Edit: Looks like I touched a nerve.
For aluminum cans the material is valuable and relatively easy to sort. For plastic the material is cheap and sorting is hard (if you can't tell what the plastic container you threw in the bin is made out of (HDPE?) in a second then it is trash).
FWIW this is also a relatively easy problem to fix. We could look to the brief but successful history of recycling in Taiwan as a good example to copy. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recycling_in_Taiwan)
What really pisses me off is the use of the recycling number as marketing. Which is still ongoing and being modernized. Leave a complaint card any time you see compostable plastic being used in a city that doesn't have specialized industrial composting plants, that stuff is worse than trash because it's also misleading about how to dispose of it and makes the store look green when it's really just making things worse.
In almost all locations, PLA, "compostable plastic" (often labeled number 7 or 0 for marketing) is not only not recyclable but actively contaminates compost and recycling plants. I see all these places using "compostable plastic" because they think it's more environmentally friendly. It's a noble goal, it makes me so sad to see.
The stores that pick those containers do so because they want to project an environmentally conscious image, and the "eco" marketing on this utter trash gets them to pay top dollar for those containers instead of just using paper. I feel so bad for these stores, it takes a PhD to dispose of this misleading and dangerous material properly.
As a normal consumer, if I saw that logo and "compostable plastic" guess where I'd throw it. Compost? Recycling? Probably one or the other right? Wrong, if I put it in the compost I make the compost produced from the food scraps contaminated and unsafe for use. If I put it in the recycling it gets melted in with other polymers and contaminates them, degrading the other plastic even faster if the whole batch doesn't need to be thrown away outright.
Edit: The one saving grace is that I know that where I live trash is incinerated. So at least I feel less bad throwing this stuff in the trash. It was just oil that made a temporary detour as a container before being burned for electricity. Still, I'd rather they just use unadulterated paper (no little plastic spouts glued on), glass, and aluminum which are all easily recycled or burn clean.
To my knowledge, the enzyme approach has shown a modicum of promise in labs but is still impractical, while making biochar is really, really easy. We just need a market for it. Unfortunately, the very group of people who could make the biggest use of it (and are most likely to) are blocked by policy: you can't have an Organic label on your farm produce if you put biochar in the soil.
(a) no, most plastics won't get broken down to precursors with enzymes. a few it will work with, like that company recovering resins from carbon fiber. or PLA even theoretically. but most of them are a free radical polymerization that I just don't think you're going to be able to meaningfully reverse.
(b) making biochar sounds fine. better than the landfill. I'd be most worried about chemicals like fluorine and sulfur making it into the soil.
A store's refuse is not necessarily going through the municipal waste process. Stores have contracts with speicfic waste management companies, who may have their own facilities.
(Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean the private company can handle the plastic either -- I know of a store that had to start telling their employees and customers to put the "compostable" plastic in the regular garbage because it was causing problems for the composter.)
Most just use the compostable containers without a second thought, because why should they give it a second thought? Honestly, I don't blame them, there's no reason they would think about this. It's marketed evil to get people to pay extra for a worse product all around, it's supposed to be confusing.
At MIT they use these compostable containers everywhere. From their own information their compost system cannot handle these containers that their own subcontractors use and don't even communicate this information well enough to avoid confusing MIT FACULTY MEMBERS. It confused me for over a year and I have a PhD in materials science!
Most stores in practice maybe have one waste container under such a special contract in their stores, but customers dispose of their to-go containers elsewhere.
If they were really green they wouldn't have throw away containers for in-store use anyway (setting aside the current situation where it makes sense for now).
So how can it make sense? If the customer is in-store they shouldn't be making waste containers. If the customer is using a container that gets thrown away they're probably walking out the door in which case the special waste container is useless.
I think it would be great if this all worked in a way that makes sense, but as it is now it is worse than nothing anywhere that doesn't have municipal compost already capable of handling these materials.
I don't know the answer to this question -- have you heard of any work using fungi or "eco-vats" to break down plastics like this?
What's broken is that in places where municipal compost isn't both commonly used and capable of handling the modern process this stuff gets chucked in compost that's capable of nothing more than food scraps or thrown in the recycling where it ruins the entire batch. Compost that can't handle more than food scraps is super common, it's much cheaper and easier to set up than an industrial system. I've seen people chuck this compostable plastic into home compost bins -- that's just not how it works.
