Aluminum recycling is the big win. That sometimes pays for the rest of the operation.
You have to separate the aluminum from the ferrous metals, so pulling out the ferrous stuff with magnets doesn't add cost. Scrap steel isn't that valuable, but there's no problem selling it. Steel mills will take it all.
Pulling out glass and making it into cullet is common, but there's more glass cullet than glassmakers need. Sorting by color is possible, but adds cost. Works fine, though. There are uses for low-value mixed cullet, mostly as fill in construction, so it usually doesn't go to the landfill.
There are advanced sorters that can separate the major categories of plastics, but they're still rare. Plastic bottles can be recycled all the way back to plastic pellets for new bottles, and a huge plant near Los Angeles does this for most of Southern California. Not clear that this pays without subsidies.
Paper recycling from post-consumer waste is tough. It's mostly low quality packaging material, which can at best be recycled into lower-quality packaging material. The fibers get shorter each time around. Recycling paper from offices, and recycling newspapers, used to be a thing, but those sources are in decline.
The US recycling industry is currently struggling because China will no longer take the unsorted paper/plastic mess that used to be sent there in empty shipping containers going back. That will probably get worked out.
The university I studied at also has a department that analyzes renewable energies and recycling. They developed a system that does this cost-vs-value-analysis for recycling. In the end, you get a number of environmental points for every dollar you invest into recycling.
The core idea is that we have a certain budget to improve our environment. If a dollar invested in plastic recycling is 20 times less efficient than a dollar invested in glass recycling, then we should stop recycling plastic.
The results (for Switzerland): Glass and aluminum recycling works great. Battery recycling is OK, but because today's batteries contain way less toxic chemicals (like Cadmium) than they did in the 80s, it's largely an artifact from the past. They consider battery recycling good enough to keep, but wouldn't start recycling them if the infrastructure wouldn't exist right now.
Mixed plastic recycling is being hyped right now. There are companies that offer subsidized plastic bags where you can throw in all kinds of plastic. According to the study, the environmental value of recycling such mixed plastics in Switzerland is really low and should not be done, we are basically wasting our money which would be better spent on other projects that have higher value. Their summary was basically that instead of recycling plastic and burning fuel in combustion engines, we should convert oil to plastic products and then - once they have reached the end of the lifecycle - burn those in modern incineration plants. The energy gained from that can then be used to heat buildings and to power electrical cars. This way, the energy is re-used, first in a product, then in mobility.
Of course that only works if you have modern, clean incineration plants. If you burn the plastics on a pile, then the environmental value of plastic recycling skyrockets.
Note that this solution is so obvious what every high school chemistry student proposes as soon as they learn that plastics are made from oil and have similiar molecular structure. We just don't do it because I don't know why.
At the risk of sounding flippant, "For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, obvious, and wrong". There's no guarantees that the energy arithmetic works out here. Even without the logistics of collection and transport, is cleanly burning plastic waste efficient enough to be worthwhile (cf. why it's almost unheard of to use wood to generate power)?
It's heard of plenty. People use wood to generate heating power for homes.
Add on top of that the difficulty in getting people to recycle plastic instead of throwing it out or littering, and you have a very inefficient supply chain for your energy production.
"Burn it to generate electricity" solves the second one entirely by solving a small fraction of the first one. That is not a flaw, it just means that we still need solar panels and nuclear reactors to make up the difference.
It still gets rid of the plastic garbage -- and the fact that it's a small proportion of electricity production is a feature, because burning plastic gets it out of the landfill, but it's not exactly carbon neutral. Doing it at smaller scale, especially if it replaces that amount of power generation from coal, is more feasible than burning plastic (i.e. oil) to generate all of our electricity.
> There are different chemicals distilled and they have different purposes, such as making asphalt, lanolin, naptha, paraffin wax, kerosene / jet fuel, and other goodies. Maybe 40-50% of a barrel of oil at most becomes gasoline and diesel, 4% becomes plastic.
The distillation process can actually be tuned within a fairly broad range to produce different output products with varying degrees of efficiency.
