Things like PLA (which is kinda sorta compostable) are not often recycled, but they can be. If you don’t know what resin the plastic is, then it’s even harder.
Keep the resin symbol. Remove the arrows on it. We get better with recycling stuff over time, so eventually more resins could be recycled.
But. Part of me wonders if it is actually BETTER to not recycle.
Imagine if we made plastic by pulling CO2 from the atmosphere (which we do for PLA!). If the cost were the same and the processing energy the same, wouldn’t it be better for the climate to bury that plastic (sequestering the carbon) instead of recycling it? That is, after all, how we got fossil fuels and reduced the CO2 to preindustrial levels! Burying a bunch of waste carbon from dead algae or trees before fungi evolved that could efficiently break down lignin. Recycling that carbon would’ve meant higher CO2 levels today.
And the waste in river thing is primarily about what happens to plastic BEFORE it ends up in a bin (trash OR recycling). Things like water satchets, which really are a compensation for having crap tap water.
Most plastic comes from oil, which means 'biodegradable' plastic is essentially the same as burning the oil. Actual recycling can work in some cases, but even after all the expense and energy of recycling, the recycled product is usually much lower grade plastic, so it's not sustainable. Better just to bury it (in leak-proof pits), where it will turn back into oil eventually.
The real problem with plastic waste is COLLECTING it, making sure it doesn't wash into the oceans, etc.
At least the recycle logo might help with that, even a fake one.
I get that it's sequestered if it's in a landfill, but it seems like it might be more efficient to burn the carbon already extracted and turned into plastic than it would be to dig up new stuff and burn that (i.e. you get to leave more of the already-sequestered oil-carbon in the ground rather than digging it up and sequestering the plastic-carbon).
Landfill seems to be the contrarian's choice but this appears to some anti-regulation propaganda after effect.
Headlines like "Thing you do to save the planet actually hurts the planet" is like catnip for some people, and they dont ask any awkward questions about who is claiming this and why.
If you incinerate the trash instead of burying it, carbon does indeed get released.
If you burned enough coal/naturalgas/oil to produce the same amount of energy produced by incinerating, you would release a comparable amount of carbon.
Burying it doesn't sequester anything, if you assume it gets burnt to produce energy. If you burn it, you displace burning fossil fuels.
I wish recycling was more realistic, it frustrates me to no end that out of all those cute numbers that indicate you should feel good putting it in the recycling bin, odds are that anything you put in made of 3, 4, 5 (sort of), 6, or 7 is counterproductive. It just contaminates the good stuff.
But tangent aside, if you consider the plastics to be fuel it makes absolutely no sense to sequester them instead of burning them to displace fossil fuel use, reduce land use, and also centralize a major pollution source (plastics and such contaminating groundwater near landfills over centuries vs a centralized emissions filter).
It seems like a lot is simple once most electricity has a low marginal cost (environmentally, of course they'd usually negotiate feed-in tariffs or other guaranteed long term pricing that accounts for the capital costs of construction).
Also I believe landfills will be future mines.
I wonder if it's possible though to turn garbage to charcoal, to sequester the carbon in a more stable form, and at the same time burn the 'wood-gas' for energy. Like bio-char, garbage-char.
What's the time scale of turning back into oil? How long those pits are estimated to stay leak-proof?
Alright, here is a controversial hot take - we should probably just burn plastics - and most garbage actually - as fuel. Done properly, incineration is a simple way to limit environmental contamination caused by plastics and other waste materials. The extra GHG production would be partially offset by savings from simpler logistics for processing (no more shipping barges of waste plastic going to overseas dumps) , and significantly reduced methane emissions from landfills. And - depending on how cost-effective incineration is - we may be able to take savings from waste processing and double-down on removing emissions from other industries (e.g. Energy, transportation).
Gasification is a nice intermediate step if you need to mix it with syngas or natural gas to augment supplies, but if you really just are going to convert to electricity or heat eventually you may as well just do it in one centralized step.
Either way the plastic product is just one stop on the path from hydrocarbon to energy and CO2+H2O, but I do think centralized incineration is more practical (especially since it's already done all over the place) with little real downside.
