Like most environmental issues, the focus should've been on producers not consumers. Tax plastic usage and producers will use less of it.
I remember in school we switched from single-portion paper milk cartons to square bags of milk that you punctured with a plastic straw. This was sold to us along with a muppet skit explaining how to use the milk bags (the muppets rated it "one thumb up and one thumb down, to cover the straw hole when you puncture the bag"). There was a poster in the cafeteria comparing the giant pile of milk cartons relative to the small pile of plastic pouches. We paid much more attention to what adults said than they ever gave us credit for, and they had been telling us about renewable and non-renewable resources, about recycling, about landfill space, and about externality. We knew, even if the rational outcome was the same, that it was more than big pile vs small pile.
I remember when bag fees started showing up, and at the checkout grocery stores began selling... reusable plastic bags. People seem to collect these now, maybe 30-40 per household, which is fine by me I'd rather have 40 bags in someone's pantry than 4,000 floating around outside. But it seems excessive. I've accumulated about that many: I on occasion "win a prize", family members bring items over and leave the carrying bags behind, donate money to anyone and you're sure to get a tote. I actually don't have any rope bags though I wish I did, my mother still has hers and she's not parting with them. I think the rope bags are more convenient than anything else, but then what happens to the 40 odd plastic bags I've accumulated?
We always used them as garbage can liners. Now that stores no longer have plastic bags we have to buy plastic bags. So instead of reusing the plastic bags we brought our groceries home in, we are buying brand new plastic bags instead. The same number of plastic bags are entering the landfill. The only difference is that now we have to pay for them.
I think it's more efficient all around to pay for them.
Nitpick: you always had to pay for them, the cost was built in to the purchase price.
I started doing this "before it was cool" back in the 1990s. I wasn't aware of other people doing it so I couldn't understand why they weren't. I learned since then and I still do it today. Why use something once when you can at least use it twice?
a dump truck with a giant mechanical arm grabs my trash can, picks up over the top of the truck, flipping it around in the process, and then shakes it violently.
Where I lived previously, residents brought bags to a warehouse-like building maintained by the town. You dropped your trash through openings in the side of the building that resembled windows. Town employees used tractors equipped with giant claws to scoop up the trash and load it into dumpsters, which were then brought to landfills.
They last practically forever—certainly longer than the cheap reusable bags that have a tendency to tear and stain.
(Life-cycle analysis does have huge assumptions involving usage, so it's not an exact science)
If a paper bag requires more energy to produce, it could still be better for the environment as it doesn't stay around polluting the world forever.
In my country (Czechia) the contemporary forest cover is about twice as much as in the 18th century and several per cent bigger than in 1950.
The problem is species composition. Those forests are mostly monocultural and prone to devastating disease / pest outbreaks.
Regulation is slowly catching up though, and some of the larger companies have actually started doing more than is required by law.
An ex-coworker of mine has been working with a team on a drone tree-planting startup that is bidding to take on government and heavy industry contracts.
IIRC there are several companies working in that space and surprisingly not more.
Though I suppose that social guilt and pressure is still required to get those heavy industrial corps to want to wear a big green badge boating about all the trees they’ve planted.
So paper was the better choice for the burger, yet plastic was the better choice for your groceries.
I also remember Vons introduced photodegradable bags.(!) They were supposed to alleviate the litter concerns, while also allowing you to save a tree I think? I'm trying to find something online to back this up, but I remember the novelty of it when they first introduced it.
The 'good' news is that the vast majority of plastic waste in the ocean isn't diffuse from around the globe; rather, it is concentrated in a few rivers in asia. The reason for this is that the countries these rivers pass through don't have modern waste collection and landfill infrastructure. It's not exciting to talk about, but this means that helping China, India, and the SE Asian nations build waste management facilities would do more to help the world plastic pollution problem than anything else by orders of magnitude.
(We still need biodegradable plastics. But, much like shale gas being helpful because it decommissions even-worse coal, simple proper waste management will put a huge dent in the problem before the ultimate solution becomes available.)
Managers hated nothing more than the customer who requested “paper, double bagged”. I think our cost was about 3 cents per paper bag if I recall the training video correctly. Because of generally low margins it really eats into profits.
The misconception is that it sees taxes only as a means of generating revenue to offset the cost or externalities of what’s being taxed.