It's also possible to make bioplastics from biomass, though hardly anybody does that because it's more expensive.
When you're really hungry and there's not much food, your willingness to pay more for it increases. Same mechanism.
Ultimately we need to bake the cost of disposal into the purchase price.
In theory the free market works when transactions are consensual, which means you can't pollute someone else's property without their permission, and they're not inclined to give it to you without due compensation.
In practice there are a lot of politicians in places where fossil fuels are a major industry, and they're pragmatists with no real principles other than wanting to get elected.
You can produce plastic without paying a cent towards cleanup of The Great Pacific garbage patch.
...can you please take a step back, read this again, and think about what it is that you're saying?
This is always implicit when speaking about economics. Don’t attach too much meaning to “value” , or “purpose” , or any of those models. They’re just describing a model of reality, not prescribing it.
TLDR: “value” in economics != “value” in Buddhism.
i am in japan, so maybe it’s worse (here i can see it because we sort everything) but the amount of plastic garbage just from buy the essentials (soap, tea/coffee, cooking oil etc) and cardboard for everything is absolutely insane
a lot of things and packaging in stores is just to compel you to buy it (sturdiness, printed imagery, size etc), with little to do with the size of the product itself, and this just creates inordinate amounts of garbage... i am always amazed at this
the other thing is, when i buy online, i notice almost always the packaging is same as in-store, meaning more waste... i have already bought it, i don’t need enticing nice packages in that case, just bubble packaging (oh don’t get me started on that) is enough...
we really need to fix this package and wrapping waste: it’s only going to get worse as other economies (and consumerism) keep growing
The real trouble is - plastic packaging, especially if the food contained went to a bio-methan operation first. The packaged food is shredded and added to the fermenter- this is THE topsoil contamination source of microplastics.
Its really tough to get plastic seperated cost effective.
I mean things like large barrels of cooking oil for take-away restaurants don't even get reused - why wouldn't they just collect, clean and refill them?
We get large "food grade" buckets for ceramics supplies: those buckets cost several pounds each to buy wholesale, they could easily be reused but there's no system to do that: I assume because there's no [cost] incentive.
Single use packaging needs some heavy fines to regulate it.
When buckets are expensive - large industrial containers, they are in fact protected by deposit and recipients of shipments are obligated to return the containers to the supplier.
China is so strict about recycling that people who don't know that an umbrella or old shoes don't belong in a blue bin get kicked out of the country, forced to live in condos in Vancouver, Canada.
Ask yourself: how does recycling help the environment? It doesn't. Recycling arose out of 1980s landfill anxiety but we have plenty of space, what we don't have are plenty of climates. All the money wasted on making us feel better by recycling could be far better spent reducing carbon emissions.
What a waste of tax dollars, especially now that most cities and counties just throw out recycling anyway.
> Recycling arose out of 1980’s landfill anxiety
That’s the first anti-recycling myth addressed above. It sure seems like this argument is being recycled.
> we have plenty of space,
Anti-recycling myth #3...
> What a waste of tax dollars
Garbage disposal is also funded by taxes. Whatever, fewer dollars are spent on both garbage and recycling combined than are lost in the margins of military spending. If you really cared about taxes at all, you’d know recycling is irrelevant.
It’s a direct response to an even older article the parent comment posted that preceded it. BTW, May 2019 - June 1996 is just less than 23 years.
> from an organization that denies humans caused climate change
The Environmental Defense Fund denies human factors? I think you’re mistaken. Can you please provide a source for that claim? Or are you talking about Heartland... did you confuse the hosting web site with the authors?
Right, thanks, yes EDF was founded on the very idea of human factors. I guess @landon32’s comment mistook the URL I used for the source of the information. I can’t find the full article on the EDF site, just a shortened version. Or maybe that comment was intentionally trying to cast doubt by association?
Is the history of DDT relevant to the recycling debate, or are you hoping to cast doubt by association?
> widely but controversially regarded as one of the worst mistakes of environmentalism.
“the United States ban on DDT is a major factor in the comeback of the bald eagle (the national bird of the United States) and the peregrine falcon from near-extinction in the contiguous United States.”
