[Obviously, aluminum waste isn't 100% recyclable, but it's about as close as you can get besides maybe glass.
I try to buy products in glass bottles that are produced as close to home as possible. Most, but unfortunately not all of those glass bottles are refilled, but at least they are recycled by melting and producing new glass.
I've read some reports that claim that washing is also not ecological, as there are too few facilities in Germany that do this and transportation costs are high. So it's a trade off.
I personally find them preferable to plastic. But aluminum is (roughly) as light as plastic, and it doesn't catastrophically fail in the way that glass does.
You can actually witness the formation of dross yourself if you make your own aluminum foundry (which is ridiculously easy if you have hair dryer, a coffee can, an empty propane canister, and some charcoal). My understanding is that aluminum oxidization contributes somewhat to this, but it's also caused by what's left over after the plastic and paint have burned.
Granted, I am in no way saying that recycling aluminum isn't 100% worth it. I was merely trying to address the issue before someone might have brought it up. (I've noticed some people despise the use of absolutes and always need to point out that nothing is absolute)
EDIT: For anyone interested in "recycling" their own aluminum, this is almost exactly what I did about 10 years ago, and it was a lot of fun. This guy's casting looks dreadful, though.
There are other tutorials that describe using a soup can as a crucible, which might work for a short time but I think that's pretty dangerous.
> Recycling involves melting the scrap, a process that requires only 5% of the energy used to produce aluminium from ore, though a significant part (up to 15% of the input material) is lost as dross (ash-like oxide). An aluminium stack melter produces significantly less dross, with values reported below 1%.
That amount seems to fit with my amateur experience of melting aluminum cans. Dross pretty much floats up to the top of the molten aluminum, and you basically just scrape it off. Even bar stock aluminum from Home Depot would produce a small amount of it.
According to this page, aluminum is separated from dross in a separate process:
So yeah, the loss is non-zero, but the the recyclability of aluminum might as well be considered infinite, especially in contrast to plastics.
Regarding person's "needs" - I believe they are endless up to the point where person can afford them.
There is no doubt that about 5% of the population have some sort of compulsive hoarding habit. But it wouldn't matter because this is irrelevant to the issue of single use plastics, the thing that generates the most waste in oceans and waterways. Nice attempt at a "gotcha" though. Let's try a good faith dialogue next time.
That's just the US. Literally every country I've visited, including third world countries, are consuming ungodly amounts of one-time use plastics. The reason? Plastics make the job of global megacorporations, whose only goal is to make more money, much easier, since they can package their junk food and drinks and ship them the world over.
It's not a "gotcha." I just very strongly disagree, given what I've seen everywhere I've traveled.
A number of things can be added to the process, such as pressure, vaccuum, and catalysators, to make it more efficient. It even works on old tyres! The rest is basically sludge or soot which allegedly also can be utilized in some way. It also emits "pyrolytic gases" (iirc) which I guess are bad? Toxic? Bad for the environment? Idk...
Heres one out of tonnes of YT videos:
This assumes you also outlaw single use plastics/disposable plastics to solve for the other side of the equation.
 https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1... (Treatment of Plastic Wastes Using Plasma Gasification Technology)
Moreover, the Wikipedia page lists these downsides:
* Little or even negative net energy production.
* Frequent maintenance and limited plant availability.
The former I find weird, because landfills don't generate energy either. But the latter could be a problem.
The UNL paper you linked also mentions that such plasma gasification isn't necessarily more profitable than traditional recycling.
This is such a weird angle to me. Safe and environmentally-friendly waste disposal is a public good, specifically one for which the benefits are dispersed across many individuals while the costs are concentrated on whoever has to build and run the facility. So why should we rely on for-profit market forces to produce it in efficient (welfare-maximizing) quantities?
It's strange what in the USA does and does not get seen from this angle. Fire protection, police, drinking water treatment (I think?), and schools are owned and operated directly by towns/cities. But medical facilities & ambulance companies, electricity, sewage/wastewater treatment, and heating fuel are provided by private companies that residents either pay directly or through the town/city government. Not sure about landfills. Garbage collection and road construction are (usually, I think?) contracted out.
I'm sure there are, or were, economic reasons why each of these scenarios evolved the way it did. But inertia is very much a thing, and just because something was sensible in the past doesn't mean it remains sensible today.
As a business owner, I don't envy his margins, but I certainly hope to see more companies doing similar in the future. We need to make re-use cool and something to brag about.