But taxes are also important in steering behavior. In this case by forcing bags to To be non-free (and not allowing stores to compete by advertising free bags) it incentivizes folks to start bringing their own bag. The revenue is inconsequential.
I agree about steering behavior and I think it should be used more often rather than bans on things.
Since 1630, about 256 million acres of forest land have been converted to other uses—mainly agricultural. Nearly two-thirds of the net conversion
to other uses...
It's a land area/land use statement. Clearcut scars in Forest Service land are, more than likely, still considered forest land.
The general fight I remember from the 80's-90's timeframe was over clearcutting old growth, mainly in the Pacific Northwest.
I've heard this a lot of times, but I've never seen any source that claimed the recycled material sent to China gets dumped in the ocean. As I recall, they had paid a small amount of money for it, so it doesn't make sense why they would just throw it away.
I agree that landfills are underrated. It's much more effective to build landfills in poor countries than it is to try to sweep up plastic in the ocean, which may also hurt the environment.
This all happened within eyesight of my condo building.
> it belches smoke into the atmosphere in the middle of a city, has done for a while and nobody seems to suffer any ill effects
How long is a while, and how does that compare to the time it would take to detect meaningful increases in cancer or other illnesses in the vicinity of the incinerator?
Was built in 1995, or so it claims, with other kinds of incineration being done for >100 years.
So 25 years or so. I think that's enough time for a clear effect to show up.
China is a major source of ocean plastic, but I doubt it is because of widespread dumping of imported plastic into the ocean.
We really don't have much hope in regulating that.
Western countries can stop sending plastic waste to Asian countries, that would be a start.
Wealth originates in natural resources.
Here you've got bureaucracy, natural resources, value-added product, surplus, scrap, waste, storage, shipping, and business-as-usual being the primary elements interacting overall.
It isn't profitable to send a shipload to a place where it isn't worth more money when it gets there. Price matters.
Propylene gas is one of the fundamentally simplest hydrocarbon monomers, second only to ethylene gas in simplicity.
Used as raw material to produce polypropylene and polyethylene plastics respectively.
Very similar in volatility, flammability, and liquefication properties to propane, propylene can be handled using the same familiar tanks used by consumers for cooking and heating.
And the same traditional LPG vessels or the modern refrigerated lower-pressure types.
We're in a crisis but current prices still represent a somewhat functional market.
Lets put them on the same basis in US dollars and look at the math.
LPG can be considered a crude natural resource and it's quoted in liters across a broad spectrum of prices from 0.07 to 1.16 USD worldwide:
-interestingly this data source does not include Mexico or the US, however North America is represented by Canada
Propane is refined from LPG, quoted per gallon at 0.46 USD.
So that's about 0.12 USD per liter for comparison to the LPG spectrum:
Propylene is produced using propane as the raw material, quoted per metric tonne at about 870 USD, except on the US Gulf Coast where delivery without shipping is only about 20 USD per tonne.
So that's about 0.53 USD per liter elsewhere for comparison to the LPG spectrum:
Quite a bit of certain value added here in the step from propane to propylene but some people are still paying more for hydrocarbons to burn than others are paying for raw monomers for polymerization into plastic.
And they all come in the same vessels when available.
Made from the propylene monomer as raw material, solid plastic bulk polypropylene pellets on the same basis at 1170 USD per tonne can be seen to provide notable multiples of value added on the US Gulf Coast.
For the pellets that's a price about 0.72+ USD per liter of equivalent propylene monomer (ideally polymerized) to compare to LPG:
Note that both charts from the last data source appear to have European prices quoted in Euros on an otherwise US dollar chart, so things are even more expensive over there than it looks.
And the virgin polypropylene or polyethylene pellets might be under consideration to be shipped by the same solid-cargo vessels in competition with more diffucult-to-handle waste plastic.
Actually if an overseas factory uses a liter equivalent of cheap plastic pellets to make consumable items for return export, their value added can be a bigger multiple than any of the preceeding members of the value-added chain. Like a few dollars rather than these sub-dollar amounts.
Even within the same oil company, different degrees of environmental protection can be accomplished by different groups.
Different incentives apply to different groups of bonus-seekers, the exploration, production, refining, petrochemicals, and polymers each have their own not-fully-aligned efforts.
