It's nuts that if you buy e.g. 4 bottles of wine they all have different bottle designs and if you optionally go through the effort of recycling them there might be some process involved where they're sent to another country, broken down, melted and then reformed it into new bottles at best. Just wash and reuse the bottle...?
Not only the obvious benefits, but standardized bottle shapes allow manufacturers of, say, refrigerators and furniture to tailor their wine racks/dairy drawers/etc to fit the standard product packages perfectly. This gets you more room in your fridge, and your living room... And then places like Amazon can tailor their boxes to perfectly fit the products too.
I noticed this when I went into a Japanese bookstore and saw that all the books were the same shape, even from different publishers, and the bookshelves were perfectly sized to fit them.
I don't know what kind of power brought that about (small homes?), but compared to a North American bookstore where it seems every book is fighting to be a different size and shape, to stick out from the shelf and stand taller than its neighbours.
Soda supplied to bars and restaurants in Denmark is usually in returnable bottles, including Fanta and Sprite (which elsewhere have shaped bottles). Coca Cola has a shape, but perhaps they sell enough to make it worthwhile to sort these from the usual shape.
(I drink close to zero soda at home. I know supermarkets sell cans and plastic bottles, both single-use but with a deposit. Possibly they sell the glass ones too. Most Danish beer is sold in a reusable bottle, foreign or microbrew beer just has a deposit but the bottle isn't reused.)
It requires a lot of energy though to clean and melt. This recycling aluminum is not exactly green.
...the same is true for the container companies! The want to stand out from their competition - so they introduce new products (containers) with new shapes or sizes for that purpose.
While I am certain that some product manufacturers can dictate or have custom-shaped containers for their brand only, for many they just choose an off-the-shelf version and brand using labeling and/or color.
So - while going with standard-sized containers would be great for a whole host of reasons, for the product manufacturers - both for what is being contained, and the containers themselves - it presents a huge loss of profit and market share.
I'm not sure what we can do about this; it seems like something that would have to be dictated by government, because I doubt any of the other stakeholders (not even the consumers) will sway the decision toward standardized containers.
Soda cans (and for that matter, soup cans) are almost the only examples we have (ok - plastic milk jugs and paper milk cartons?), but as you have noticed, that's starting to fragment (it had already started with beer cans long before).
And the Coke was just one example. A Google search for "iconic packaging"  will give you a lot of other examples of packaging so recognizable and unique that you can identify the product just by glancing at the shape.
That is all very expensive and environmentally unfriendly compared to potential for reuse of strong bottles.
Unless you force a redesign so that cans are reusable.
(No more tab - instead a bottle cap, standard shape, no crushing, heavier, thicker, more expensive.)
That would have the same benefit as bottles: The ability to drink only part of the contents (like people do with water). The downside is that you can't see what is inside (an important factor for many people when they purchase - especially water).
Turns out, especially with a lot of CPGs now being sold online, consumers care more about price and quality/quantity than size and shape....
Now, a bottle of Coke is identical to a bottle of Pepsi, Irn Bru or cheapest own label, except for the label, colour of contents and cap. Just a standard, almost generic, 2l or 500ml bottle. Do they even sell glass Cokes any more? I can't remember the last time I saw one. Beer still comes in glass, so there's far more variation. Deposits are no more. Reuse is no more.
Can't be that powerful in differentiating or marketing in comparison to saving a penny or two using generic plastic.
And yeah, it'd be great if the same kind of system were extended to more products in the US. It'd be awesome if we could standardize on containers of, e.g., size 50mL, 100mL, 200mL, 500mL, 1 L, both for liquid and solid goods, and just have everything be sold in those. Then you'd just recycle those containers as normal, and instead of being broken down and remade, they'd simply be washed and reused.
I feel like that might be a more sustainable system: a grocery store where everything is shipped to the store and held in large bulk containers (which can be reused between the store and the supplier), and then, when purchased (through a deli counter or machines), some of the contents of the large container are transferred to fill up a small reusable plastic container you’ve brought from home. (Either by plugging it into the vending machine—like with refillable water jugs—or by handing it to the deli clerk to fill. Or, in the case of bulk bins, just filling your containers yourself, and then weighing them at the self-checkout. [That presumes each container has some sort of standardized tare code on it you can scan so that you don’t have to weigh every container empty when you first come in.])