These containers should not exist anywhere that a city does not have an existing commonly used compost system capable of handling them. Until then this stuff needs to be understood to be trash. It is not recyclable under any circumstances, it's too hard to sort out and throw away.
There's very few places that this does more good than harm.
Your plastic bags are probably not 6 or 7, my guess is that they are recyclable material. They are probably just challenging to recycle because they fly all over the place when you collect them. I think this is basically why stores collect the film stuff, it's too physically annoying to handle it otherwise.
I think I see 7 mostly on things like to-go containers, cups, and lids. Of course straws are PET I think but they aren't numbered so they're always trash in practice.
These articles that have popped up on this topic are hugely useful to refer people to. I don’t enjoy being right, I just want there to be an open understanding of the lies that have led us to this situation so new solutions can be developed.
It might just be that burying it in the ground for the next few hundred years is the best solution, and through laws attempt to curb the explosive growth of plastic use.
The thing many people don't know is that not all sands are equal.
For example desert sand is not usable for cement or other building purpose. We are currently running out of sand usable for it and are scrapping it from the sea ground or islands, both doing MAJOR environmental damage.
For glass the context is a bit different the sand needed for glass production seems to be readily available, at least in the EU (source German Wikipedia article about Quarzsand, no english version).
But producing (bottle) glass from recycling glass needs much less energy then producing it from sand.
Furthermore recycling glass bottles isn't too hard to do, especially if you produce green glass.
In Germany in average 60% of glass used to produce a bottle is recycled, for green bottles its up to 95% for mineral wool it's up to 80%. (German Wikipedia).
(As a side note only bottles go in the glass recycling bin, class from e.g. a broken window does not belong there!)
I mean... "Wat soll dat? / WTF?!"
Regardless whether that's the reason, I think making people sort their trash is dumb anyway, and the more requirements you give (sort into 7 piles, must be clean of grease, etc.) the dumber it gets. The effort discourages a good chunk of the population, while the rest end up wasting so much water inefficiently washing their trash in their sinks.
There's the documentary Sand Wars that highlights the issues: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sand_Wars
Al Jazeera aired a docu about it too (don't know if it was the same one): https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/specialseries/2017/12/s...
Through quartz sand is still widely available.
The reason we recycle glass bottles is that it's much more energy efficient to create new glass from recycled glass and it's not to hard to sort/separate glass so recycling glass makes sense for reasons which are unrelated to how "rare" the resource it's made from is.
Note that this is only true for glass bottles (or similar), things like window glass is made from different sand mixes and should not be placed into the glass recycling bin at all.
I have no idea if you can recycle window glass (as e.g. non window glass) or similar. But it's not part of the glass bottle recycling process and is seen as a form of contamination if placed in to large amounts in the recycling glass. (as far as I remember)
It does no harm to anyone to be buried.
Now it's all faux-compostable plastic and polystyrene for some unfathomable reason which all has to get thrown in the trash even though they have "compost bins" that I know from calling around can't even handle the "compostable" plastic provided in the cafeteria.
Probably literally millions of containers thrown in the trash over the last fifteen years because they didn't want to pay a dishwasher... just doesn't even make economic sense...
The other hack is that the cost of trash disposal is artificially depressed to reduce the incentive to dispose of refuse by illegal dumping. But this means refuse is overproduced.
Recycling is an attempt to reduce this increased volume of refuse going into landfills.
The better strategy would be to charge a fee, up front, for all goods that reflects their cost of disposal. This would be used to subsidize disposal in whatever way was most economical (recycling, landfilling, incineration). It would discourage overpackaging and encourage products that were easier to dispose of.
If the tax depended on e.g. volume of packaging vs volume of content, or weight of packaging vs weight of content, that might be a different story and more useful. But even then not all trash is done equal, a paper envelope or cardboard is way better than a plastic one, even if it's bigger/heavier.
Why is it better? Because the plastic comes from fossil fuels that cause CO2 emissions? The solution there is a CO2 tax on fossil fuels, not trying to special case the waste disposal fee.
But GP isn't entirely correct. There's less problem with stuff that can remain unchanged (you can bury it and forget it, or use it as filler for construction, etc.). The problem is stuff that decomposes into toxic compounds, poisoning the ground and risking poisoning drinking water. And the other problem is stuff that gets shredded by UV rays over time into microscopic particles that then gets eaten by small fish/animal, and ends up being present in organisms all across the food chain. The particular case of the latter is microplastics, and AFAIK we aren't yet sure if they cause any concrete problems to living things, but it's probably still better to not have them in our bodies.