I like bald eagles. And I don’t want DDT used on my food. Do you??
I’d never heard the idea that banning DDT is a mistake. I’m trying to find some reputable sources for the claim that this is widely believed. The Wikipedia article doesn’t exactly back up that claim, so do you want to provide some?
“A few people and groups have argued that limitations on DDT use for public health purposes have caused unnecessary morbidity and mortality from vector-borne diseases”
"Joseph J. Romm has written that Tierney is one of the "influential but misinformed" skeptics who have helped prevent the U.S. from taking action on climate change. ..."
Back in the day of dial-up BBSes, our offline mail readers had "twit filters". Precursor to today's ad blockers.
Gods I miss that functionality.
I keep day dreaming about what today's twit filter might look like. Maybe a RSS reader.
>Anti-recycling myth #3: Landfill space is cheap and abundant.
> Fact: Landfill space is a commodity, priced according to supply and demand. The majority of the growth of recycling in the United States has occurred in populated regions where landfills are expensive relative to the U.S. average.
I stared at this for a while trying to get at the heart of the issue. The response isn't "no, there isn't space." More like, market forces show that it isn't cheaper than recycling.
Perhaps the argument use to be "why bother recycling at all if creating new is cheaper"?
I think it's currently a de facto non-issue: Things that are worth recycling are being recycled, and things that aren't are going to be dumped/burned.
The better point is we can spend the dollars more effectively to improve the environment.
The military / military spending has nothing to do with it.
> military spending has nothing to do with it.
That’s right. Military spending is simply what one should be concerned about if they are worried about taxes. Military spending is greater than 50% of all tax expenditure in the US. Waste management is such a small fraction, it’s in the noise, far below military, and other things like roads and education.
There are some materials where there is a net economic benefit to recycling, such as aluminum and to a lesser extent steel and glass.
There are also materials where it’s a net cost (in excess of landfill dumping fees) to recycle the material, such as many plastics. If we are paying in aggregate millions of dollars to recycle this material, it makes sense to ask could those dollars be put to better use.
Also worth noting I don’t pay for garbage and refuse through my local taxes, I have a private service which I pay to pickup my trash. Many towns are moving to this model so that residents who make less trash can pay less.
Military spending is 50% of “discretionary” spending, but about 1/6th of total spending. “Discretionary” means spending appropriated each year, versus spending which is based on existing laws and not the annual budget. I’m sure there’s many ways that money could be better spent as well, but it doesn’t change the fact that we should invest efficiently in environmental protection.
What I don’t like about the article posted and about Tierney’s quite misguided writing is the negative headlines that immediately give the reader the impression that inaction is better than action. There are many cherry-picked statistics being used to paint a narrative that is more or less the opposite of truth, at least in Tierney’s work. I encourage you to read it and the rebuttals I posted and make up your own mind.
> There are some materials where there is a net economic benefit to recycling
Personally speaking, money is not what I care about. Recycling’s primary goals are to stop using non-renewables and stop toxic pollution and damage to the environment, not to be cheaper than being lazy. I don’t care if it costs more to value the environment, I want clean air and water, forever. I realize it’s going to take strong economic arguments to get us all moving, and I’m in no way in favor of wasting money, but in terms of priorities and the way we evaluate what’s worth doing, I believe waiting for clear and undeniable and unarguable economic benefit is probably a mistake.
I furthermore think that cost-benefit analysis of environmental factors is a deeply flawed idea. By reducing things to dollars, we’re losing our actual values. This study examined previous environmental cost-benefit analyses, and concluded they were wrong by orders of magnitude:
I think in a hundred or two hundred years if we run out of petroleum, if we need expensive air and water filters in order to survive, our great great grandchildren might look back and realize how pathetic and petty the idea was that we decided we needed to make valuing the earth cheaper than screwing it up before we were willing to budge.
i mean, there are a lot of basic environmental protective measures which actually save money too. Any time you can make something more efficient there might be upfront capex / R&D to get there, but the value inherent in the efficiency pays you back over time. E.g. airplane engines. But that's not my point.
