still, you can probably find something to do with that pickle jar), and lastly put it in the recycling bin and hope for the best.

Instead of municipal recycling service, we should've gotten municipal composting services (which some municipalities now have, but always in addition to recycling). If you have space (just a tiny little patch of ground, anyone who doesn't live in an apartment building probably has space), you should really be composting.
 
Instead of municipal recycling service, we should've gotten municipal composting services (which some municipalities now have, but always in addition to recycling). If you have space (just a tiny little patch of ground, anyone who doesn't live in an apartment building probably has space), you should really be composting.
Is it fair to say that the only benefit to composting is that it reduced the size of landfill waste? Has in, if it's biodegradable, it doesn't really matter where it ends up. That's always been my impression!
 

semilla

Sparrow
Good information on a topic I’ve looked into a handful of times. All I’ve been able to come across, locally, is that my county in California does not currently recycle anything. All material that goes in the blue recyclable bins from every household just goes in the same pile as the garbage. If I recall correctly, China and India have halted the purchase of international recyclables and it is not cost effective to recycle them here in the US.
 
All I’ve been able to come across, locally, is that my county in California does not currently recycle anything.
Still probably better than Texas!

When I was in San Fran in 2013, a fella told me that they just recycled to make people feel good. He said he used to always see the garbage truck dump both bins in together!
 
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semilla

Sparrow
Still probably better than Texas!

When I was in San Fran in 2013, a fella told me that they just recycled to make people feel good. He said he used to always see the garbage truck dump both bins in together!
Like I said, if the market is there for the recyclables they have the sorting lines at our local dump to separate appropriate recyclables out for export, but I know that these facilities are currently not being used and everything goes in the same pile.
 

SlickyBoy

Ostrich
Do I care about recycling? No, not in the way it's foisted upon westerners as a substitute religion.
About the only thing that makes sense to recycle in the US is aluminum - everything else shows no downstream cost savings or even environmental benefit. But by now, it's purely political as well as a business for guilt-hustlers masquerading as conservationists.

Since COVID, it's becoming obvious we never recycled anything anyway - we'd ship it off to the Chinese. That jig is up - now what?

 
For a while I lived in a place with no garbage pickup, and had to bring my own trash to the dump. Ever since then I've been pretty conscious of how much plastic crap I buy.

Good metal tools and jewelry last pretty much forever. Wooden furniture and tools usually last, and you can use them for firewood when they don't. Glass jars can be repurposed as cups, candle holders, etc. Plastic goods ultimately end up in landfill as we continue to make more and more shoddy products that don't last.
 

SlickyBoy

Ostrich
Jewelry may last longer, but tell that to these thots and bugmen. Recycling won't make a difference if people keep buying crap for the sake of crap.

 

bomp

Pigeon
One contradiction I noticed about the "lockdowns are good for the environment" thing is that all the grocery stores forbid reusable grocery bags now. A lot of people used those bags (at least around here). Wonder how much more plastic has been needed as a result.
 

kel

Pelican
Is it fair to say that the only benefit to composting is that it reduced the size of landfill waste? Has in, if it's biodegradable, it doesn't really matter where it ends up. That's always been my impression!

That's what I always thought, but I've read that because of how garbage gets compacted in a landfill organic waste breaks down much, much more slowly than it would normally, to say nothing of a properly managed compost operation. And so the one-third of waste that is biodegradable would, if composted instead, really put a dent in the size of landfills, plus you get a marketable product at the end to help defray the cost of the service.

I lived in a city once where a few hippies started a business collecting compostable waste and them selling the compost, filling that niche that municipal waste services had overlooked, I guess it worked for them.
 
The best idea would not be to need to throw things out in the first place. Do not buy it, or if you do buy it, buy quality and then repair it as needed.

Used to, things cost more (accounting for inflation), but they would last and when they did break they could be repaired. Today, it seems that just about everything that uses electricity gets thrown out in ten years or less, maybe 5 years in a lot of cases. Life spans of electronics dropped by roughly 50% or more, in my experience, when everything moved to China. It is not necessarily a made-in-USA thing. Japanese electronics lasted longer than PRC electronics. So do did Malaysian electronics, when they were the low-cost producer before the PRC. Low-life span, little or new repairs, and cheap prices mean a super highway to the dump for tons and tons of printed circuit boards, plastics, batteries, heavy metals, etc. And it results in the need for more natural resources to be mined, refined, etc.
 

paninaro

Kingfisher
Recycling paper and cardboard is beneficial. Most cardboard boxes are made from some amount of recycled paper, because it's cheaper. 70% of all cardboard boxes in the US are recycled.

Plastic can be recycled and ends up in mattresses, as park benches, etc. The reason it's not re-used for food packaging is it may not be food-safe any more (too expensive to sterilize it), but it's fine to make a bench out of it.

Glass recycling is more complicated because it breaks easily. A lot of municipalities have stopped accepting glass in their recycling stream.