Sometimes bonuses can only be had by the most agressive growth operators at all costs, externalized or not.
Then there's this from 2013:
HN link to:
One of the largest polypropylene production facilities opens in Siberia 
And since that's not enough for consumers, now there's this from Thursday:
HN link to:
Launch of New World Class Polypropylene Production Line in La Porte, Texas
Remember, some businesspeople will never be satisfied unless every dollar is greedily extracted at each possible point in a chain, often preferring it to be done to someone else's extreme disadvantage if possible.
To be financially sustainable;
It takes a lot of surplus to save from destruction, distribute, deploy, repair and/or reuse.
It takes a whole lot more scrap to recover the valuable components from.
You can only imagine how much tonnage it would take once there are no more financially valuable components.
Now both the surplus & scrap have always been under pressure from virgin raw materials and manufacturing to begin with, and so surplus & scrap are still often included with and regarded as _waste_. Some people hate anything old anyway. Actually makes the waste seem to be more valuable if it's not just plain plastic too.
There's not supposed to be any level of imagination that can conceive of a scale so vast that handling plain plastic waste would be financially feasible.
So the waste doesn't have a chance, there's fundamentally not a promising financial market that can develop around a liability.
Unless maybe you promise to do something but you don't actually do it.
The only market can be among those willing to pay to discharge a liability.
A big city, company, or community can easily attach no remaining value to more dumpster loads of stuff the more wasteful and consumer-oriented the society.
It can't be economically handled, stored or shipped, and the more of these efforts that are incurred they increase the depth of the liability, so the incentive can arise to make it the sooner the discharge the better.
When the only remaining real value is as scrap for recycling or fuel for energy recovery, but both are uneconomical compared to virgin material, the final incentive falls to incidental accumulators whose economics are not quite prohibitive, but on too small a scale to make a major impact, or on a too-imaginative scale of accumulation which often fails to have a positive outcome.
Surplus, scrap, and waste operators have always had their warehouses, scrapyards, and dumps under pressure to discharge at the same average rate as accumulation. Lots of them are always _almost_ full.
Seems to me once an overseas business like this is established, there will be times when it will make economic sense for someone to discharge a low-value cargo into the ocean even if they were to continue the voyage all the way to the intended recycling port afterward. If the receiving dump was still anticipated to be full upon the vessel's ETA, the cargo could not be accepted anyway, and a procedure could be developed to handle it with creative paperwork, even routinely without any changes to established office systems. So everyone continues to make money because they're being paid to get rid of the waste, not because someone actually thinks they can add value to the waste if delivered. Maybe extract a little more value, but not add anything, and further value removal can be a costly maybe still leaving most of the bulk left over anyway, and there may be _greener_ pastures.
When there's no market to rescue a marginal asset which quickly turns into a vast liability during a voyage, there can be no rescue to hold out for.
Fundamentally a shipload of waste is worth less than a shipload of crude oil except for a few days each century wben crude goes below zero. The rest of the time crude oil is higher, sometimes fluctuating wildly while still providing a cheaper source of virgin plastic than recycled plastic can compete with. Waste plastic never rises significantly above zero, and is always on the decline.
There could be incentive to ocean dump just because the asset is so marginal, to prevent further cost of handling and storage, and eliminate risk of turning into a liability through time. Actually voyaging nowhere near an overseas port. Covering this with paperwork could be the most profitable business niche in the declining-value chain. Mountains of garbage might have more slippery slopes than you think, and people end up under the table. Returning an unburnt fraction of the vast produced resource to the earth offshore to where much of it originated, but not to the subsurface. In a value-extracted-while-declining way comparable to just spilling the oil intentionally.
Similar to the way at the other end a pipeline thief might make more money per barrel than the oil company would from the oil they are stealing as it comes from the earth.
I don't know if anyone seriously insures these waste cargoes against losses to begin with.
>Here you've got bureaucracy, natural resources, value-added product, surplus, scrap, waste, storage, shipping, and business-as-usual being the primary elements interacting overall.
Same elements as the Beirut explosion where the impact may or may not be as large on the environment as many shiploads of waste plastic, but after a period of complacency both raise their ugly head in their own way. In Beirut that was just one shipment and the human failures had an instantaneously undeniable effect after the delay.