If we are going to ask people to spend $X/day to improve their environment, it's possible that some of those hours and dollars should go toward the costs of recycling. But maybe not all $10 should go there. We should ask people to spend their time and money in the ways which will be most productive toward helping the environment.
It may be that recycling is the best bang for the buck because you can do it without leaving your home, it feels akin to doing a daily household chore rather than some special big task I have to go prepare for and schedule, and trying to get someone to do the equivalent amount of work at the equivalent cost (e.g. 10 hours and $250 a year) is never going to happen at the scale that we can get households participating in recycling.
For example, we should be increasing the cost of things to cover their environmental impact. Products should get cheaper to sell if they last longer or have a smaller environmental footprint. Most particularly this should tax environmentally unfriendly packaging, since the packaging is the first to be discarded. This aligns incentives.
Recycling makes different amounts of sense depending on the material. I suspect that a fair amount of material mined is subsidized by different governments (natural resource extraction at least in the us often takes place on leased government land).
I did some landfill design engineering in a previous career. while there is lots of space sometimes it’s far away, so there is trucking waste around. Plus landfills despite their liners and clay layers can leak nasty stuff into the groundwater.
You pay for what you put in the landfill by weight, so reducing waste can save municipalities money.
Yes, that’s why aluminium is recycled everywhere. Glass, on the other hand, is more of a “What the hell do we do with this?” situation because making glass from sand is cheap and doesn’t have the quality control issues of making it from old glass. That’s why recycled glass goes to making gravel, decorative or not, mostly.
Transport is cheap and most recycling makes no economic sense and wouldn’t even with a carbon tax. Chemical feedstock is cheap, wood is cheap, metals are cheap. That covers plastics, paper and manufactured goods. Recycling is a religious impulse, not an economic one.
You pay a deposit when you buy a bottle of tasty beverage, and some time later, can take those bottles back to the grocery store. There, you put your used bottles into a machine which scans each bottle, and gives you an aggregate receipt for all of the bottles you returned, which you can then use to buy goods at that store.
It's a great system for encouraging reuse, and we should be doing this in the US.
We've moved to use more aluminum and thinner plastic bottles, because they can be crushed at the recycling point (look up Tomra recycling machines), making it much more space efficient. Remember that the trucks transporting the bottles back to the plant have their emissions as well (for now at least). Transporting uncrushed empty bottles is inefficient too.
This seems to be much better on multiple levels. It seems that many more smaller companies are on board with this recycling scheme than the re-use scheme, since re-use means that ever producer of bottled items have to agree on a very limited set of bottle sizes, and be able to handle all the logistics of accepting those bottles back.
The recycling of plastic bottles in Norway is one of the most successful recycling schemes for plastic, since you get a stream of plastics of a single type. Most other recycling of plastic is worthless because you get a mix of different plastics.
These schemes are common in Germany as well, often side by side with the glass bottles. But cans really only come in single serving sizes, and some people are wary about plastic bottles.
Are people worried about potential health effects of plastic leaching into the contents, or something else?
It's also a great example of a coordination problem: while I'm sure no company wants to stick its neck out to become the boring bottle company, they would benefit if all companies had to standardise on bottle shapes.
I'd expect it's detrimental to incumbents (who hold the most market power and so can block it).
In days of yore, soft drink bottling plants were in every small town. They were locally owned, were good citizens and local suppliers of jobs, sponsored sports teams.
Distributors used to pick up bottles sorted for their bottlers and then put them in a great big bottle yard for further hand sorting (don't ask me how I know).
Beer, while they mostly used brown bottles (Miller for one excepted), also was much more locally sourced although not as locally.
In the meantime, there was huge consolidation in beer manufacturing, huge consolidation in distribution (with the inevitable forced closure of family-owned businesses, not dissimilar to car dealerships), similar consolidation in soft drink manufacture. The whole underlying network changed in the interest of efficiency/profit maximization for the corporate motherships.
tl;dr You simply can't just declare reuse of bottles and be done with it. There's a whole ecosystem.