I'd like to see some drunken bottles!
We (the beverage industry/my company) are only in practice responsible for deposits. While we are required to take collections, no consumers really returns them to us. The return burden often falls on the retailers, who collect deposit directly from consumers.
When we sell product to a retail store. We collect a 10¢ deposit per can from them. The retailer then collects a 10¢ deposit from the customer.
My company gives all our collected deposits to a co-op (which is state run I believe) who handle the collection/recycling of the containers.
I interact with our bottle bill on a pretty small scale, but I believe that only changes my reporting frequency.
For people who don't live in those places, a few online retailers like Loop are trying to fill the gap.
Make it more recyclable like beer bottles or old school Coke bottles.
Aluminum and glass are better for recycling than plastic, if the cost is higher so be it, doesn't stop people from buying beer bottles.
But the benefits are not obvious. If we assume diesel as a substitute good for plastic  then the additional weight of transporting glass could cause more waste (by burning additional diesel)
So, if a commmunity doesn’t have a local wash and refill center, it’s not obvious that plastic wins.
 you can make diesel from plastic (not easy, but probably easier than recycling mixed plastic). Assuming the plastic will go to the oceans otherwise, that’s a pretty good thing to do since diesel will get burned anyway and plastic is diverted from the seas.
Also, beer bottles.
and a bit on Oregon's new "reusable beer bottle" for local craft brewers. difficult to pull off on American nat'l for the usual reasons…
Personally, I would 100% change my shopping habits around brands that adopted standards like this.
There's a good chance they wash and re-use the bottles. The deposit might be greater than the cost of the milk.
I vaguely remember buying a bottle of milk once at Whole Foods and needing to return the bottle for my deposit.
In the 1990s, I had an after school job at a local dairy that was loosing a ton of money on their bottles because they didn't charge a deposit, and many customers didn't understand that we needed them back. We had a giant machine to wash all the bottles.
Now we're paying the price. I'm at the point where I've started to change my purchase habits to avoid packaging in general. This means more veggies and paper-packed meat and less frozen.
Adding costs to dispose of plastic waste (preferably at the storefront) would greatly improve options.
This used to be the case in my country back when I was a kid and when we were still under (nominal) communist rule. Almost no jars or bottles were thrown out after use because that would have been similar to literally throwing money away, what was usually happening was that our parents would send us, kids, with a bag of empty milk bottles and jam jars to the closest general store and we would receive some money in return for said bottles and jars (not much of a sum, I agree, but it was better than nothing).
These words are funny to me. It's not literally "too difficult" or "impossible" for people to sort their recyclables. I think they essentially mean, we don't know how to make people do this, or we think we'll be voted out if we ask people to do it. And what it boils down to is that, it's not a socially accepted/expected practice to sort your recyclables. But, you know what? That is a completely different thing from being "too difficult" or "impossible". And by conflating those two things, we as a society are operating with blinders on.
As a thought experiment, imagine everybody else was making the needed compromises (to their time, space, etc.) to properly sort recyclables. Is it still impossible for you?
1. It's not impossible, but it's impractical. You need multiple containers all of a sudden, and these can't be fixed-size containers because not everyone consumes the same proportion of any given material.
2. People are going to sort things wrong, meaning you need to check/re-sort at the processing plant.
3. How difficult of a challenge is it to build sorting machines, anyway? Are you going to tell me self-driving cars are coming soon but we can't build machines to handle this? If it really is too hard, have regulations put in place so that some machine-readable material tag be put on all packaging.
4. I think this is a good domain for regulators to step in. Tax things that are hard to recycle, and encourage packaging that is easy to recycle or biodegradable. Keep in mind, glass containers are recyclable and also reusable, meaning you can just clean and refill them at the factory, which is more energy-efficient than melting everything. No new technology needed, just go back to selling milk, sodas, etc. in glass jugs.
I don't know where you are, but I think your opinion is colored by the status quo in your country. In a lot of places in Europe people do sort them, and from what I've seen they do a good job at it.