Just assume as a rough estimate that the gas you'd get from gasification is displacing natural gas production. If you just burn the plastic (and other trash) in a way that prevents serious pollution from getting into the air it's bound to be more efficient to do that and then just burn less natural gas -- versus trying to turn what is essentially already fuel into natural gas substitute.
Just as an example I know about offhand, isoprene rubber takes five times the carbon content of the product to process from petrochemical feedstocks. That said, recycling isn't very good either, so better would be to just not use it unnecessarily in packaging.
I do think it is better to incinerate than to recycle wrong and contaminate the entire recycling stream though. To me, ruining all the other recycling on top of lying about it being recyclable in the first place is way way worse.
And no, you cannot generally recycle PLA... I'm not sure where that is coming from. I hate that PLA (often labeled as 7 even though that just means "other") confuses everything even worse when people try to just toss it into typical compost and thus ruin the compost too. Of course it would also ruin the recycling... it would literally be better to just throw it away to be incinerated or else use good old numbers 1 and 2.
I think if you wait long enough (billions of years) then the landfills will eventually be under miles of earth and subjected to high enough pressures that they fundamentally change; in the same way sedimentary rock can change into metamorphic.
There's some potential methods when you can just extract the carbon, which in turn you could also bury, but why not use it for something instead?
I feel the "lets put it in a hole" thing has been artifically boosted by fossil fuel interests who just happened to be emptying a hole as they dug it up anyway. If that wasn't the case I'm not sure storing stuff underground would be an obvious solution.
Using it for plastics, concrete or other things we need that contain carbon seems like it'll likely be always be a better choice than burying.
The idea is to extract carbon from the air, make something useful out of it, and then bury the plastic when the item reaches the end of its useful life, thus sequestering the carbon. Recycling the plastics would compete with pulling more carbon from the air and reduce the amount being sequestered. The energy-intensive recycling process might also release more CO2 as a side effect, offsetting the amount captured in the plastic.
The goal is to get the carbon into the ground, not to create a closed cycle reprocessing previously captured carbon. Immediate burial would also work, of course, but then there wouldn't be any economic incentive to extract the carbon from the atmosphere in the first place.
It would only possibly make sense if recycling was fundamentally a dirty process but since we've got enough zero carbon energy available to suck carbon out of the air we've got enough to recycle. We can then use that energy saved by recycling to suck carbon out of the air.
Unless there's some weird process or catalyst that makes atmospheric CO2 to consumer grade plastic the absolutely cheapest way to extract CO2 it'll always make sense to save energy and redirect that energy to the most effective method of getting CO2 out of the air whatever that is. I have no reason to believe plastic production will be that and it seems unlikely.
Well, given that the way we do that is by growing plants, and most CO2 sequestering strategies involve... growing plants, it doesn't sound as far-fetches as you're trying to make it.
They should use a different, non-similar symbol for this, since the current batch of recycle symbols have all become synonymous (to the layman) with "put it in the recycle bin".
"Source" (not a primary source): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJnJ8mK3Q3g <-- which has some links to further reading/viewing and a few sources.
Even if it pollutes more to make virgin material than to recycle it -- and I think that's your problem -- if the non-recycled material goes into a landfill instead of the ocean or biosphere, there's a small consolation in that the carbon in the plastic is sequestered.
If we cut down all sources of emissions to zero, that would mean humanity using non-fossil plastic (like PLA or electrolytic syngas derived regular plastics) would be carbon negative.
The cost of PLA is about $2/kg, or equivalent to about $600/tonneCO2. About how much Climeworks currently costs for direct air CO2 capture.
It's probably even better than that, if the PLA cost is for ready-to-use PLA, because presumably dirty/unprocessed PLA costs even less.
It's really not easy for a consumer to figure out what's better.
I agree that some of the lighter weight ‘cloth-like’ bags made today would not be able to stand that duty cycle.
Might be better overall still, but that's the direction it goes in.
I use soapberries, have a well, and have a sewage treatment plant here. My electricity is hydroelectric.
How is me washing anything affecting the planet negatively in the slightest bit?