I remember that there was a brief discussion once that moving the empty glass bottles might be so energy inefficient that using recyclable plastic bottles would make more sense. These kinds of soft plastic bottles are crushed immediately after taken in by the machine and thus take up much less volume on their return trip (fewer trucks with better loads). I unfortunately don't know if this claim was finally determined to be true or false.
French supermarkets used to do that with the cheap wine. You used to get "container" or "tub" stores in the 80s (UK) that you could buy loose product and put in your own containers.
This, to me seems a better, more responsible way to do things but it means reducing the numbers of products (only 3 types of extra-virgin olive oil, how will we survive!) and removing marketing opportunities like package labelling and shape. Companies couldn't just reduce the volume of a good in a packet when prices go up nor redesign the label to hide what is [not] inside.
It would be interesting to see how companies would innovate differentiation if, for example, all mobile phones came in a fixed size/shape box that couldn't use mixed media, could only use environmentally friendly dyes in the printing.
But I don't get why you would have to reduce the variety of product brands to get there. Care to elaborate?
Edit: I have seen repeated news of tub stores opening up in Germany. They are very few and far inbetween, but the the that exist seem to do reasonably well.
There's an effort to do this by TerraCycle and some big name corporate partners like PepsiCo, Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, etc.
Quite common in Canada, eg: http://www.bulkbarn.ca
I do wish they'd catch on more in Europe.
A truck has to go back to the factory with plastic pellets, and to collect the product, so you're only left with the weight differential. Given the amount of corporate lobbying and marketing pushing away from reuse and towards recycling I think it likely that reuse is the winner in terms of sustainability. Recycling is an externality creation exercise to reduce costs for the business, not overall.
In practice, it functions as a tax on recyclable containers: most individuals don't reclaim the deposit unless they're harvesting cans in bulk.
That's kind of a nebulous statement, but within the OP's context; there's only 10 states that have bottle deposits. I've never personally seen a can deposit; usually the money made from collecting cans is from their scrap weight value, not any kind of deposit.
Are there other container deposits I'm unaware of in the states?
only because heavy goods vehicles do not pay for the damage that they do to the roads and the environment and because the oil industry is effectively subsidised.
btw. recycling of glass isn't just done by germany. the whole eu recycles glass, with a rate of 74% (2013 data: https://feve.org/glass-recycling-hits-73-eu/, https://feve.org/recyclingstatistics2016/) (which is a lot, but not enough for some people) and as said it's mostly bottles: "An estimated 90% of what is collected goes into creating new bottles from old ones"
What about the sand shortage?   
Recycling of one time glass doesn’t work that well in Germany, look at wine bottles. What works well is reuse of bottles, both glass and plastic, and having big deposits on bottles, big enough that people are motivated to bring them back to the store to redeem the deposit.
It's also basically one of the only things you will get paid for recycling (copper being the other notable exception; scrap steel is mostly worthless unless you have a ton of it).
No one wants to pay you for used plastic or paper. That alone should tell us all about the economics of recycling.
In Europe at least, people do want to pay you for used paper, and enough money that some marginal social groups specialize in collecting waste cardboard from businesses.
What I've heard is that Aluminum is, by far, the only material it makes sense to recycle.
Which, if true, means it's less of an example and more of an exception. Though an important one.
The vast majority of material is not like that though.
In summary: Recycle metal, not anything else.
>”Mandatory recycling programs aren't good for posterity. They offer mainly short-term benefits to a few groups -- politicians, public relations consultants, environmental organizations, waste-handling corporations -- while diverting money from genuine social and environmental problems”
And while the Three Rs make some sense, it’s overwhelmed by the above. The ‘crisis’ is kinda fabricated and a whole bunch of people make money off the fabricated crisis.
That’s not to say cheap consumerism isn’t s problem, I think if is, we should strive for quality and low impact, but beware behind every crisis are myriad bands of concerned groups making lots of money.
How much money? Who’s getting rich? Just curious, what is the recycling budget in the US compared to, say, water bottle & soda & plastic bag revenues? Are the small time politicians really more motivated and walking away with more pie than Evian and Coca-cola? Are you certain the crisis isn’t real?