The big one is compost. I had composting pickup at my last house, and the amount I put in the regular trash can dropped by more than half. It's amazing how much compostable waste I was generating (I like to cook a lot). I had commercial composting, so they could take all kinds of stuff like used paper plates, chicken bones, avocado seeds, and even wine bottle corks. Then they'd offer to bring me a few bags of free mulch per year, made from their composting piles.
 
One contradiction I noticed about the "lockdowns are good for the environment" thing is that all the grocery stores forbid reusable grocery bags now. A lot of people used those bags (at least around here). Wonder how much more plastic has been needed as a result.
Where's that? How do they forbid it? Do they refuse to serve you? And what's their motive for it?
 
Do I care about recycling? No, not in the way it's foisted upon westerners as a substitute religion.
Well you're not forced into doing it! That's just people trying to raise awareness. And there can never be too much awareness with something like this... because it's something that there is no immediate benefit to.

If it were somehow possible to easily recycle plastic in a cost effective way, would you do it?
 

Hell_Is_Like_Newark

Kingfisher
Gold Member
This is something I have been working on for the past 2+ years.. A few points:

The current system of separating trash is a failure due to expense, contamination, and quality issues.

Expense: Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) are expensive to run, you need multiple truck pickups (3 separate garbage trucks in my city).

Contamination: Paper with food waste, #5 plastic mixed with #2, broken glass, etc. can reduce a load of recycled product value to nothing. Shredded paper in particular, due to shortened fibers (see Quality below) and contamination (plastic from envelopes) goes right to a landfill these days.

Quality: That plastic water bottle does not get recycled into a new water bottle. The quality of the recycled resin is too low. The plastic gets turned into a lower grade product like the backing on a cheap bathroom mat. For darker plastics (i.e. detergent bottle) the supply often exceeds the demand for the low grade recycled resin. Paper isn't much better. Every time paper is put through the system, the fibers are weakened.

All the above was papered over because "recycling" was shipped overseas to China (primarily China), India, Indonesia, Vietnam, etc. Poor people picked out what could be used and the rest was dumped with a total disregard for the environment. The result was an environmental catastrophe where these recycling operations were located.

In 2018, China enforced the 'National Sword Policy' which is a near ban on all scrap (plastic, paper, and even aluminum cans) imports. The rest of the world has been following suit. The result has been a collapse of recycling in the West.. which wasn't actually recycling.

The other issue complicating is that the shale revolution by supplying plentiful & cheap ethane has driven down the cost of new plastics. Lots of new manufacturing capacity coming on line here in the USA. As for paper... similar situation. Years of incentive programs to turn fallow farmland into tree farms has now led to a surplus of trees. The United States and Canada right now have more new trees growing than are being harvested.

I recommend people here watch a documentary called 'Plastic China' (I know it is on Amazon Prime) which details the recycling industry in China and its effects.

The alternative recycling project I am working on will replace the current system.... if it ever gets funded.
 
It's useful if you don't pay for trash. If you have the space and can burn, set aside several trash cans, separate your recyclables, burn your trash, and run down to the nearest collection point once or twice a year. It's manageable for a family of 3 or 4 and you get a few bucks for the aluminum.

You get a tidy burn burn pit free of noxious plastic or hard to burn metal and save some bucks dumping your waste collection bill.
 

SlickyBoy

Ostrich
Well you're not forced into doing it! That's just people trying to raise awareness. And there can never be too much awareness with something like this... because it's something that there is no immediate benefit to.

If it were somehow possible to easily recycle plastic in a cost effective way, would you do it?
Awareness my ass - yes, they effectively force you into the game. I've lived in places where you have to purchase trash bags from the city (required to use bags that are authorized by the city). Trash not in the authorized bags would simply not be picked up. Pay as you throw, so to speak. This hustle was supposedly meant to discourage trash and encourage recycling, but as we can see, recycling as we are meant to understand it is a bit of a sham. It was a convenient way to tax the do-gooder whites who went along with it, but eventually the population got fed up with the idea where I lived.

To answer your question, recycling - plastic or whatever else - might make sense, if it actually can demonstrate downstream cost savings as well as actual impact reduction on the environment. It may make more sense to burn the trash - fine. Maybe Elon Musk can design some kind of super-filtered mass burn facility that generates power to pump up the local Tesla charging stations, who knows? But to take the word of low level bureaucrats and guilt hustlers at face value is proving to be little more than the con game we know it to be.
 
I think we should all conserve resources for future generations and try not to pollute.

How recycling fits into that, is all about the details. Some recycling, like steel, copper, and aluminum, makes such good sense that scrap dealers will buy such materials. Other types of recycling might be little more than virtue signaling.
 
Don't care in the least about recycling and avoid it when possible.

However there is likely some merit in the first two R's of the old "Three R's" thing that came about when I was in school:

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

Practicing tangible, logical environmental stewardship seems wise. Reducing waste and lowering consumption of waste products, and reusing materials as much as safely possible just seems like good sense. Most recycling, on the other hand, seems like a nefarious modern green boondoggle.
 
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