After the sewage gets treated it goes into a field with wild vegetation which is home to all kinds of living, breathing, and pollen[ating] things.
I suspect that HD hemp bags (or some other blend of material) are the best option, but finding a definitive answer isn't easy. It appears the lighter cotton bags need to be used for two decades to account for the cost of farming the cotton - and many won't last that long before they begin to fail.
Links to two studies which place the number of times you must reuse a cotton bag between 130-7100 times.
A low-quality, low-reuse solution will almost always be the lower carbon solution if you analyze it from the point where someone picks up the product. It also ignores the question of if the embodied carbon in bags is a large factor (I doubt it) and sets aside the question of the impact of generating and disposing of many plastic bags. The latter question is further complicated by comparing how we could, in theory, design an efficient and environmental disposal system v.s. the patchwork reality of the world and the plastic shoals in the oceans.
Well yeah, that's kinda where the problem is. How do we price in all the different kinds of externalities for cotton bags and plastic bags in a way that is consistent and everyone agrees with?
Debating these externalities and how they should be accounted for is exactly the hard problem the parent comment was talking about.
Admittedly, this is difficult to do for resource extraction or pollution costs. But consider that we can recover the costs of pollution in the ground and (to a lesser extent) the water. The reason we can't internalize the cost of CO2 emissions is because we won't recognize any ownership interest in the air. I'm not sure how to do that either, but I'm hopeful that we could think of something if we'd at least acknowledge this.
Taxes are a traditional way of pricing in a market externality. It seems appropriate here.
The point of taxing carbon is simply to get less carbon. Full stop. Economists (especially the free-market economists!) broadly agree that it will work. Why are we still having this conversation?
There are no non-enumerable sets of individuals. Presumably you meant "everyone is affected by carbon output". That may even be true. But not everyone is affected equally. Some of the effects may even be beneficial for certain individuals, e.g. a warming climate means more productive farmland in far-northern latitudes. Those living on the coasts (or on islands) are more affected by rising sea levels than those living on higher ground well away from the ocean. Some of that is by choice (you knew sea levels were rising when you bought coastal land) and some is not. All of this needs to be decided on a case-by-case basis before proper compensation can be determined.
> So who cares about compensation?
Presumably the people who are most affected by human-created climate change, and thus would qualify for the most compensation.
> The point of taxing carbon is simply to get less carbon. Full stop.
This thread is about carbon emissions as a negative externality, and properly pricing that externality. When one person's actions have a negative side effect on someone else, that should be handled through the courts in a process which ends with the victim being made whole. Taxes don't accomplish that. Even if we assume the tax is correctly calculated to precisely equal the damage to the victim, the tax money doesn't go to the victim; it just ends up in the government's general fund.
If the goal is simply to use taxes as a blunt instrument to implement the government's social policies ("to get less carbon") without regard for externalities then it might "work" in a sense. All else being equal you do generally get less of things that are taxed—though tax proponents tend to downplay this when it comes to taxes on productivity, i.e. income taxes. On the other hand, carbon taxes give the government an incentive to maintain carbon emissions as an ongoing revenue stream, so it could have the opposite effect over time. (Any proposal with the intended or expected effect of reducing carbon emissions would need to somehow find a way to replace that part of the tax revenue.)
Most people are not demonstrably harmed by climate change, and thus would have no standing to sue. Which is as it should be. If you can't prove that emitting CO2 is actually harmful, what justification do you have for imposing the proposed carbon tax? Other than raising general tax revenues, that is—but the proponents of carbon taxes claim that it's for the environment, not to cover a shortfall in the budget.
We broke the fucking loop by claiming that people could just throw plastic containers away and "somewhere, somehow (over the rainbow!!!) people will recycle them into new goods". That story is bullshit - even for most plastics that can actually be recycled.
I want legislation that lays out a set of standardized form factors that are as re-usable as possible (NOT RECYCLABLE - Literally washable and reusable), and if companies use those - great! No extra taxes for you.
Want to use your own custom packaging? Fine, but you pay for the whole fucking product lifecycle up front, before the customer ever touches it: Collection, Cleaning, Recycling/Disposal, Reprocessing, Redistribution. The EU estimates those costs for plastic at about 800 EUR ($950) a ton.