Also, sorting machines are probably not that hard, but remember that this is a low-value product. You cannot justify a lot of expense. (..unless, of course the government pays; different discussion though)
I think tackling it at the source is probably the only real solution. If companies are forced to use easily recyclable or reusable packaging then they will. But they won’t do it voluntarily. I would happily pay a few extra cents or whatever on everything I buy if everyone was forced to use more sustainable packaging.
Danish houses, and even the houses where I am located at, are typically smaller than American middle class housing.
Machine vision and learning, conveyor belts, lots of delta arms - seems doable to me.
Heck - maybe we need something akin to the whole "smart car" thing in China - let kids and others come up with trash sorting machines, compete in challenges (FIRST/FRC style?), etc?
Hmm - business idea:
Educational STEM startup focused on the above (aka - FIRST/FRC robot contests for trash sorting); all entries must be open source/open hardware; same company (more or less) could use innovations from the open source entries to develop full-scale machines and systems for implementation in actual industry?
Skimmers on top to separate oily waste, under-water conveyors to separate heavier materials, huge pools of bacteria that can "digest" organic matter turn it into methane that can then heat homes or create power, centrifuges that can do more precise separation.
They showed the before and after of the waste from the process. It starts as absolutely disgusting murky green water with dirty wet-naps in it, to crystal clear H20 (although I still wouldn't drink it).
The work involves nearly every engineering discipline from bio-chemists to electrical engineers to underwater mechanics to software developers. It's unfortunate it's a public job and the pay isn't great, it's interesting work.
But sadly, given all that, every time it rains the rainwater floods the system with more liquid than it can handle and it all gets dumped into the hudson river.
You can do it the Japanese way and collect different kinds of wastes, in a periodic (say, weekly) rotation, placing the burden to sort and bag them correctly on citizens. Two groups of containers would be enough if recyclable waste equipments are not contaminated by non-recyclable waste. Same could also be applied to reusable products (reuse bin).
What happens to the others during a cycle; ie, let's say you recycle plastics, paper, metal - week one is plastics, but you still accumulate paper and metal - where do you put it if you only have a single bin?
We have single sort but I don't walk each piece out to the bin.
We have three small recycling and compost bins under the kitchen sink, and large green, grey, and blue bins in the garage. Garbage stays in the kitchen trash can until collection, and we usually only fill one bag. It doesn't smell either, since it doesn't have any food waste.
For reference, this is for a family of seven.
The majority of our trash is plastic bags (milk, grocery, cereal, etc.), which aren't recyclable. And those don't take up much room at all.
The answer is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT. The problem is that it is a network system. The number of possible connections of different elements with different elements is a mathematical concept called "factorial".
Even small factorials become extremely huge fast. Huge like the number of atoms in the entire known Universe huge.
In engineering we have machines that do only one thing well. For example, you can burn wood well. No problems.
If the wood have mercury(button batteries), even small quantities, you have a terrible problem (people dying from cancer near the incinerator), if the wood has pesticides or Teflon or chloric materials you will be creating dioxins which are one of earth biggest poison, making burning extremely expensive.
Just a single button battery can contaminate tons of material or water.
Wet wipes for example have made cost of sewerage to skyrocket.
Humans or living beings have something machines do not have: flexibility.
Something that cost 1 monetary unit to do with a machine, becomes 20, 50, 100 units when you get out of the working conditions of the machine.
The fact is that the cost have been externalized. Make people in Africa or Asia die from our waste pollution. It is a good thing that they start saying no and forcing us to deal with the real cost, so we have to be smart with our waste.
At the end of the day it is not that hard. The US was the absolute champion of waste, invented "the use and trow" concept, because they could do it without dealing with the consequences.
If we swapped back to glass containers for everything, would there be significant increase in CO2 emissions from the added shipping weight?
Fuji water bottles are rectangular not only as a unique branding but in order to economize on space in shipping to reduce transport cost.
Large lightweight items cost a lot to ship because they are lightweight and inefficiently use the vehicle. The ideal truckload is a full volume at the maximum carrying weight.
So, compared to transporting loads of compacted glass shards, I'd expect that transporting truckloads of empty bottles could be not only high in monetary costs, but also CO2 costs.