Shipments which are of marginal value don't have a mainstream re-entry point because they compete with shipments having full value.
It wouldn't be so bad without all the dishonesty & greed.
I really hope it wasn’t dumped into the ocean :(
The message is and has been "reduce, reuse, recycle." Recycling has been sold from the very beginning as being the option of last resort.
Even though recycling is supposed to be the last resort, it was treated as an effective solution on its own instead. Less attention was paid to "reduce" and "reuse" and most of the attention was focused on "recycle"
If people had to recycle for real it would be more challenging and then reduce and reuse would be considered more often.
Maybe in the most literal reading of that slogan, but a claim like this could really use some substantiation.
Realistically, it probably makes sense to reuse plastic waste as fuel, if it's not economical to recycle it. But burning plastic is frowned upon.
If it's the one I remember, resolving the words of the next line was surprisingly ambiguous, with the two popular options being "...and close the loop" or "...and don't pollute"
I believe I produce very little waste, and put my rubbish and recycling bins out for collection every few months, rather than every two weeks, but I find it hard to see how I could get from where I am to what you describe.
I can get lentils, rice, bread, maybe milk etc without packaging (Unverpackt-Läden in Germany) but not butter, eggs, cheese, spices and so on.
on producers AND consumers. They're not exclusive. Producers have deceived, but consumers have been all too happy to suspend skepticism when buying things once the producer puts the word "recycle" on it somewhere. Consumers overwhelmingly skip the reduce part. Everyone I talk to about it, when they drop their defenses, says somewhere inside they knew they were participating but wanted to believe recycling was more benign than they knew it was. They just wanted their latte without thinking about it too much.
I'm not removing responsibility from producers or government. Consumers have a lot of power. Single-use plastic at least isn't hard to avoid with practice, at least to drop 90 percent of it. Just avoiding packaged food, with a few years practice the last I emptied my garbage was December and I expect my next emptying in 2022.
I’m fairly sure I’m in the top 10% of giving a f in my country. Culture has huge impact so I don’t want to discourage individual action, but this won’t change until conservation becomes the default.
This post explains more: https://joshuaspodek.com/emptying-my-household-garbage-for-t...
That said, I read someone write about soy milk makers and did my usual practice of checking Craig's List until I saw someone selling one for $15. I make a batch or two a week from dried bulk soybeans.
For food, note that a few years ago I never cooked from scratch and ate out maybe five nights a week, so all that follows I learned by doing.
I buy what's in season at the farmers market, what the CSA delivers, and from the bulk section. I buy from the same farmers so we've become friendly and they give me a lot of free vegetables -- the ugly ones they take back to compost or the greens others decline when they buy beets or radishes and don't know they're edible. My impression is that my variety has gone up since I'm always buying something that hasn't been in season for ten months, but my friends probably think it's gone down since I make my famous no-packaging vegetable stews https://joshuaspodek.com/food-world-reviews so much.
I rarely eat out of season or non-local foods at home. In the winter after the last cabbages, that means a lot of beets, parsnips, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, etc. I'm fermenting more and started sprouting dried beans, which should increase my greens in the winter.
Frankly, I've never eaten more delicious, while saving money and connecting with farmers, friends, and family more. What started as trying to pollute less ended up giving a lot more than I expected.
This is tangential but brings me to something I find hilarious.
Farmers here don’t tend to give those vegetables away to anyone. They repackage them and bring them to the farmers markets in the city and market the hell out of the whole “farm to table/rustic” thing.
I’m from the townships a lot of the stalls I see here (Toronto) come from.
My partner fell for it once and I rudely laughed at her (I’ve apologized!). She went out to one of the local markets and picked up what was a ...rustic... looking and misshapen long bell pepper. Taking one look at the thin-walled, Unripe green/ruddy thing I just sort of blurted. I explained to her why they’d bring that stuff up to the city on their weekend stall day along with their other goods.
We cut it up and tried it. It was horrible. It was bitter and somehow hard even though the fruit was only about 3mm thick.
And I still find it funny because I know those families and their produce is amazing. We go to one of their shops whenever I visit my family and load up.
Waste not want not, eh?
You can purchase them with non-plastic packaging (glass particularly; cardboard cartons use plastic liners.)