...and back to those things that don't decompose at all: it's a potential problem long-term, because we're just throwing away matter exponentially fast. You can imagine life in modern capitalist countries as one fat pipeline of: Raw resources => Factory => Brief use => Landfill. And that pipeline is pushing exponentially growing amount of matter through it. And then ask yourself, how is this a sane way of living? It's a machine that quite literally turns the surface of Earth into a pile of waste.
That's exactly how it's done in multiple European countries (IIRC Netherlands was the pioneer there, but there are others) - there's a tax on packaging and in some cases disposable plastic stuff, it gets collected at the point of manufacture or first sale and is used to subsidize sorting/collecting/recycling or reprocessing or incineration, just as you propose.
Alternatively, there are schemes such as Germany where the manufacturers are responsible for ensuring that their packaging gets mostly collected and reprocessed afterwards, so instead of a tax, most manufacturers cooperate to directly fund a private program ('green dot') which organizes collection from households and recycling/reprocessing/other elimination of that packaging waste.
This year I learned with my own eyes how that fee is spent. The landfill buys a shredder ($300,000+) a conveyor ($50,000+) to stack a big pile and a wheel loader ($200,000+) to sprinkle the shreds into the incoming trash stream.
Non-productive and energy intensive green wash with the material ending up in the same place. But it is no longer "whole".
I believe one of the more effective diversions is cardboard (where recycling it at slight income is better than spending resources burying it).
Last I knew, it's many metals, some paper, and some glass that are typically net benefit to recycle (from an energy perspective.) Plastics tend to be a lot tougher because of the energy requirements (transporting, cleaning, etc.)
The issue is that the green movement has focused on recycling, and lots of people think it's morally good to recycle despite all the science saying aluminum is the only clear win.
"There were too many different kinds of plastic, hundreds of them, and they can't be melted down together. They have to be sorted out."
Asking the consumer to sort out hundreds of different plastic types -- to then be picked up by a truck that has hundreds of compartments to keep them separate somehow? Or dropped off at a facility with hundreds of labelled bins? -- does not seem any more feasible than having a "single-stream" sorting facility do it.
Other kinds of recycling, that aren't plastic, are somewhat more feasible than plastic, even if not currently economically profitable. Plastic recycling particularly, according to the info in the article which matches other things I've learned, is just pretty much imaginary.
It's ridiculous to see the increasing burden put on consumers wrt. recycling. In the city I come from (Kraków, Poland), we started with simple categories (AFAIR: trash, glass, metal/plastic), and accrued new over time, along with extra requirements. These days, as my family tells me, they have ~7-9 categories and recyclables have to be washed. Which is ridiculous. Even if everyone went along with it, that's literally wasting every citzen's time where it could be done efficiently, in a central place, by salaried workers. On top of that, it creates a water waste issue - as people wash their plastic/metal/glass containers in their sinks, where again, it could be done more efficiently at a central facility.
But of course, and quite wisely, people at this point don't bother recycling much.
Recycling is for materials which are harder to process from the environment than from recycling. Plastic is precisely the opposite. It's essentially a byproduct of refining oil. It's so cheap to make that you would be hard pressed to find a single thing that could be replaced by plastic that hasn't been.
The local university had a drop-off location obviously intended for use by students and staff, but it wasn't closed off in anyway. They had signs that specified what was acceptable and had separate containers for each category. I was never quite certain from the signs but it appeared that they accepted all plastic as long as it had a recycling mark (actually it said #1-#7 which seemed to me to be all, but I could be wrong.)
My assumption at the time was that they sent their recycling somewhere else other than the city provided recycling program. However, that drop-off location was removed soon after the city program was cancelled. I have to assume that what the recycling company would accept was more of a negotiation than a sign of what could actually be effectively recycled.
> Industry documents from this time show that just a couple of years earlier, starting in 1989, oil and plastics executives began a quiet campaign to lobby almost 40 states to mandate that the symbol appear on all plastic — even if there was no way to economically recycle it.