> beware behind every crisis are myriad bands of concerned groups making lots of money
In a way, this feels like a way to cast FUD on recycling when it’s successful. It’s supposed to generate some revenue, and people are supposed to get paid to recycle. All services have industry, everyone involved makes some money, that’s how it’s supposed to work. At least with recycling, unlike landfill, some money actually comes back.
An important benefit is to the citizens who get to feel good about doing something to help the environment.
This psychological / ritualistic aspect is probably just as important as the other ones.
But... it's not actually good for the environment?
That’s exactly what many conservative voters suspect about climate change. They know they’ve been burned at least once over environmental issues.
Edit: I’m not promoting climate change denial. Just pointing out that it’s possible to hold that view in good faith.
At some point it became table stakes for the conservative identity in America that you should reject climate change.
IMO the recent trade deals in Europe mandating high tariffs on imports from countries who don’t have a carbon policy in place is on the right track.
Politicians try to appeal to their base but both sides know climate change is 1) too far into the future to matter and 2) not much impact even in the far future.
In fact - climate scientists are talking about changes that need to be made in the next decade if we want to put off major ecological collapse.
What is this referring to?
Also, I am confused by the argument that ‘space is not a constraint’. If that was the case, you wouldn’t expect 1.6 Mn sq. m of the Pacific Ocean to be filled with trash. And it’s been growing. 
If you want to study the effects of shutting down recycling, these serve primary examples.
The hygiene part is rather interesting. The people working with the food are not allowed to touch your bowl with their gloved hands, and your bowl can’t touch anything behind the counter. They set a plate on the counter that you set your bowl on, and then they grab the plate and steady your bowl with tongs that they clean after each salad they make anyway. Going back to reusable in restaurant settings would require thinking about the hygiene of those reusables.
The hygiene and manpower implications of bring-your-container easily makes that complicated.
Maybe standardized containers could work. It would certainly be practical if all boxes had the same size :)
So the only viable option becomes reusable containers aka glass containers which lets manufacturers control the cleaning with a supply chain - this is still big for soft drinks sold from restaurants in India. However they're very heavy vs. plastics and both actual cost and the carbon cost of transporting them are probably unfavorable.
It's not really an easy problem to solve though reduction in consumption of packing plastics is definitely possible
"With the exceptions of soil, plasterboard, and paint, the recycling of source-segregated materials resulted in net GHG savings"
Is 8 percent something to be scoffed at? I mean, I do wish it was more, obviously, but on the face of it it seems ridiculous to suggest it's low enough that we should stop recycling... am I missing something?
> Most people who’ve spent their careers in waste management continue to encourage recycling—it’s better than nothing.
So isn't "it doesn't work" quite a dangerously misleading title? Shouldn't it instead be "isn't enough"? Which hardly anybody suggested in the first place...
Top ten recycling authorities in England 2017/18 https://www.letsrecycle.com/councils/league-tables/
Rank Local Authority Recycling, Reuse and Composting Rates
64.50% - East Riding of Yorkshire Council
63.00% - Rochford District Council
63.00% - South Oxfordshire District Council
62.40% - Three Rivers District Council
61.40% - Surrey Heath Borough Council
61.20% - Stroud District Council
60.50% - South Northamptonshire District Council
60.40% - Vale of White Horse District Council
60.30% - Derbyshire Dales District Council
60.30% - Stratford-on-Avon District Council
Looking at the recycling rates in a bit more depth there's also the issue of how much waste people generate in the first place for example East Riding generates just under 500Kg of waste per person, whereas Stroud generates under 300Kg waste per person
EDIT: Most glass bottles are in the deposit system and are collected by stores, washed, and reused.
Here we have:
Blue bin for paper
Yellow bin for packages (plastic...and aluminium? I think)
Extra Container for glass, white and green/brown)
Green bin for organics.
Black bin for anything else.
Beer bottles, plastic bottles and cans don't get thrown out at all, you pay a fee during purchase and get it back when you return the empty ones to a store.
What goes into the yellow bin and what doesn't is a highly controversial point of discussion in any home.
Glass and plastic containers reuse is a solved problem. Put a big deposit on containers and they’ll be reused.