In the US at least, cities can also get creative, such as exempting compostable items from sales taxes.
I think a lot of the Green movement has the trappings of a religion, with shame and guilt used as motivators, and expensive rituals like trash sorting used to evidence your membership of the group.
I want to pay someone else to sort my trash. In fact, I want the cost of sorting my trash embedded in the costs of the goods I buy, so I - and in particular, my neighbours - have no motivation to burn their trash, or worse, dump it somewhere illegally.
As it is, I pay for supplemental private trash collection due to the public UK council collection now being insufficient to deal with the quantity. "Recycling" - mostly cardboard delivery boxes - overflows into the private landfill bin because the public bins are only collected every fortnight. Which doesn't help with the smell from nappies and cat litter.
Guilting individuals for not recycling was a corporate PR response to getting heat for the byproducts of their businesses littering the streets. This started back when plastic packaging was first introduced (~60s, I think).
Just like guilting individuals for jaywalking was a corporate response to getting heat for too many automobile deaths in the early days of the car. This happened around the 30s I think.
The fact that the most obviously cynical and powerful groups in the world can spread deliberately self serving propaganda and then successfully blame their own disingenuousness on the largely selfless groups who mostly just want to create a better world for everybody is a portent of a very, very dark future.
All that'd do is act as a general consumption tax, and we already have those.
In fact there are no viable solutions, assuming rolling civilisation back to the stone age isn't considered viable. That's why eco-extremists never get specific about what they want corporations or governments to do, and in the rare case where someone is actually serious enough to consider that problem they end up leaving the environment movement: see the long history of ex-Greenpeace or now ex-Extinction Rebellion leaders leaving the movements and coming out in favour of nuclear power.
or is this is just yet another HN complaint about the sidewalks of SF....
Speaking from Hamburg, Germany here.
I want the cost of sorting my trash embedded in the costs of the goods I buy
By arguing that individuals can & should do it themselves, knowing full well only a small minority ever would.
I still remember that one of the textbooks even started an answer with "natürlich trenne ich Müll" ('well, of course I sort my trash...').
(Of course, there were other things in the dialogues such as cycling and taking the train, so it's not like recycling is the only ecological measure in German society.)
This is a big part of the appeal and the problem.
Recycling promised individual solutions to what is a collective problem: the misuse of resources.
Because it doesn't really matter how much trash you sort if you are flying around in a private jet and your house has the carbon footprint of a small village.
Here in the US many communities use "single-stream" recycling (and we applaud ourselves for the effort too). But I wonder how many communities really deliver those contents back to production, especially since China stopped importing it.
Few people realize that when you mix paper and beverage containers, you get non-recyclable paper and difficult to recycle beverage containers. Further shredded paper cannot be recycled in single stream systems. It wreaks havoc on the system.
Could you expand on what you think the problem is here?
Which is why you have local taxes, to cover such activities.
Personally I think we need to reverse the supply chain and require all shops to take back any packaging sold.
I'd love to see standardised reusable plastic cartons in supermarkets. And a heavy tax on transportation of mixed water - drink syrup is extremely cheap, we mix it with heavy water, wrap it in plastic and fill lorries with it; that's a massive waste. Anything with lots of water in should be mixed if at all possible at the delivery end. Baby steps, I know.
That's not what the linked article says:
"The other 50 percent of the city’s paper waste is transferred to Pratt Industries’ paper mill on Staten Island, were much of the city’s waste paper is recycled into pizza boxes."
It doesn't say how much of the paper waste going into that mill is actually recycled, and it doesn't say how much of the portion that's recycled is recycled into pizza boxes.
Like, I would guess the janitor was just being lazy, and their actions provide little to no information about either the actual policy at the company or economics of recycling where it was located.
The substantial amount of recycled fiber in many products suggests that it isn't particularly uneconomic.
Lots of office workers had paper-only bins under their desks. Except, there was no place for janitors to put that paper, anywhere in or around the building. Just one big garbage dumpster. As someone else pointed out, we were also under massive time pressure.
Even if we had wanted to recycle the paper, there wasn't a way to do so unless we set up our whole own system, packed it into our personal vehicles every night and drove it to a recycling center miles away (all unpaid). Anyone who broached the subject was mocked.
Going significantly out of your way to get differently-packaged product could easily cost more than recycling it.