There is something funny in this common corporatist argument trying to get rid of responsibility by saying that "we just produce and sell what our customers demand". Namely, for some reason any proposal that would somehow increase the requirements for the corporations to disclose what, exactly, they are selling and how, exactly, that is produced, is vehemently opposed by the very same corporations.
To me, either you give full an unbiased disclosure about your products so that the customers can make their minds properly, or the ethics of your supply chain is your problem, not your customers. You just can't cherrypick here.
(sorry, no sources, just anecdotal impressions from public discussions during last decades.)
Plenty of cans are collected by homeless / lowest income people, but it's also just about enough that average people will collect them too.
If I have a huge bag after a party, I return them. When I normally only have 0-2 bottles in a typical week, I take them outside and put them on the little shelf on the bin for someone to collect without needing to rummage: https://www.magasinetkbh.dk/sites/default/files/public/style...
New food packaging can only use recycled material collected in this way. The general household recycling is considered too dirty.
in japan, most trash is incinerated... ive never looked into it, but i suspect that some amount of that turns into fine-grained soot (e.g not very healthy)
when i lived near the ocean in kawasaki there was always some black fine-grained soot that would slowly build up over the year on a veranda, and wondered if it wasnt the nearby incinerators...
hmmm that probably makes more sense, yea
Is PET really more recyclable or is that just PR?
"Recycling paper is not worth it. The paper we use is grown specifically to be harvested and used in paper. The act of growing and using this paper is a form of carbon sequestration. When we recycle paper, we lose out in an opportunity to sequester more carbon from the air. Landfills prevent the carbon in paper from re-entering the carbon cycle."
I think the most convincing argument against this is that the tree farms take up land that could be used for other purposes.
It's better to not consume plastic in the first place, but if you must, find additional uses for it.
It takes more of a lifestyle change though than to simply put your cans in a different barrel. Which is probably why few people are willing to try it.
This is placing a lot of the blame on individual people. I would very much like to use less plastic, and I'm willing to work for it... but my options are very limited. Nearly every product I buy is encased in multiple layers of plastic. I favor second hand stuff, and reduce my overall consumption by avoiding unnecessary purchases. Because I live in a major west-coast city, I can go out of my way to shop at a zero-waste grocery store - but they don't carry many things that I need for daily life.
Ultimately, consumer choice only works if there are options available. I can't vote with my dollars for things that are not on the ballot.
where is the choice to reduce there?
more than anything, the problem is the system and limited capabilities we have to reduce the usage of most plastic items
Stuff like this (h/t @neltnerb):
>>In almost all locations, PLA, "compostable plastic" (often labeled number 7 or 0 for marketing) is not only not recyclable but actively contaminates compost and recycling plants. I see all these places using "compostable plastic" because they think it's more environmentally friendly. It's a noble goal, it makes me so sad to see.
So many groups would have standing to sue here...
The minuscule punishment that can be visited on the people involved in things like this won't clean up a molecule of the damage done, and won't be a deterrent for people who would do it in future (or who are doing similar things now.)
Revenge isn't a cure, executing murderers never brings people back to life. The problem is a system that gives a small number of people the power to cause such widespread damage for a relatively tiny amount of personal benefit. The amount of damage that has been done for a $10K bribe, or to keep a $150K/yr job, etc. is immeasurable. It's not scalable to track down or filter out people who will put their personal security or comfort ahead of yours, or your entire town's. We have to accept that the way that power is distributed is dangerously uneven, and consciously prevent that.
Also, let's not kid ourselves. This story will fade and be forgotten, and the practices will continue. The ability to stop powerful people from doing what they want to do isn't dependent on the consequences of what they do, but on the power that you have to stop them. Power comes from solidarity. They have it, through their command structure, and we don't. The American mind has retreated into various competing fantasies and myths; there's no chance for solidarity among the victims of these types of material harms.
For example, I'm reading this article from 2011 that mentions that 77% of Japan's plastic is recycled: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/dec/29/japan-le...
Is that complete bullshit too, or is something possible to actually achieve, just not in the US?
Plastic, drinking cartons and metals are collected in the same container. These three are separated using magnets and infrared scanners. The plastics are melted down to little pellets that can be used to create new products. A common example are shampoo bottles. This video is in Dutch, but it has some overview of these sorting machines: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gf--8o3yD6g
Based on this video about plastic recycling in Germany, I think the situation is very similar there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_fUpP-hq3A The video is in English. The plastics that are recycled there seem to be PET, PP and HDPE.