Modern merino wool is a super material, I've moved away from synthetic jerseys entirely. Substantially less stinky, works well in all temps, and not created from plastics.
Eventually we'll understand how to synthesize something as good or better than wool, but for now merino is where it's at.
It seems like wear would be less of an issue and the bulk properties of the resulting plastic would be emphasized.
The real issue — plastic is cheap, manufacturing is expensive. As result marketplace is full of fashion items .
Obviously the most important thing to do is to reduce how much plastic is produced in the first place. Plastic recycling doesn't solve the microplastic issue, it arguably makes it worse, so any scrap plastic should be responsibly burned for energy and that energy should go towards production using materials that aren't plastic.
Use plastic only for products where the use of plastic is necessary for some critical functionality, and cannot be replaced with sustainable, biodegradable, properly recyclable materials. And only for products that are meant to last a long time, all single use and disposable plastic (such as packaging) needs to disappear ASAP.
Especially aluminum recycling (and most other metal recycling) is a win-win, both when looking at energy expenditure and environmental impact from mining.
Plastic recycling doesn't work currently. There are too many mutually incompatible types, and sorting is painfully manual and slow, it's exceedingly hard to automate and make efficient. A lot of plastic types cannot be reformed or remolded at all, so the only use for them is to be ground up and used as filler material.
All of this plastic processing just further exacerbates the microplastic problem. The further you grind down and reuse plastic, the worse the end product becomes and the more it sheds microplastic when used or exposed to abrasion, UV light and other forms of wear and tear.
So I propose that we cut the head off the beast, strongly curtail plastic production and try to responsibly get rid of the microplastic-generating plastic we already have. Incineration -when done correctly- is a responsible way of disposal that also generates power. We already burn dioxins and many other harmful compounds to dispose of them safely and with minimal environmental impact, if done correctly.
We can do things super-local now, use it as a teaching opportunity, and use volunteer effort within walking distance to make a change.
Are there any public communities in the world that are actually doing this on a super local basis? Making, Growing, Recycling.
If we can't persuade retailers to use something else I kind of think that the best and cleanest use for single use plastic might be to just incinerate it with a very good scrubber system on the exhaust from the incinerator.
Get the energy back and do something useful with it. e.g. use it as base load for renewable energy sources like wind and solar.
Anything but let it get buried or broken down and into water courses.
I fully agree about burning the stuff. You accomplish several important things that way:
- Destroying it, so it's not going to get washed up on random beaches after claiming to be "recycled" by shoving it in a shipping container and sending it to some country who doesn't have the systems in place to say "No."
- Fighting against the marketing of plastics as "clean" and "recyclable." If the stuff is so awful you can't come up with anything better to do than burn it, maybe it's not as nice as it's claimed to be.
- Offset some coal use.
Out in Boise (and a few other places), there's a pilot program to use the "weird plastics" (not #1/#2, which are now collected in a combined system most places, so I wonder if they're actually getting recycled at all) and burn them in a cement kiln. It's the Hefty Energy Bag program, and while one might rightly question a plastic bag company promoting plastics for energy, they've done what looks to be a pretty solid lifecycle analysis on the various alternatives, and "just burning the stuff instead of coal" works out, by far, the best.
I've been daydreaming about alternatives.
Wrapping bars of deodorant in rice paper. Making it like a bar of soap that you can hold.
I found a (mostly) bamboo toothbrush. It's ok.
The bamboo dental floss is pretty terrific.
Hoping to never buy fleece or spandex again, I'm still looking for hemp (or whatever) "athleisure" clothing. Like pullovers. (My lame attempts to learn to my make own clothing didn't get very far.)
They have some other interesting products too. Thank!
I'm curious what alternatives there are for squeeze bottle items (ketchup, shampoo, etc.) I know that there are alternatives (obviously ketchup comes in glass bottles) but how do you replicate the squeeze bottle with something other than plastic. Right now I have an image in my mind of a juice box full of shampoo, but I haven't actually seen any replacements like this around.
I anticipate many products will return to powder form.
eg I intend to try powder shampoos next time I have to restock.
Norway has a good system where plastic bottles are made with more plastic to make them thicker/durable, and when the bottles are recycled they are cleaned and reused .
The recycling program also uses plastic open-top bins as the standard collection container. You can imagine what this "green" policy causes on windy days. That's right: litter-tornadoes. Been that way for years, all I can figure is whoever's got the contract has important political connections. It's very, very dumb.