And if it's exceptionally difficult to recycle a certain kind of plastic into new plastic, then turn it into completely inert ash. Either way it's all hydrocarbons and you can convert any of those into a non-problem form.
I'm not asking maliciously, but I wonder how Germans reconcile their seemingly environmental awareness with their high CO2 emissions and big cars culture.
Sorting trash is a ritual, it is slightly sacrificial in time (especially returning bottles to the store), and it can be seen as a penance for the sin of purchasing single use products.
I think we will continue to see more things like this pop up as people search for meaning in their lives, and want things that they can do daily to affirm that meaning.
This means that bottles that specifically cannot be reused must be held onto and carried back to the store, so that they can be crushed and recycled. The machine you must feed your bottles into to get your 25 cents back crushes them itself. Someone who tosses those bottles into the recycling bin has done nothing better for the environment than someone who returns them to the store.
This seems absurd, but it's the whole point of the 25 cent pfand for single use bottles. People who buy those are supposed to pay the penance of taking them to the store and getting their money back for the sin of buying non reusable bottles.
If the issue is litter, why are glass bottles 8 cents, reusable plastic bottles 15 cents, and single use plastic 25 cents? There is no difference from an environmental standpoint whether you take your single use bottle back to the store or throw it in your recycling bin.
When the 25 cent pfand for single use was instituted, it was very clear that this was because the government wanted consumers to have to undergo the same hassle of returning plastic bottles as they did for glass bottles, otherwise, they would prefer to buy things in plastic bottles where they didn't have to haul the bottles back to the store.
The hassle is your penance for buying the single use product. Alternatively, you can throw them in the recycling bin and pay the 25 cents, but then you run into the other German religion of thriftiness. Throwing away 25 cents creates guilt, so even relatively well off Germans haul their plastic bottles back to the store.
I think carbon credits are a scam in the same stage recycling was 20 or 30 years ago.
If the cost of the credit was of the same value as removing the pollution, sure. This doesn't happen, though. Like sin, the credit doesn't undo the pollution, it just forgives it. The world still gets more polluted either way.
The baseline is that all the credits are being bought by industrial polluters. If you personally buy a credit, industry has to pollute less. If you buy 1.5 credits for every credit-worth of extra pollution you cause, the pollution in the world is reduced. In theory.
> The world still gets more polluted either way.
The more credits people buy and sit on, the less pollution there can be. At first this is all low hanging fruit, but eventually the price gets so high that it's cheaper for industries to pay for carbon capture than to pay for credits. If enough are bought, and the price of credits goes high enough, total regulated pollution drops to zero or even goes under zero.
That's not an indulgence if you can minimize the loopholes.
Australia: 16.8 tons/capita/year
Compared to other European countries, they are significantly worst.
Maybe it's just quibbling, but anyway, per-capita Germany is among the worst but not the worst.
I think German CO₂ emissions are quite low in comparison to German standards of living (like per joule of electricity, per Euro of GDP, per kcal of food eaten) but that doesn't necessarily mean they're low in an absolute sense, because German standards of living are also very high.
Also in many cities there is no separate container for consumer packaging - instead one can put it in a yellow plastic bag that is put on the street for pick-up. Same for recycling of bottles, you cannot really opt-out, it's more expensive to not recycle them.
Of course there are also a lot of people that do all this for the environment though.
Besides that, didn't you notice how the packaging got more and more flimsy in the last years? Take 500ml Yoghurt for example:
very thin white plastic, with recycled carton around it for stability, pre-perforated for easy ripping it off. Even the clear plastic lid on top for protection of the(thin) aluminium foil is missing, intentionally. Which I dislike, because of possible mess when transported in the backpack.
Same goes for single use plastic bottles. You can easily crunch them, and the thin wraparound label comes of.
If the flame was too cool, throw in more plastic. Too hot, more wet compostable material.
Where I live now it isn't even possible, all recyclables go in one bin.
Whether that is true or not is left as an exercise for the reader.
...though then you get the other issue, "aspirational recycling", where things that aren't even claimed to be recyclable end up in the bins.
For some the car is the holy cow, and it is heresy to speak against it. For some others they are the plague.
It depends, k?
What is there to discuss? Alternatives to capitalism? Capitalism in the absence of consumerism? Is that possible in the absence of retail? Stores? Low prices?