It's Fiji and this is a terrible example. Fiji could just ship a tanker full of water to a bottler in their country of destination. Instead they ship the bottles to Fiji, then fill them at a plant that runs on diesel generators. Finally, they ship the filled bottles to their final destinations.
I don't think its unreasonable to think energy use is lower for reusing rather than making new glass containers, since you would transport them anyway. The tough question would be whether energy use is lower for transporting and reusing glass rather than transporting new, lightweight plastic. I'm also for all glass everything so I won't try to tackle that problem.
You're looking at total generation, but you really need to look at how increasing demand over time is met, since that's really how marginal increases from changing usage (like switching to electric cars) is met.
Places with high population density already have them. Elsewhere it's a big cost and doesn't make any sense. I've heard of big evil companies like Waste Management sending their trash stream though a sorting plant...
The many trips and washing cut down on the efficiency of reusing glass.
Add a significant operation in the middle of that and you better have a lot of support from residents, because they are going to be paying for it in taxes.
3. Building that machine is actually probably pretty challenging. But not as challenging as getting the regulations you describe passed.
4. Not a bad idea.
Recycling really is confusing (in the US). Different municipalities have different rules about what can and can't be recycled, and then we find out that most of the "recyclables" end up getting incinerated or landfilled anyway.
Honestly, this is something that robots really should handle. Maybe we can have two bins, but sorted according to things that are clean and things that are dirty. (Things that are dirty are diapers, wet food containers, ect.)
I keep telling people that I don't believe we'll have self-driving cars until the robots can sort our trash for us.
Just think of aluminum: Though extremely abundant in nature, it require a lot of energy to produce a new alu can but when you recycle you get 20 alu cans for the same amount of energy put in.
The rules for what is recyclable and how to sort it are complicated. They can change when the recycling technology / provider changes, and there's no feedback to tell people when they're doing it wrong.
That's one of the practical factors that makes education difficult.
I personally think they could make progress by adding a feedback loop: Bring in 2% or so of the bins and check them by hand, after labeling each bin with its source. Then send a letter to tell people what they're doing wrong. If 2% of bins are checked, then on average, a poorly educated consumer who's regularly polluting the bin with non-recyclable materials should be informed of the error of his ways within a year.
Here's the previous article: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17359807
Then I moved to a fairly liberal area of the country and was stunned to see the “all together” recycling was the standard.
The stunningly low expectations we put on people is depressing. And the justifications I see in this thread below just show how prevalent this attitude is, that basically most of humanity can’t do the simplest of things.
Over here the requirements are to sort your trash into 7 categories, of which 5 are recyclable.. and we generally speaking live in pretty small houses/flats compared to US.
why not make a simple system consisting of 3 categories: food waste(wet trash) - which you dispose daily because it stinks otherwise, dry trash - which won't stink, and recyclables?
The main idea behind recycling should be to make people recycle(emphasis on people), not to make it easier on sorting company, nor recycling company.
Source: living in a place that legally requires to sort garbage into 5 (five) fractions.
I'd personally love the concept of living a life that created no waste, where every output I created could be used as another's input. Alas, I don't think we're there yet.
Industrialization's negative effect wasn't about efficiency, it was that it allowed us to create far more stuff. Today, we go through far more single-use products than ever could have been imagined pre-industrialization. We're far more efficient about handling that waste than they were, but because we create so, so much more of it today, the net effect is more waste. So even though industrialization had a big effect, it's not for the reasons you raise.
Going one step further, industrialization doesn't have to be the enemy. There could very plausibly exist a society with mass plentiful produced goods that all get easily recycled/reused. Industrialization can help here.
Let's do some simple math, shall we?
One of the most recycleable commodities is aluminum. A soda can contains about 15 grams of metal. You can get maybe $0.40/lb for aluminum can metal. This comes to about $.013/can. If I were to value my time at $10/hour, then if I spend more than a few seconds recycling a can it isn't worth it.
So, no, it's not worth it to hire anyone to recycle most stuff. Labor is far too expensive, compared to the value produced by recycling.
And nobody was recycling 40 years ago so it's just a matter of habit/culture.
Yes, it's habit/culture. Lots of silly things are done just because it's the habit to do them. It doesn't mean they're good ideas.