I'm absolutely in love with all the neat little tricks these machines use to sort the stuff. From simple ones like sieves and centrifuges, to fans and advanced imaging stuff. It's beautiful.
 Even aluminium can be sorted with magnets by doing some magic.
Number 1 plastic with water and number 1 plastic with yoghurt should have different tags because one may be contaminated and one not. The former might still be #1. The latter would be #278.
Solving the sorting problem would make recycling a lot more economical as that is where a lot of the costs are.
And then many of the categories simply aren't worth anything, sorted or not.
I'm pretty sure the metal and plastic (if it actually is ever recycled) categories could benefit from better segmentation too.
But commingled recycling was one of the most predictably stupid moves in the area of environmentalism I've seen in a long time (well, prior to 2016 anyway), when I heard my city was moving to commingled recycling I knew they were no longer actually recycling it, I guarantee almost all of it ends up in the landfill because of contamination. It's so frustrating.
At least corn ethanol wasn't obviously quite so stupid upfront, it was always theoretically possible that it would make sense even if it was kind of obvious it wouldn't actually work.
It makes buzzing and popping sounds, and there are blue-white arcs/tendrils all over it and the nail for maybe half a minute. Like crazy CGI in a movie! And it STINKS! That is for non-rechargables. Haven't tried that with rechargables.
The main downside is that the NiMH chemistry is 1.2V instead of 1.5V like alkaline. Same kind of issue as with the older NiCd batteries where they just didn't seem to put out as much juice. They just have a lower voltage.
Personally I'm not really sure how to do that best. Ideally you'd design electronics to run on a lower voltage to start with and always use rechargeable batteries but if they were going to do that you'd figure there'd just be a Li-Ion battery in there already. Must be primarily for cases where energy density or weight is the only consideration and waste is a very secondary concern.
My roomate used to work at A123 and one of his jobs was literally to drive nails through their lithium batteries to make sure they wouldn't explode. I think it's just a natural human drive to do things like throw batteries into a fire or drive nails through them or put them in a blender. We're a very strange species.
Btw. I have an old Canon Powershot A1200 which works flawlessly with the Eneloops. Even during cold weather under -10°C where the display begins to act weird(color shift).
Yeah, what I meant by better segmentation is not to separate them from each other (we do that) but rather by type. Some plastics are easier to recycle than others and I don't know if metals can be easily and automatically sorted from each other.
Here are a couple videos I know (in French) from consignesdetri.fr:
https://youtu.be/KgW1TP909NU?t=36 (you can see the magnetic belt at that timestamp)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMJ-pDG_afk For an aluminium can. They mention doing the same with eddy currents  
I also recall seeing a big, spiky magnetic roller in some video instead of a magnetic belt, so implementation details can vary, but this seems to be pretty standard stuff.
Less standard is the plastic-sorting equipment, though that can be achieved with hyperspectral cameras and the like (read: expensive). In some places, there are separate bins for colored and transparent glass. Some facilities use detectors instead.
Metals are easy to separate from one another, they tend to have substantially different densities and electrical properties. Aluminum for instance is not magnetic while steel cans are, but aluminum is conductive so if it passes through a magnetic field it will still get slowed down.
Those are the two big ones in any case. Then you could get to things like nickel (magnetic but intermediate conductivity) or tin (light but non magnetic) or maybe zinc/magnesium, but basically the densities are more different and the properties are more different so it's easier to tell them apart. And for some things that it can't figure out it makes sense to just landfill it.
Plastics though, absolutely vastly harder. You can use density but it only varies by a few percent. You can use diffraction gratings and cameras to see crystals and maybe sort a bit by that. But really it's just very hard, especially since the same polymer has different molecular weights and crystallinity. Your milk jug is milky while the same molecule processed differently is clear.
But even that's a mess -- you can't generally "depolymerize" these things very easily, you are really melting them back together and reusing the melt. When you start from monomers you can control the molecular weight (chain length) which controls things like crystallinity and stiffness, so the quality is higher. If you melt a variety of different molecular weights back together even if they're the same exact molecule the physical properties will just by worse. It's just the nature of the beast, and it sucks.
Even if you recycle by perfectly melting all the PET with perfect sorting and no food residue you'll be guaranteed to increase the variability in the physical properties of the output. It's just chemistry, unless you can convert it back to monomers it'll never be as good even in the best case.