At some point in the last decade or so, the system was changed so now the glass gets recycled instead. The bottles are thinner now (lighter to transport, less material used) and allegedly it works out to less impact, based on some model.
(Though I've also heard it was mainly because breweries wanted to be free to decide the look of their bottles, for branding reasons, and something about EU harmonization to make it possible to sell imported beers.)
Is that seriously the impediment to plastic container reusability, that they're not standardized? People don't reuse plastic containers because there aren't that many uses for them around the house.
My wife and I went through a period of trying to maximally reuse otherwise disposable packaging we had around the house, and we quickly discovered two facts:
1. There's surprisingly many things you can use disposable containers for around the house.
2. Even if you go out of your way to find more uses for the waste, in a month or two you'll just run out of applications.
The problem of consumer waste is that it's a continuous flow of trash. At-home reuse is not a sink, it's a buffer - it fills up quickly, so it doesn't alter the overall dynamic of the system.
Any waste reuse scheme needs to recirculate it on the market - new products need to be put in old packaging.
There's a farm close to me that sells eggs and encourages you to bring your own tray, but it can easily be extended to dry goods.
The return of the empty bottles to the stores was incentivized via a ten cent per bottle "deposit" one made upon purchase, which one received back when one returned the bottle to a store that collected them. This was the mid 1970's as well, so that ten cent deposit would be about 45 cents per bottle today.
I'm canning a lot of vegetables and fruits. I reuse jars and lids from store-bought products like mustard or mayonnaise. The lids aren't interchangeable. In fact, there's a huge variety in the lids' shape, size, and thickness. It's especially frustrating when those custom lids lose the sealing and grip over time or they rust. Hunting an exact replacement is often impossible, so you can't reuse this specific jar anymore.
> The EU estimates those costs for plastic at about 800 EUR ($950) a ton.
This sounds surprisingly little. In this range, making companies paid up front will have negligible impact on their behavior. Rounding up to $1000 / ton of plastic, that'll come out as few cents for most products. E.g. quick Googling suggests that an empty 2L bottle of Coca Cola weighs about 50 grams, making such tax translate to $0.05 extra cost to company/consumer. That's negligible, and well within the range of the usual business shenanigans companies do with prices.
I mean, a #n plastic may be easily recycled with your curbside pickup, but be a processing issue with mine. I don't know how that can be handled better.
I think that's reasonable. If a particular material is viable for recycling but many facilities can't handle it, CalRecycle can work with them to resolve the issue. They'll probably update the standard every few years, so producers don't need to worry about the rules changing every week as market prices fluctuate.
It's certainly better than allowing companies to slap a recycling symbol on any kind of plastic just because the technology to recycle it exists somewhere in the world.
The rest are regional and don't help much from everything I've seen about the topic.
I want glass, paper, and cardboard packaging to make a comeback. We shouldn't be using space age high performance single use materials for making sure the SD card is contained in 100x the mass of plastic it is itself made of.
It's insulting, honestly, that they feel it's worth spending their money to make me throw away trash that didn't need to exist.
Where I am you can technically recycle 1, 2, 4, and 5 but 4 (grocery bags) sucks and 5 is nearly prohibitively expensive. So really you can recycle 1 and 2 and feel good about pretending that the 4 and 5 will be recycled. Meanwhile no one teaches the places that do takeout that they can just use different containers that cost the same or less but are recyclable. And no one teaches them that getting "compostable plastic" is trash here and almost everywhere.
No opportunity to blame the consumer or play games.
Make the "this is not recyclable" message small and fuzzy and green next to a planet giving the thumbs up? I dont care, because you'll be getting the bill for every senior citizen you confuse.
fact check: no, only 15
If you toss them in your municipal bin like me, my understanding is they basically just smash them and use the glass bits in other products like asphalt as it's just not worth the energy cost to actually recycle it.
Aluminum cans are probably a better bet for recycling if you're just using the municipal bins. They're profitable enough that people routinely come steal the cans from my bins.
This is a pretty significant advantage, but the disadvantage is that sometimes you drop it.