Even if I never consumed another piece of plastic in my life, a single cargo truck destined to Walmart will contain more plastics effectively ruining what I can do.
It would be smarter to actually have politicians who want to regulate and fine companies these corporations that are destroying out planet than trying to blame people who aren't the real problems.
There are zero companies that create and distribute products for the simple enjoyment of doing so. If consumers didn't buy these products in their packaging, the manufacturers would not produce them.
>people who aren't the real problems.
People are the real problem. What's more is that it's poor, stupid people who are disproportionately the problem. But it's out of fashion to criticize poor people as they are, supposedly, victims of circumstances and not to be thought as functioning humans who are capable of making choices.
What am I suppose to do? Drive 100 miles to the nearest store so I can by rice that's not in several plastic bags?
Why don't our politicians put our needs first? Why are they bought out by life damaging companies like Koch Industries who instead encourage people to "reduce" or "recycle."
What a crock of shite.
If companies were forced to pay 30% of their yearly gross profits for needless plastic usage (IMO 90% of all plastic use pointless) they would change their policies.
I'm not talking about "enjoyment" I'm talking about no incentive to correct their behavior. Corporations are fucking over the Earth because are politicians are too chickenshit to tell them otherwise.
I honestly hope I die before this all these travesties come to fruition.
It's trivial to order bulk grains and dried beans online delivered in cans, paper bags, or barrels. Regardless, if it's 100 miles to the nearest big city, that's shouldn't be a problem. Plan ahead, know how much you need, and buy six month's or a year's worth at a time.
You write as if it's a human rights violation that choices you would like to make require effort on your part. Sorry, that's not the case. Take personal responsibility for your choices. If you can't be bothered to make environmentally responsible decisions, that's on you.
The problem is burning it clean. To do that you have to run a very hot furnace, near gasification temperatures.
Otherwise, you will be releasing cracked chlorine, sulphate, partial urethane chains and other hydrocarbons into air. They're invisible but noxious and sometimes stinky.
Electroscrubbers have limitations and high energy cost too.
If you're not recycling them, why is burning them better than putting them into a landfill? Is it the fact that plastics don't biodegrade and will last in the ground for thousands of years? Isn't that good? Aren't we trying to find carbon sequestration techniques?
If it were true that recycling plastic were better for the environment, but was a financial loss I'd be for it. I'm not sure this is true, but the point is that purely financial considerations miss the bigger picture here.
As other HN posters have pointed out, it seems that fewer disposable plastic containers is the better path here. (really, as few as possible!)
It’s sort of like the “bargain” of cryptocurrencies: what promotes long-term GDP growth more, bank fees or massive electricity use? Crypto miners are hurting the environment right now; but they pay for their own externalities. Banks impose fees that lower net productivity in a way that might mean that the companies/technologies that we need to reach sustainability take longer to come into existence. So will we be in a better place with 100 years of crypto mining + 100 years of an economy [including green industry] that was spurred on no bank fees; or vice versa? The question doesn’t have an immediate, intuitive answer.
A stupid but weirdly-precise analogy: when playing an RTS like Starcraft, anything that slows down your “economy” (mineral mining) prevents you from “teching up” as quickly as your opponent. In humanity’s case, our opponent is Malthusian resource starvation (in the small—of individual resources) and habitat loss from climate change. Anything that slows down our economy from “teching up” to face these problems, for a reward of merely moving around in time our ability to use our resources (rather than decreasing permanent losses/increasing permanent gains of resources), isn’t really worth it, if we’re “racing the clock.” (That’s a big, hotly-debated “if”, of course.)
Assuming they have the same cost, bank fees promote more GDP growth, hands down, at any time horizon.
Money simply changing hands will always beat money changing hands with added useless usage of resources and labor.
And that's not even considering the reality, that average electricity costs of a BTC transaction are orders of magnitude expensive than the average bank fees on money transactions.
Similarly: I have a friend who recently told me they were trying to get away from using disposable paper towels and instead use cloths. Again, this episode immediately came to mind. I couldn't help but wonder if the amount of energy, detergent, etc used in washing the reusable towels was _worse_ than simply using paper towels.