Also: "Its success is unarguable – 97% of all plastic drinks bottles in Norway are recycled, 92% to such a high standard that they are turned back into drinks bottles. Maldum says some of the material has been recycled more than 50 times already. Less than 1% of plastic bottles end up in the environment." 
Just articles I found quickly, my friend who split his time between the US and Norway before the pandemic was telling me about it.
"Machines to shred, melt and mould waste plastic are popping up in workshops around the world - from the UK to Malaysia, Kenya to Mexico.
The project is being led by an organisation called Precious Plastic. They put designs for the devices online for anyone to download and build themselves.
More than 400 teams around the world are now taking on the challenge of plastic waste using these machines, making everything from sunglasses to plastic bricks in the process."
I can see this as an educational program for children and adults that ignorantly throw anything plastic into the recycling bin thinking it would be recycled. But in reality, it’s likely going into the local landfill (or overseas).
The only way to solve this plastic problem is to ban all single use applications (ie, cups, straws, takeaway containers, grocery bags, ...).
Most of the time when you see a kit to DIY something this is the niche in which it lives.
Not saying the economics work out for this particular thing but just because it's not commercially viable doesn't mean it's not economically viable. You don't see scrapyards hiring people to drive around picking up scrap metal yet people do it for a net profit, same concept.
The only way that I could see that being viable is if it was mandated that the plastic class be embossed into the product with a minimum font size, labels be easily removable, and the package be shaped in such a way that it be easily cleanable.
But you don’t have to. You can just throw it in the trash or blue lid recycling bin, emptied every Monday.
What motivates someone to spend hours scrubbing and personally delivering clean plastic?
Hence why taxes on fossil fuels should be so high that a plastic bottle costs $10 and plastic toys cost $100, so the alternatives are worth it and the plastic is not made in the first place.
The point is the amount of fossil fuel consumption is causing environmental problems, just not in current society’s decision makers’ lifetimes. The only solution is to bring down the amount of fossil fuels consumed.
What would the solution here be? Raise prices on everything containing plastic, but then give the bottom x% of the population money to offset the increased cost? That is a net effect of zero, with lots of inefficiency in the middle.
Increasing prices only works as a way of changing behavior if people feel the effects of the increased prices. You cannot handwave away "poor people will get a separate solution" when your entire proposal is to make people lose money.
Another problem is the income/wealth/opportunity gap between people around the world. This might be solved by transferring income/wealth/opportunity from those that have it to those that don’t. It does not need to be linked directly to taxes on fossil fuels, like most other government expenditures are not linked to specific taxes.
This is not a net zero effect with lots of inefficiency. It’s actually the most efficient way I can think of, certainly more than hoping people sort and clean their recycling properly, ignoring the fact that recycling doesn’t even really work.
The whole point is to make people feel the effects of increased prices. It will mean fewer plastic toys, and toys in general since they won’t be so cheap, less flying, smaller homes and lots since transportation for longer distances is more expensive.
But that is the goal, to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Which all of our modern quality of life revolves around. And why, politically, there will not be a real solution to damage caused by fossil fuels in any relevant timeframe.
Our economy and expectations of life are based on consuming as much as we can, and so we shall. The optimal move for each individual is to enjoy life as much as they can, regardless of the effects of their consumption.
Whether or not it’s a good thing (for descendants) depends on how true predictions like these are:
If you can convince a bunch of dumb yuppies that they will sound like the hippest hipster in the break room when they chat with all their coworkers about what they're up to they will shovel inordinate amounts of money in your direction. And after a good run at that either you sell out and move down market or someone else comes along and develops a 90% as good solution that's accessible to a much broader cross section of the population.
Pulling that off is the big question though. Premium consumers are more fickle than normal consumers.
Yeah, they depict collectors bicycling around town with a trailer and then washing and delabeling the collected plastic in a domestic kitchen sink. They would have to charge thousands per ton for the clean stock.
For instance, bags that are on their logo flag, are not recyclable, in UK when you sorting out recyclable materials they tell you that bags are not suitable for recycling. And in some way they tear quickly and contribute hugely to micro-plastic pollution that goes into food chain.
The third is the collection point business is a straight bounty program, which seems like the most basic business model in nature. There was a guy who trained crows to trade cigarette buts for peanuts in a machine, and it seems like you could do the same with plastics litter collection. Maybe we could build machines that other wild animals could figure out that accepted litter and waste and returned food.
This seems like fun for DIYers and makers, but it can't be viable business, can it?
Recycling is the marketing tool that the oil industry used to sell plastic.