You're making me feel old. I used to sort bottles as a kid.
Soft drinks are just another example of gigantism in corporate life, economy of scale uber alles. There was a time when practically every small town had one or more bottling plants, the owners were pillars of the community sponsoring softball teams and the like. Delivery trucks typically had shelving rather than bays.
Following that there was a huge spate of consolidation. Small distributors/bottlers had their franchises taken away, canning became owned by the mothership and absolutely huge. The more centralized the more of a pain it becomes to sort/return/clean bottles.
I suppose it's like the history of car dealerships as they become fewer and larger. For that matter, a significant (most?) percentage of the US used to be self-employed instead of wage slaves.
Are you sure that's not just due to people moving away from agriculture? A family farm is a thing, but not really a family factory.
When I was a kid the only businesses I can remember being non-locally owned were a Safeway and branches of two state-wide banks. This is in a town of 20k or so (at the time). There were small local manufacturing firms, 100% of restaurants were local (no chains), nearly all grocery stores were family owned, you could still make a living as a rancher.
Obviously there were franchises (gas stations, a small Sears store mostly for catalog ordering) but not very many.
The difference from modern times is remarkable.
Of course it does take energy to get the recyclables to these places. Curious — are trains no longer efficient?
I’ve always wondered about colocating manufacturing near cheap power sources. Is this actually possible? Isn’t the power generated already being used? If it is possible, why doesn’t every manufacturing plant just do this to reduce a huge input cost?
Recently ... where was I, Eugene, Oregon? There was a shuttered Coca Cola bottling plant. I remember a huge one in Kansas City as well. Maybe someone with expertise can weigh in — but it seems like we used to, as an example, bottle things a lot more locally. It meant factory jobs in the area, transportation (of Coke) was shorter since there was probably a bottling plant in your state (or a neighboring one).
I don't know. I feel a lot was lost.
What's not included in the "total lifecycle" that's not accounted for in cost? Presumably these alternative packages won't save any landfill space.
Disposable cloth packaging is a great example of this. Plastic production needs to be reduced for a large number of reasons, but cloth production takes an exceptional amount of energy and resources to produce while not generally being reusable or recyclable, and the extra durability and/or protection of cloth is almost never needed.
(There was a NYT article about this, but I'll link directly to the study <https://www2.mst.dk/udgiv/publications/2018/02/978-87-93614-...>)
I don't know what you mean by this.
If you bottle stuff into PET bottles (the usual stuff, being shredded after one use), then you have to buy one new PET bottle for each bottle you produce.
If you bottle stuff into reusable glass bottles (98+ % returned intact, cleaned and reused), then you mostly don't buy new bottles, just replacements for bottles falling out of the cycle (reuse limit reached, not returned, broken).
Why and by what mechanism would the price of a single new glass bottle account for the lifecycle of the bottle? It just doesn't make sense to me.
For example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvzvM9tf5s0
Until that issue is addressed, plastic will reign supreme.
Why not both? Is one mutually exclusive of the other?
Now we will spend a decade arguing which plastic is really recyclable, and if you can recycle it once is it enough, or should be 2 times? or does it degrade on its own? bio plastic (which turns out sometimes is worse than current common plastic) and etc.
Coca Cola's 'Please Recycle' on the caps makes me boil with rage, how about 'Please Don't Make it'?
There must be supply chain changes, probably 95% of my plastic is from the supermarket, it is increasingly more difficult to buy without plastic.
This must be banned, it will take decades until the free market regulates itself.
look how long it took for tabacco, and it still lost despite all the lobbying, but it is incredibly slow
Unfortunately this information isn’t always as easy as it should be to look up. It should be a simple web search away.
Yes unfortunately they never tell you. Sure they'll tell you the easy stuff like cardboard, paper, cans etc. But there's a near infinite variety of stuff that you might be able to recycle. What about a metal coathanger? What about a plastic-coated metal coathanger? Etc.
We have to put paper and cardboard in different containers. What about card? No idea!
Unfortunately we never get any feedback about whether we were right or wrong. It could all be sent to the landfill and we will never know.