I don't know that there is any true way to definitively answer either of these questions. There's just SO MUCH involved, that you can go down a million rabbit holes (the manufacture of the washer uses X, the design required a team that required an office that was built inefficiently, etc). This is currently a premise on The Good Place: no matter how hard you try to be the best possible person, you can't control the entire pipeline of ramifications.
Many things do not need hazardous detergents to clean. If something is sufficiently dry, it can easily be sterile enough to be considered clean. And so, a gross-looking rag might not necessarily be unhealthy. Further, people could just own "categories" of rags: one for cleaning the house, one for work with cars and machinery, one for biological use, etc. And each of those could be treated separately so as to reduce chemical usage.
I'm not confident people would ever do this, instead just that avoiding some of these problems is not conceptually difficult. That's more of a problem of behaviorism and consumerism. (and, as you point out, education)
I do agree with your point, though. Apparently you can compost paper towels, too. So as long as you're not cleaning anything you can put on your lawn, you don't even need further transportation costs to dispose of or recycle.
replace tax with any other way of artificially increasing the financial cost of plastic if you don't like taxes.
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
Go to a developing country and the deposit on the beer bottle costs more than the beer in it. They are all clean and reused. Tons of countries charge money for plastic bags, or have even made them illegal. We need to catch up.
Anyone even semi educated or over 55 recalls that when they grew up, most items came in glass containers, containers that you were required to place a deposit, and return for a refund.
It's only recent history, that a non conservative society which values expediency at a price of disposability and non ownership for freedom has become the norm.
More than this, the recycle scam is finally being exposed, and not soon enough in my estimation.. Islands of plastic in the Pacific ocean, so that people in cities feel better about themselves while driving to and from yoga in their prius while finger wagging truck driving hillbillies in the middle of the country.
Meanwhile, mayors, local reps, and governors try to export the problems somewhere else while millenials look to the federal govt and the administrative state as their saviours, so nothing really has to get done. Cue the food/milk/bag/whatever delivery as a service folks. This has cash cow written all over it..
And that's before we even mention sachets. The very devil.
It isn't that simple though, I have relatives that worked for coke back in the glass bottle days and they would never drink coke from a glass bottle - they knew first hand how hard it was to get those bottles clean again. New plastic bottles and cans are always clean.
Sometimes the concentrated syrup will be transported to the bottling company; I think this is probably the usual case for smaller markets.
It can be done
Consider a neighbourhood where everyone has a lawn to mow. The lawnmover companies want to increase (not reduce) sales. So we end up with everyone having their own mower, which sits idle 95% of the time, instead of one community mower that's shared by neighbours. It's just a little example, but it extends to everything.
1. Everybody wants to mow at the same time
2. Community goods are often treated careless, leaving me with a dirty or non-functional mower when it is my turn
3. Who is responsible for repairs
Off topic, but when I bought a new mower last year, I couldn't believe how far the technology has come. No more primer bulb, starts easily on the first pull, and a few other items I don't recall off the top of my head. Same with cars, for example if you get out of it while it is still in gear it automatically puts itself in park, and it can limp home with loss of coolant (it fires every other cylinder pushing air through the others for cooling).
The neighborhood mower would cost 10x as much last just as long and serve the needs of 20 people - so a better deal in the long run. However what price are you willing to pay to not have to use the mower on your neighborhood's schedule - owning your own is probably worth it for you.
If the engine reaches a preset
over-temperature condition, the engine
automatically switches to alternating
cylinder operation. Each disabled cylinder
acts as an air pump and cools the engine.
When this occurs, your vehicle still
• Engine power is limited.
• The air conditioning system turns off.
Continued operation increases the engine
temperature, causing the engine to
completely shut down. Your steering and
braking effort increases in this situation.
It doesn't really let you operate with no coolant. Might get you farther before you die if you push it.
Wow, this really cheered up my morning. Thanks.
And over the long run, sharing lawnmowers wouldn't even reduce total lawnmower production. The shared lawnmowers would run more hours per week and need replacement sooner.
This is only true if people fully utilize their personal lawnmower before discarding it. I doubt this is the case. It seems that sharing would result in less discarding of under-utilized lawnmowers, and thus reduce the number of lawnmowers needed. Of course, I'm not saying anyone should be forced to do this.