This is a specious argument right from the start. Recycling isn’t about energy cost at all. Energy isn’t about to run out, we have solar, hydro and wind in the future. You can make backward facing arguments about coal use, if you want, but a strong argument would consider what’s already happening and what today’s trends imply for the future.
> paper and cotton use much more energy and water
Why worry about the two things we can renew, while ignoring plastic’s use of limited non-renewable petroleum, or the fact that plastic production produces carcinogenic pollution and poisonous byproducts?
> Glass and plastic containers reuse is a solved problem. Put a big deposit on containers and they’ll be reused.
So you mean it could be a solved problem, right? I’m in favor of requiring deposits! If only we actually did that everywhere instead of passing out free single use plastics...
If we use plastic bags instead of paper or cotton ones we’ll use tens to hundreds of times more energy. Whether you think it’s backwards facing or not, in the present huge amounts of that energy comes from burning fossil fuels and the energy that doesn’t come from fossil fuels needs resources to be produced, it doesn’t appear ex nihilo. Solar requires minerals to be mined and hydro requires land be flooded and dams built. Everything requires resources, which costs are real, not fictitious, whether denominated in dollars or kilojoules.
>> paper and cotton use much more energy and water
>Why worry about the two things we can renew, while ignoring plastic’s use of limited non-renewable petroleum, or the fact that plastic production produces carcinogenic pollution and poisonous byproducts?
Because energy isn’t free any more than the land for growing cotton or trees is, or water pumped from aquifers is. Paper and cotton production is also not without its own chemical waste and uses far, far more water than making plastic bags does.
>> Glass and plastic containers reuse is a solved problem. Put a big deposit on containers and they’ll be reused.
>So you mean it could be a solved problem, right? I’m in favor of requiring deposits! If only we actually did that everywhere instead of passing out free single use plastics...
Yeah, if there was political will to do so it could be done in months not years. When things don’t happen because voters don’t want them that’s democracy.
That is true, and unfortunate, in the US. At least fossil energy is declining and wind is on the rise. Brazil and Canada are more than 50% hydro. We can, if we choose, reduce and eliminate fossil energy. Choosing is the hard part.
> Everything requires resources, which costs are real
Of course that’s true as a generalization. But, you’ve just compared burning some coal for every single watt to building a windmill or dam once and letting the watts generate themselves for years and years. There is a massive difference in the resources needed to produce energy with fossil fuels vs wind, solar, and hydro, so please don’t imply it’s some kind of equivalence.
> When things don’t happen because voters don’t want them that’s democracy.
This is cute sounding, but not very helpful or even particularly true. The majority of US voters have never voted on whether Evian bottles should have deposits or whether grocery stores should use plastic bags. Now that some cities are voting on bags, they’re starting to vote them down.
Other reasons things don’t happen are not knowing what’s possible, lacking imagination, inability to work together and/or pool resources, fear and misinformation, fear of regulation & taxes, etc.
- Compared to a plastic bags their production releases 70% more air pollution, and 50x more water pollution.
- To recycle paper bags takes 10x more energy than plastic bags.
(Note that this is from 2011, so maybe the numbers have changed since then)
In Denmark I dump paper and glass into a separate containers, these are typically present around apartment buildings, or spread throughout residential areas. The containers are large and rarely emptied.
Collecting from each household sounds very expensive. As does sorting the recyclables (in particularly any manual sorting).
(I have a startup in the danish waste industry)
If we get started about national stereotypes, maybe it's too difficult for Americans.
And why not rigid and reusable ABS trays for strawberries? Would the trucking cost for returning to the distribution centre be excessive? Or is it just that the entire supply chain assumes trucks return empty?
An interesting example is CHEP pallets. They are only loaned, pallets come back eventually. Interesting operations research problems in moving pallets around.
Either way, the blue bin encourages "aspirational recycling" where people just put in anything they think might be recyclable, rather than following the rules based on what their local recycling system can actually handle.
This, of course, is by design.