For metals at least you can count on a fairly full recovery if you invest in it, it's not like polymers where it's just not possible. Even with alloys like steel you can at least in principle go back to the raw materials if you wanted, even if they are quite tricky.
Glass, cardboard, paper and compost are either recyclable or reusable, metal is recyclable when sorted correctly, and plastics are pretty much a no-go as the parent article suggests, right?
I think it's even harder to separate those concepts if you throw all recycling in the same bin.
I don't think it's viable to recycle paper products meaningfully, but they're also made from farmed trees and burn so I don't object overmuch to them. Worst case they sequester carbon...
Glass is tricky and probably cheaper to make fresh right now but it's not that big a difference to recycle it. You'd only need a marginal incentive, or for sand to somehow become more expensive.
Metal is really worth recycling economically, energetically, and technically. Glass is worth keeping separate since it can be recycled pretty easily. Paper products frankly just burn em as biofuels.
Plastics... well... I just kind of wish they didn't exist except for special applications where their unique properties were necessary. They are space age, high performance, specialty materials and we use them like they're paper cups. Use PTFE for specialty tubing, great. Use rubber tires for cars, great.
Use plastics where the properties matter. Don't use it for cups... it's just so sad...
I wonder how much people in your area recycle in general. With this many categories - and the unstated requirement that plastic/metal/glass containers must be cleaned/degreased, labels peeled off, etc., I'd personally give up on recycling altogether.
This work shouldn't be done by consumers because it's inefficient across the board. It wastes much more total man-hours, and a lot more water and power, compared to a centralized sorting facility.
There's the fourth type of trash that we sort out which is things like batteries and electronics waste; these shall not be put in household waste but should be disposed in 'centralised' containers which are located at e.g. supermarkets.
When I lived in my last apartment I carried the glass/plastic/paper/cardboard and so on a block over to a public recycling station, so that was a lot less convenient but I think they have dedicated receptacles now.
I'd be like "can I recycle polystyrene (number 6) here" and they'd answer with "put any rigid plastic in the recycling" and I'm just like... that is not how it works...
Surprise -- none of those three cities can recycle polystyrene. That's what those clamshells are usually made of. Same material as packing peanuts, potentially my least favorite invention of the modern shipping industry.
There is an opportunity to improve this tech with better vision recognition systems. Already being worked on, but hasn't been implemented at large enough scale yet.
It's not that I'd been that interested in it, just read about it, and looked into it afterwards. And it happens. Again and again.
It’s pretty crazy that they can’t sort black plastic because the machine relies on IR light to sense plastic type. We’ve got all these machine learning engineers in the area and probably not so many of them are working on real practical solutions to problems like trash sorting.
For plastics, you can make some case for PET recycling, but little else is at all practical.
Paper recycling is doable, but basically pointless when we have such high volumes of farmed pulp trees, and new pulp is more efficient than ever.
The one thing I could see working well is a subsidized glass reuse program. I know a lot of people who prefer to get things in glass anyhow, and cleaning/sanitizing glass at an industrial scale is an existing capability.
Glass, I don't think makes sense, except for downcycling to aggregate.
Oh, sure, forgot that. Though steel and iron are not that common in household waste where I'm from.
I specifically point to glass reuse rather than glass recycling. As soon as you have to process glass, the energy costs are massive.
Also we've all heard stories of, let's call it aggressive proactive copper recycling.
Far as I can tell, some of the most popular recycled paper products, such as paperboard and molded pulp, actually require somewhere around twice as much energy to produce as virgin paperboard and molded pulp products.
Contrast that with being able to process food waste onsite (or at least the neighborhood level) using the carbon cycle -- vermicomposting and conventional composting. They feed the plant, and unlike oil-based fertilizers, they help build up soil fertility long-term.
There are many more actions an individual can take that contributes towards the health of the ecology. I think a lot of people latch onto recycling because it is one of the few things people know how to do that they think contributes towards a better ecology. But there are so many more impactful things individuals and communities can do, that does not depend upon forcing large megacorps to do the right thing.
So isn't a part of the article only relevant to the US, and other countries which were exporting plastic trash rather than actually recycling/using for derivative products?
> Here's the basic problem: All used plastic can be turned into new things, but picking it up, sorting it out and melting it down is expensive.
> Recycling plastic is "costly,"
By now, we should be well enough educated to say: "What do you mean by expensive or costly?"
