I had my book club read this book, and so many times, for so many other books this books came up in conversation.
* Glass is recycled in order to grind it up and spread it over landfills to keep down dust. In this way the glass is counted as recycled and not garbage despite it ended up being in the dump.
* Roman era landfills are still leaking effluant.
* Plastics might be marked and marketed as recyclable but many plastics are better off as garbage. Better yet, never created and used in the first place.
* Whenever a natural compost toilet has a problem, more sawdust is almost always the answer to fixing whatever ails it. (Not really in the book, one of our bookclub members had hippie parents).
I would follow up this book with another set in Mumbai:
Somehow we need to do a better job at reducing poverty and imroving consumer recycling habits. No miracle solutions in this book. Just griding, abject poverty, living in the garbage of Mumbai.
About 10 years ago I looked at using engineered extremophile bacteria to mine metals from dumps. The tech was complex but doable even then and there were other things we could have done too in terms of remediation.
What killed it? Local government. They pay to manage and maintain dumps. I offered to take over their “brownfield” sites and change their cost center into a revenue stream. Everyone I talked to thought it would be a great idea...but wanted so much in royalties that it would not be worth doing. They’d rather strangle the goose.
1: grind up the middens (sorry archeologists!)
2: put the resulting slurry in a bioreactor (an open tank would work) with your bacteria and stir for a while
3: rinse and drain tank. Spin down the rinsate.
Also there's a higher level of valuable waste in the old dumps, though that wasn't a major factor.
I can't help but feel like we are going backwards here - especially when I see things like individual bananas being sold on trays.
Another idea would be an army of cleaning bots that can be let loose in a forest, on a beach or on roadside to methodically collect all trash. Even underwater drones could be used to clean up beaches. I think cleaning bots is the way forward.
A few things that they mentioned that they didn't go into crazy depth are origination of plastic(s), transportation costs of waste, and taxation as a policy to reduce waste.
Did you know that glass is reusable, unfortunately it's so heavy that it's worth nothing to recycle.
The other problem is where the funding for recycling goes.
In the New York City metro area, a bottle deposit tax is used towards education. If everyone recycles, where/how is the government going to plug that hole, however small it may be?
The better question that the author should be asking is what type of policy(s) should be implemented in order to make it so that people want to or are forced to reuse verses to not even think about throwing things out.
The only conclusion that I see is a super high tax.
Unfortunately,most people don't really care unless it hits them in the wallet.
You would be suprised. You could make the fines incredibly high or jail people like they do in Singapore.
If Singapore can do it, why can't New York City?
Why not have consumers refill product? Get your shampoo refilled at a machine in the aisle. Tax the plastic bottle.
You might not want to save money, but most consumers do.
You're falling into the trap of "everyone is exactly like me", where you're in fact the exception, not the norm.
Many US states have bottle deposits for a similar "nominal" amount per bottle and the majority of people don't do it: when I was a broke college student some friends and I did it for a little while but the math really didn't work out even then.
In this article after a very quick google they report a 90% return rate in Holland (I'm not going to spend time digging into where the 90% comes from):
So it might be a cultural thing or it may be the deposit figure is too low. As far as I remember in Holland it was 10 cents when I was a kid in the 90s, which would be about a dime per bottle.
To clarify, in my experience what happens in the US is most people recycle bottles at curbside pickup, rather than drive somewhere to get 5 cents per can. In cities homeless tend to go around and collect all of the cans from the curb and redeem them.
As always, in Switzerland the system is very smart: The main reason for the high recycling rate in Switzerland is that a 35 liter trash bag costs around 80 cents. The cost for the garbagemen etc. is included in the purchase price of the trash-bag. (Also, the trash-bag is of high-quality and never rips, so garbagemen who get a >4000 CHF monthly salary, almost never waste time picking up trash from ripped trash-bags.)
This is unbelievably smart because this nudges people recycle everything: Paper, carton, glas, metal, and plastic bottles are all thrown away in extra containers that are distributed conveniently within the neighbourhoods. People really fill the expensive, high-quality trash-bags mostly with non-recyclable stuff. If you put in recyclable stuff there is no punishment or anything, you just have to buy more bags, which hurts your pocket.
Compare that to Germany where they rolled out a machinary of expensive plastic-bottle-bar-code reading robots in each and every supermarket that had to be engineered, maintained and protected against tampering/hacking/fraud with false bottles (from Eastern Europe).
Got MSRA on your throwaway plastic bottle, no problem it's going to the dump.
Got MSRA on your refillable bottle? Better steam clean it first or peoples heads might start falling off.
For example in Germany, it's mostly the producers of goods who have to pay for disposal of corresponding (packaging) waste, thereby creating an incentive to reduce packaging or rely on reusable bins etc.
That surprised me with the quantity of garbage due to overpacking in Japan, I'd have expected more. For example, I just bought 2 salads to eat at home, each salad is in a plastic container with some ice sticked to it and enveloped separately in a plastic bag. Then those two salads are in a plastic bag. It's an amazing amount of waste for no real reason.
Contrast to Europe, where bins are ubiquitous and their use is encouraged. Maybe the difference is that Europeans will start littering more if not given the opportunity not to.
Plastic shopping bags are a real bitch when they get into the sand. They often fill up with sand and become like a 10kg buried beachball. One literally needs to dig completely under them to get them out without tearing them up and leaving part of the bag under the sand. All of those plastic bags basically glue together the beach so that the normal erosive action of the sand being moved around by tides and waves no longer grinds things up like it normally would. That means the whole beach gets stagnant and rotten like a swamp. Really nasty.
One anecdote I found amusing is when I was in Yosemite: I bought a couple of t-shirts and told the lady at the check-out she doesn't need to give me a plastic bag for them, since I have my backpack with me anyways. She was pleasantly surprised and thanked me. It's one of the most well-known national parks in the US, where they make it a point to educate people on taking care of your environment, yet they hand out plastic bags with every purchase in the souvenir shop.
Usage went back by ~ 80%.
That's so that the cashier is able to make the distinction, since prices for organics are usually higher.
Usually, because there are exceptions, like a three pack of peppers. Fennel also comes often pre-packed. Other veggies usually not.
That's not to say that not a lot more could be done.
What I tried to do with my comment is to pôint out that a tiny fee can really change behavior.
That's because Japanese want to be extra nice to customers. /s
its a slow boil and we are not focused