Marketing is empirical and competitive. Some companies could have discovered that recyclable products sell more without necessarily understanding consumer behavior all that well, and the rest can copy them. They aren't likely to question it if it works.
Which isn't to say it can't be by design, but that's a matter of knowing the history behind it.
How to do that? No idea. :)
tax wasteful products.
If single use forks or bottles become more expensive, people will choose reusable options.
Really, it's good to outline inefficiencies with current systems, but really, recycling does not work?
I'd be far happier if we bought into reduce and reuse and bring back deposit/return schemes, but it's something.
Because China was paying us for it.
Heavy consumerism does help the economy grow doesn't it? Which probably means that the incentives are misaligned and this whole mess is just going to increase.
And I still get sick periodically. :/
1. This is not much of a concern if you're Indian. I regularly drink from restaurants and other places when I travel and I don't get sick.
2. I carry a bottle which I fill regularly when I eat and use that instead of buying bottles.
This is the most salient point of these discussions, I think. I've found it much easier to reduce and sometimes to reuse. For one, it's just not hard for me to tell myself that 'I don't need that' -- whatever 'that' happens to be at the moment. For another, replacing plastic bottles with reusable containers involves some effort initially, but once you figure it out, it's actually easy.
I lived in Seattle when the recycling nazis first started up their garbage patrols. What a waste of effort. Spend the energy on providing accessible and clean drinking fountains or spigots, or spend some influencer money on making reusing stuff cool. Yes, I understand that many consumer products are made in such a way as to shorten their useful life, and there's a lot of economic reasons behind that. So spend some effort on changing that and it will still be more beneficial than fining people for putting their trash in the wrong bin.
As for glass, they no longer take it for recycling either. They will accept it at the land fill, rather than in normal collection, to be crushed and used in concrete.
They also mentioned that food contamination is a huge problem, and can end up in entire batches of recycling ending up in the landfill instead. Because it is not cost efficient to sort it all out. Like most people think about cardboard pizza boxes as recyclable, however they tend not to be due to the grease.
The problem of packaging garbage should be offset to [offshore] producers (who have no skin in the game), rather than citizens (who we know are eager to help the environment).
When China stopped accepting recyclables, the good answer would be to demand Chinese producers to take back an equivalent amount of similar packaging garbage in exchange for allowing them to import goods to Canada.
In that order
Would be nice if all manufacturers were required to sell spare parts. Or at least label each part with a part-number so others could part their units out for parts.
Or if you don't want to sell spare parts, or want to stop selling them, then you must release the plans.
Wouldn't a solution would be re-usable, standardized packaging?
It would increase the consumer price, but until we realize trash is an externality we cannot deal with anymore, I'm sure we are headed there and that's the best solution. Not an easy one, but it's the best.
Or maybe global warming has killed us all by then, in which case having dealt with all the garbage of the present would've been a total waste of time.
The same goes for nuclear waste. People debating how to safely store nuclear waste for hundreds of thousands of years don't realize that the hazard material of today might be valuable tomorrow.
I'm dead serious.
Certainly aluminum recycling seems to make both economic and environmental sense.
But for glass, paper, and plastic, is there a point where I would be doing the environment a service by throwing it in the landfill box instead of the recycling box?
The message I took away from the article, though, is we shouldn't kid ourselves that having a recycling bin suddenly makes waste environmentally friendly.
Grind it up, soak it with nutrients and plant forests on it.
Tokyo burns a lot of rubbish in super high temperature furnaces and uses the waste heat for other purposes, from what I understand these incineration plans don’t release any significant harmful pollution (excerpt Co2 of course)
So, you're saying civilization is going to irretrievably collapse when the fossil fuels run out? That's dark.
Fortunately, you are quite wrong. There is nothing magical about fossil fuels that makes them irreplaceable.
as a bonus, if enough of the organic material was in one place, it may be easier to harvest the methane given off (which they already do, but would be more concentrated if a considerable portion of non-biomass were separated).
We used to do it at home but had to deal with rodents and fruit flies as well as not being able to add meat byproducts to the pile.
Is there any info on how this works when the rules are actually followed?
Cradle to Cradle
Appreciate other recommendations.