The reality is: reduce, reuse, recycle, where recycle is absolutely last resort and I actually consider it harmful as it releases some kind of valve from people, and they think everything is going to be alright.
For instance, soda bottles. We used to have a closed loop system for these. All of the bottles were glass, the same dimension and color, and one exchanged them at the store you purchased them at. Similar systems exist in other countries for beer and wine bottles.
Most of this article is fine, but I can't believe this specific misinformation continues to be printed.
Exported plastic waste virtually entirely goes into landfills overseas, or is incinerated.
Whereas the waste choking local rivers and streams e.g. in Asia is virtually entirely local waste -- people littering, etc.
I'm 100% on the side of the environment -- which is why I want us to make policy based on actual fact, so efforts go towards what actually matters.
I would love some validation that our exported plastic waste goes into landfills, as you're stating, but I'm also skeptical that all the places we ship waste to have well designed landfills with proper water runoff management.
People still pay good money for recycled plastic, but apparently it was too much of an incentive for people to knowingly ship in mixed trash, use low cost workers to extract a few highly valuable elements in hazardous conditions and burn or discard the rest.
Yes, most of the consumer trash in local rivers will be from locals, but its still not great to have a mismanaged landfill of plastic near you thats full of inported trash.
You are just hoping this is the case. With absolutely no way to verify this, you are just spreading more misinformation. I can attest from personal experience that many of those countries are hopelessly inept, corrupt, and unable to handle the entire incoming volume. They can't even handle their own "domestically produced" garbage.
The facts are that an estimated 8 million tons of plastic waste enter the oceans every year, with the majority of that waste coming from the exact same countries to which the US exports its plastic waste. There are definitely unscrupulous importers who just dump the crap right back into the ocean.
 Of course, most of these countries are not producing their own local plastic. They are actually importing those goods too! We sell them food wrapped in garbage, and pure garbage too. What a deal for them!
I don't see a comment in that article about the original provenance of the waste in rivers - can you paste it?
Cardboard sandwich containers? Is there a go/no-go depending on how much mayonnaise had dripped out?
It's no surprise people are confused.
In your can example, it's going to get smelted down and anything organic is going to burn off.
Here, I can only recycle clear, colourless plastic (with the right recycling label). Of course, the promotional film has no recycling label, only the bottle itself. The printeed film can't be recycled. And it's the very devil to strip the film off the bottle.
I have here a triangular sandwich pack made of cardboard; but with a plastic window glued to it. The window has no recycling label, but also it renders the box non-recyclable.
I'm perfectly willing to sort my rubbish; but I'm not prepared to dismantle packaging that obviously wasn't meant to be dismantled - especially given that most "recycling" actually goes for incineration or landfill.
The bar set by the bill is much higher than 'could be recycled'. It "ban[s] companies from using the arrows symbol unless they can prove the material is in fact recycled in most California communities, and is used to make new products."
Why would you even put a recycling label on a non-recyclable product, unless you're an asshole.
We might be better off burying it as a carbon sink.
This propagated down in the economy with brands using more and more plastic in the last 30 years. Everything is plastic nowadays, even what used to be glass (like milk containers).
Both government and mainstream media were all about people following all the dumb rules (I wonder how many hours of lost productivity we collectively lost as a species) or you hated the planet.
In the last few of years it turned out recycling is mostly useless, even if we had the evidence for it since the beginning. Most of it is unrecyclable, some of it get shipped to China to burn, a minor part of plastic gets recycled (and it can even be recycled a limited amount of times).
The government trying to intervene now is doing too little too late. The only thing I can understand is that big oil bought our governments officials and media. What they bought is 30 years to make money selling oil and enough time to shift their investment to something greener for the next cycle of corruption and profiteering.
Incidentally I know a family in the oil business and the new generation is investing the family empire in renewables, pocketing all the government's incentives for solar energies, while they're at it.
that applies word-for-word to covid measures. almost none of them do much in practice, but there has to be a bevy of rules to keep us mollified and distracted from the raw machinations of power and money.
This is actually reassuring to hear. It's an indication that maybe, just maybe, the oil industry won't hold on to their current source of profits all the way until it's too late.