Does it mean...
* Costs a lot of money in the current socio-economic order?
* Requires a lot of human effort?
* Requires a lot of electricity / other form of energy?
* Has a high carbon footprint (by some complex figuring)?
* Involves a process emitting pollutants?
If it's just the monetary cost, then in a sense - that doesn't matter. Just rearrange society so that either this is funded (or a non-monetary economy). If it's energy use - maybe it's worth it and it could be arranged to be done using solar collectors in the desert or whatever. And so on.
That said, there are an innumerable number of side effects from cheap fossil fuels that would change present reality as we know it were they removed.
Removing cheap fossil fuel energy could have drastically slowed down emigration from cities to the burbs, so it’s also fun to imagine a different present where there’s dozens of New York Cities spread around the nation, connected by mass transport, and separated by vast swaths of mostly empty land. As EV tech and internet became widespread, it’s likely that the development of suburbia would only just begin to be happening now. Or not. Like you say though, fun thought experiment.
Metals would be much more expensive, so most structures would have stayed would or stone. I think electric street cars would have been possible based on hydropower and minimal metal usage. That means cities would end up with mid density suburbs based on row houses like san francisco. More dramatic is the lack of cars means dramatically higher density by default without parking etc.
Wind power would have been a much bigger deal never really falling out of favor. Eventually solar would have become a major deal which probably scaled back to most of what we are used to.
It's only free if you don't consider externalities to be a cost.
And what would China be like if they never got to grow by making so much cheap plastic stuff to get them up the ladder to making so much tech stuff.
Skin works a lot better with oil, for instance, and it isn't absurd to say that most cells in animals are made out of oil.
I’m just meaning without the in the ground stuff!
Given the likely biological origins of petroleum, you'd have to phrase your hypothetical in terms of extraction to avoid the question.
You get the plastic item use out of it, and you get almost all the energy from it as if you had burned the oil directly.
Maybe that would be a better challenge for Mr. Musk and various other privateers and governments than running away to Mars to escape the mess we’re making of our own planet.
<title>Is Plastic Recycling A Lie? Oil Companies Touted Recycling To Sell More Plastic : NPR</title>
But that bookmarklet is also at fault, since at the minimum submissions are required to strip out the site's name if it occurs in the title, so leaving in the ": NPR" bit is a bug in this automated approach. So some amount of human post-processing will always be needed. And while submissions are expected to keep the original title, there is also a rule that egregious clickbait like the question in the title tag should be removed (which has now been done!).
In addition, at least in North America, there is no consumer recycling - it's all landfilled unless a private contractor is paid vast sums to recycle it, or a local city council lucks into a good deal.
(I read newspapers until recently, and about once a year there's a short article on the inability to find a recycling partner, so off to the landfill it all goes. Doesn't matter what city. I have seen video of New York using a recycling barge that looks legit for at least some streams.)
The best you can do is burn plastic for electricity today, unless you redesign everything with a sane master recycling plan tomorrow.
The only benefit of consumer recycling in NA is that we've trained people on awareness and how to separate trash, kinda. There was a time when even that was unknown.
Modern landfills are airtight, so buried paper is sequestered carbon. Less buried paper - less sequestration.
If paper never gets recycled it will continue accumulating in the landfill at a fast pace, so more carbon gets trapped over time.
If paper gets recycled the amount of captured carbon will be that trapped in the paper currently circulating. Even if some paper gets eventually trashed, it will not be at the same rate.
Recycling paper harms climate.
Can't actually be recycled. Just gathered and put in very large warehouses and nothing is done with it.
That's what our chemist teacher told us about 10 years back, anyway. So for me that remains in the "no idea what's actually true" camp.
People have to work and raise their children. They can't be expected to be experts on things that the government, media, and scientists are actively trying to deceive them about.
If you have the time for a simple rule, people will pay for things of value.
That's a good rule of life. You can expand it as you get time.
If everyone who lied for their own gain were to be sent to prison we’d have no politicians left in government. Come to think of it we would all probably be in jail at some point.
Maybe just don’t believe everything you hear.
I think those people rightfully expect that from the government, because no one can be aware of every single thing.
Bingo. You don’t.
A government can’t protect you from everything either and in fact in many cases causes more problems for people. Just 2 examples of an endless number:
Life is a risk. Nothing can change that.