On the other hand, other countries aspiring to the western lifestyle is a big issue.
The answers to your suggestion start with knowing the volume of plastic, time to degrade, degradation byproduct toxicity, and alternative 'recycling' methods and their costs.
There's also clear evidence that the 'current' model and practice for plastic disposal (that you endorse) is NOT safe and effective. Until you can suggest how to fix its demerits, it's unhelpful to blithely suggest we just keep doing it.
If it is less energy intensive to create new plastics rather than recycling (which seems to be the case), why not just safely bury the old plastics and make new ones, it should be better for the environment anyways. Of course you should try to reduce and reuse before throwing out plastics, but if you have to get rid of them landfills seem reasonable.
I agree with you. Recycling is stupid; weirdly enough it's a major contributor(? Totally not the right word) to homelessness.
Secondly, it's allowed to be 'disposed of' internationally. Who knows what the Chinese and Indians are doing with it.
Instead of CRV at the consumer level, we should have susidies or direct payments to suppliers for reusing plastic. All the plastic that isn't 'intrinsically valuable', ends up safely in a landfill.
As plastics it is "broken down" into microplastics, and gets into things and areas it was never intended to be. It is then consumed and builds up in the systems of animals, and even eventually by us.
Even your local landfill, is part of a management system, but will it really last 3,000 years?
We can't just keep adding and adding to it, we can't cover the planet in landfills of plastic, we aren't putting the "oils" back to where they came from.
In Canada, I remember being taught "give a hoot, don't pollute", and to us, as kids, that meant "don't create trash" as much as "clean up your trash".
In many places we knew oil was there because it was leaking out.
Some of the deposits were exposed to the surface. We have ancient records of people making use of it to make adhesive or caulk boats. Those have just tended to have gotten used up by now.
> We can't just keep adding and adding to it, we can't cover the planet in landfills of plastic, we aren't putting the "oils" back to where they came from.
Why does it matter if it's the same spot?
More importantly there's only so much oil and putting it all in landfills would not cover the planet.
Your crushed 4L milk jug in a landfill isn't much of a source of microplastics, nor is it much of a threat to the water table (I mean, we use that same plastic for food).
Full text: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/251836-we-re-so-self-import...
In all seriousness landfills get a really bad reputation but aren’t the worst thing in the world.
Wait, what?! He should've just said "aluminum paper and steel only" and earned greater profits. It's not like people have a choice of recycling providers.
The plastic recycling catastrophe wasn't caused by advertising. It was caused by entities irrationally subsidizing plastic disposal, for political reasons. Like this guy at a municipal waste facility. And like China.
People get finite-sized trash bins, and they must pay if they want a larger size. Make them put the plastic in the trash bin and they will get annoyed by plastic packaging. I know I do.
The other day I bought a product from Home Depot that had a glued-in-plastic window in a cardboard package (this makes the cardboard unrecycleable). It looked so alien. I hadn't seen packaging like that from a major retailer in years.
Evade? Never. Reduce? Already in progress. Adjust your focus.
Edit: technically, it operates in two of them, having both some warehouses and R&D offices, but does not have a storefront for them.
And the packaging, oh the packaging. I'm inundated with packing material. Let's say I order 10 different parts. Each part was made by a manufacturer and packaged in a little plastic bag. (If there are sub-parts such as attachments, screws, etc., they are in a sub-bag).
Each of those bags is placed inside another bag, often a thick zip-loc, with a sticky label indicating the part number and sales order number plus other desiderata.
A short (1 meter) USB cable was coiled up and secured with not one but two twist-ties, sub-bagged, and bagged. There were molded plastic caps on the ends.
All of those bags are in a big bag, tied at the top. That goes in a box with packing material filling half the box. I end up knee deep in trash by the time I've unpacked an order. I keep a few of the nicer boxes, but everything else goes into the recycling bin.
Really, it's thermoplastic disposables that are the real problem here. Those don't recycle (except some very specific items), and frankly never really did. The straw bans are just the tip of the iceberg here. We need to be talking about banning all plastic disposables.
The real discrepancy is between consumers and businesses recycling. Businesses can have a clean, unadulterated stream of waste, likely trivial for them to sort at scale. Most consumer recycling is useful for awareness at best and distraction at worst, like California shaming people into fixing their leaky taps during droughts when a billion times as much water is diverted to almond farming.