But, they're also a great example: we shouldn't have lawns which add nothing to the ecosystem and require resources to maintain.
But plants are "weeds" and insects are "pests." So people spray neurotoxins, and see how much biodiversity they can destroy.
And most other non-carbonated liquids?
I do buy cheap wine in tetra boxes. They have a spigot to limit air-intake, so you can take your time to finish it.
As we can see, it worked really well. The environment was saved, waste and littering are things of the past.
Some people still believe it's a grass roots organisation simply trying to improve the beauty of the country. Edit: founding members Philip Morris, Anheuser-Busch, PepsiCo, and Coca-Cola
I’d prefer a straight tax instead so it goes into general revenue instead of bribing industry.
So I'd prefer manufacturers responsible for every last cent of running a full-scale return and reuse programme. If that makes fizzy drinks more expensive, well, I'm not sure that's a bad thing either. Externalities are what started us on the way to this mess in the first place.
Beer growlers are a similar concept. Maybe this just spreads to more and more products.
That's called recycling
Based on this article, it looks like "Or just melted down and reused" doesn't work very well.
And what is the role of democracy in regulating global public goods? How are you going to vote on environmental protections on other continents?
"How are you going to vote on environmental protections on other continents?"
Trade negotiations? Or are you asking if invasion and war are an option, which they absolutely are not.
Tea came in chests, sugar and potatoes in sacks, there'd be large jars for the shop owner to measure out from. Most things went to the shop in bulk.
Only a few were pre-packed right from the start, like bars of soap and bottles for instance. Those bottles would almost certainly have a deposit scheme. Most of the individual packaging, and variance of packaging, came with supermarkets.
It also allowed for easy adulteration of products (ever read old formulary books that were popular back then? They had a ton of "recipes" in them on how to extend or change a product to make more money from it, or sell expired goods, etc).
Imagine bulk flour sold by a company. Shop owner pays some money for it. Then reads how to "extend" the product using wood flour (aka sawdust). The shop owner reaps a much high profit, but the company that milled the flour gets a bad rep.
This kind of thing still goes on today with a variety of products that are sold to the consumer in bulk, especially where the consumer can't easy see what they are getting (or can't test it properly; for instance, it happens with gasoline occasionally).
It certainly made adulterating super easy, and in no small part led to the food safety laws both sides of the Atlantic, and the UK's trading standards. Things like alum in flour, or other equally unpleasant additives.
More recent variations on the theme have been more aware of the tendency to cheat, so have tried to make it a little more difficult. We'll always need spot checks from trading standards for restaurants and shops as someone will always try.
If laundry detergent doesn’t go bad, why aren’t I buying it in 25L or 50L barrels?
We buy 10year supplies of other products (the machines themselves), why not their consumables? They go up in price every year too.
That or buying the concentrate and diluting it yourself with the old container. That bottle of windex (spray glass cleaner) is 95% water.
Put a nice big tax on consumables, reduce the lowest rates of income tax with the revenue (or write cheques) and voila.
Instead of bigger containers, reusable containers. I have a 4 L container for laundry detergent that I fill up at the store on my walk home from work, fits nicely in my backpack.
Instead, I just buy 10x 5L containers when they’re on sale. A big waste of plastic.
Barring that, plastic foil is more friendly. Buy a refill if available.
I’m not sure if it’s just a scam to sell me liquid detergent tho.
The first step though is to ignore the pervailing reclamation, recycling mentality at the macro level and begin the gruelling work of building a new ecology. We're at a point now where concerted effort into engineered (or found through directed evolution) organisms gives us the opportunity to break down and then re-integrate these dormant resources.
In the future a 'recycling' plant will accept any and all waste and be the front end of a manufacturing hub that outputs both new raw materials and finished products. In between the two ends it will be biotechnology that enables the transition from waste back to usable component resources.
It probably still requires some pre-sorting. People used to just pour paint down the drain. Some things can poison the system. I suspect we don't fully know what things will be problematic until we really try reclamation.
If you're talking about literally turning garbage into fuel, there's, as I understand it, very rapidly diminishing returns unfortunately.
Even the apparently simple act of just burning garbage to generate electricity is complex, because you have to be concerned about what the heck is in there and what you're releasing into the air.
In practice, it's really expensive to set up and operate without a lot of throughput, so it doesn't happen that much.
Though, I've read the US Navy is putting plasma gasifiers onto its newest generations of big ships.
Note that I said some above. There are thousands of different materials in the world. Some are very cheap to recycle some are not. A large part of useful recycling efforts is good material selection in the first place. If you really want to make a difference you should start there: choose materials that are not so difficult for the waste stream.
"China, once the biggest single processor of recycling, said in the spring that it would no longer accept loads of recyclable items — such as plastic, glass, cardboard, and metals — that were more than 0.5 percent contaminated. Officials said they were trying to cut down on pollution from processing dirty recyclables.
Philadelphia’s contamination rate is anywhere from 15 percent to 20 percent. That meant its previous contractor for recycling, Republic Services, had to find other markets for processing or begin disposing of portions of contaminated loads in other ways, such as in landfills or by incineration.
As recently as the first quarter of 2012, Philadelphia was getting paid $67.35 a ton for its recyclables. By summer 2018, Republic was negotiating a new contract to process recyclables that would cost the city $170 a ton."
 "Reduce, reuse, incinerate: Why half of Philly's recyclables aren't recycled" (Feb 11, 2019)
 "At least half of Philly’s recycling goes straight to an incinerator" (Jan 25 2019)
Better by far would be local recycling instead ; this is a fine thing for a government incentive as the (arbitrary, fickle) market incentive has gone away.
China's Import Ban Broke Plastic Recycling. Here's How to Fix It
I recall a piece about Malaysia no longer being willing to thanks to a large increase in localised pollution, and illegal burning of non-recyclables (wrong plastic in bundle, labels, lids, etc). A fast search doesn't turn up a link.
Unfortunately, garbage companies are not necessarily very good at publicity or education. (My local company's website is badly designed and it's annoyingly difficult to even find the page with the rules.)
I love that they compare it to the weight of a blue whale!
"There isn’t much of a domestic market for US recyclables – materials such as steel or high-density plastics can be sold on but much of the rest holds little more value than rubbish"
It's clear to me from the article, does that mean paper and cardboard as well? It seems to be mentioned that China won't take it, but is that getting burned now?
Small changes like “Number 5 plastics cannot be black in colour” would help without any consumer impact.
Waste-to-energy tends to be a relatively win-win way of dealing to trash, but a lot of environmentalists tend to be against it because they feel it takes away from efforts to reduce waste.
Not every bit of trash goes out there. I believe plastic and metal are separated.
I doubt it's worth it, though - it's a lot of work for a little low-grade paper waste, and incineration is probably more efficient.
And it is likely to be more as trash is often declared as raw plastic, cellulose, aluminium billets, or "electronic components" to evade numerous bans that China been enacting over the last decade.
This is also why American own material statistics by US ITC is likely a better measure (access to ITC data is paid)
>Since 2007, one of America's top exports to China has been... trash
Assuming positive intent, it is possible that the article was edited in the five hours since you linked it. However, it was written in 2013 so that seems unlikely.
Lots of otherwise empty containers going back. Makes sense to jam them with junk when the ship has to be repatriated anyway.
You could get the homeowner to do it, or you could pay people in a factory to do it.
Just like the poor economics of making your own paper, it turns out centralising all the effort works out to less effort expended overall.
I therefore don't really see the appeal of the European model of having homeowners separate glass, plastic etc. It seems to simply be a way to make hundreds of mllions of people waste a few minutes each, rather than employ a few thousand full time at a lower total economic cost.
This from the place that once had a power plant with a huge illuminated sign "Electricity is Cheap in Chester".
I think a reasonable approach for regulators might be to require all single-use plastic packaging to be industrially compostable (corn-derived etc). This way you still get the convenience of the packaging, no need to change habits, but the waste can all be turned back into soil without pollution.
But can a compostable bottle last the months needed to hold a beverage on the shelf?
Pizza boxes are not actually recyclable due to the amount of grease they absorb which is unable to be separated.