The link below has examples of two such facilities that operated successfully in Japan about two decades ago; one shut down because the Japanese improved their waste stream recycling, depriving the facility of the necessary feedstock to continue operations.
In the last day or two the midwestern city I live in (Cincinnati) banned single use plasic bags, and a major manufacturer here (P&G) is very slowly working towards making some products slightly more recyclable/use less plastic. So there is a little bit of hope!
After decades of shrinkflation? (reducing the amount of product per package, so you need to buy more packages per year)
Heck, Tesla's ex-CTO recognized the business potential for EV car batteries and started a company for it. There are plenty of hidden arbitrage opportunities out there for recycling.
In the United States, more than 95% of the 10-15 million scrapped vehicles annually enter a comprehensive recycling infrastructure that includes auto parts recyclers/dismantlers, remanufacturers, and material recyclers (shredders). Today, over 75% of automotive materials, primarily the metals, are profitably recycled via (1) parts reuse and parts and components remanufacturing and (2) ultimately by the scrap processing (shredding) industry. The process by which the scrap processors recover metal scrap from automobiles involves shredding the obsolete automobile hulks, along with other obsolete metal-containing products (such as white goods, industrial scrap, and demolition debris), and recovering the metals from the shredded material. The single largest source of recycled ferrous scrap for the iron and steel industry is obsolete automobiles.
From Argonne National Laboratory report "End-of-Life Vehicle Recycling: State of the Art of Resource Recovery from Shredder Residue"
(Only trivially more effectively in practice as paper in an anaerobic environment won’tbreak down to any material degree)
There are other externalities, such as the dangerous properties of loose used plastic bags as well.
My comment about sequestering carbon via burying toys was a joke.
Your comment about paper not breaking down in an anaerobic environment is incorrect. Like other organic material such as food scraps it gets broken down by bacteria and if there's no oxygen anaerobic ones which will produce methane.
For example, composite decking (Trex et al) combines sawdust and resin. It can be used for picnic tables and such. Road surfaces use ground tires now. Someone makes large nesting blocks for low-stress construction instead of concrete. PET can be made into fleece for garments, how about using it for insulation or other applications?
We should be embracing this stuff in new ways.
Don’t trust this guy, he is supposed to sell oil, recycling is in direct conflict with selling more oil.
There’s no reason we should fall for this twice.
They worked on recycling plastic, but the problem was:
- it was very expensive to clean the plastic
- even when the plastic was cleaned, it could only be mixed with virgin plastic at a very small ratio - single digit percentages
- even the small ratio would weaken the plastic considerably. Think laundry baskets which are flexible but break easily.
in the end I think they made giant logs for playgrounds out of the plastic.
He told me really the best idea was probably to burn the plastic cleanly.
maybe there's a way to have your cake and eat it too. reuse it for fuel:
The tiny little recycling symbols seem pretty useless, unless you force consumers to hand-sort their recyclables according to them.
It gets worse: in King County, WA (Seattle metro area) where WM has most of the contracts we received leaflets from WM telling us to ignore the plastic recycling symbols entirely and to use only WM's "what we can / can't recycle" picture chart - which includes things I didn't think were recyclable (stained pizza boxes) and excludes things that I'd think were recyclable (plastic films).
...and the list varies within the county too: some cities' leaflets say not to put any pizza boxes in recycling (even completely clean ones). Aieeee.
If demand for recycled paper isn't high, it's easier to have some cities sort carefully for high-value recycling, and other cities mix in greasy paper/towels/tissue since it's all getting shredded into compost anyway.
I've been composting paper this year. It makes a good sub for peat moss (which is not very renewable!).
If you had a big box of just PLA films, you could recycle it just like any other hunk of PLA, but getting to the big box of PLA films is not feasible.
The economics of recycling is that objects are paid per pound. 1lb of steel is pretty easy to collect. In contrast: 1lb of plastic film, even if its theoretically recyclable, is infeasible to sort and recycle with an economic profit.
Aluminum foil is another one: my local recycling does NOT accept Aluminum foil. Aluminum is one of the "best recycling" materials too, but foil is just too small and lightweight to be worth the hassle.