But if you put that recycling symbol in a green circle it means something else -- "that the companies that produces the product is committed to recycling" -- whatever that means.
This to me is beyond infuriating. Absolutely in favor of these sorts of measures.
This piece of shit thing? https://www.pro-e.org/the-green-dot-trademark
How this has been allowed to exist for so long is beyond my ken. The logo should look ENTIRELY different as it's basically false-advertising for the vast majority of people who have no idea what it actually represents.
- ed spelling
Yup -- another business trick is in McDonalds -- the company that supplies the beef in Ireland is called "100% Irish Beef" and thus they put that on the packaging even if the beef doesn't come from Ireland.
I've seen this don't with the equivalent of "100% recyclable" as the name of the company to pass the product off as environmental.
However the main problem is still consumer knowledge of whats recyclable. If people think there is a small chance that something is recyclable they will throw it in the recycling bin -- this is the complete wrong approach. Put everything in the trash unless you're 100% sure it's recyclable. Otherwise you'll "contaminate" the whole batch like throwing a bad apple in on top of a barrel of good apples.
Strongly disagree here. Expecting average consumers to know the difference between polypropylene, polyurethane and polystyrene etc..., just by looking at something, is beyond the pale. That doesn't even take into account bonded materials, like paper coffee cups lined with plastic.
The "main problem" is manufacturers / supermarkets using any kind of packaging that is not recyclable by default, and vague / ever shifting standards from one private waste company to the next on what can be recycled.
There should be a massive tax on using non-recyclable materials for ordinary packaging, and it should have a mandatory skull & crossbones style symbol to show that it is hazardous to the environment.
On a positive note, Ireland just pushed through legislation to accept all kinds of plastic in recycling bins this week: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/household-recycl...
My bottle of sparkling water doesn't really need a green top. The bottle itself doesn't really need to be a light colour tint.
Put branding on paper labels, or better yet - go monochrome and laser-etch/mark everything. Have QR codes on bottles that can have fancy interactive digital marketing/advertising/information.
and you're concerned about people knowing your favorite sugar?
Packaging should be biodegradable by default. Assume that it's going to end up in the ocean, or the woods next to the highway, and we don't want it to be there in 1000 years.
There's also a huge disconnect between what's actually recyclable across California cities, unfortunately.
As far as I know San Francisco recycles clean plastic food containers, plastic cups, plastic plates, and utensils , but backwards Mountain View specifically does NOT recycle utensils , black-colored containers , and fruit containers .
This isn't true, it's an urban myth. The original myth was actually that a company called "100% beef" was a company owned by McDonalds, and this is simply a variant. See: https://www.mcdonalds.com/gb/en-gb/help/faq/18916-is-beef-a-...
McDonalds Sourcing Statement - "We work with over 23,000 British and Irish farmers to source our ingredients. Our beef, eggs and milk all come from UK farms."
> I've seen this don't with the equivalent of "100% recyclable" as the name of the company to pass the product off as environmental.
Can you give a source for a company using this? I can't find anything about it online and suspect it's just an urban myth like the first one.
My eternal bugbear is Pizza boxes. Used greasy pizza boxes can often be recycled in many municipalities, BUT only in the organic or food waste. Greasy card in the paper recycling stream screws everything up.
I used to live in a fairly large warehouse community and 'made myself responsible for the recycling', so I have greyer hair than I should and a slighly less shallow awareness than many people of the problems in all this... :\
Nobody in their right mind has the time and space to properly sort and clean the trash. For the rest, inefficient use of water and detergent has an environmental cost too.
This stuff should be all handled by a combination of centralized work at sorting plants and alterations to packaging. Containers can be cleaned more efficiently in a centralized location, and as for the pizza boxes, perhaps it should be mandated that pizza boxes must be fully lined with aluminum foil on the inside - this would be a win for both recycling and product quality, as the pizza would stay warm for longer.
You're required to separate glass, PET plastic, other plastic, aluminium, clean paper (books, magazines, newspaper), burnables (food, soiled paper), unburnables, and then also large items and electronics require extra fee and an appointment.
Further, it's arguably part of the culture to clean your trash. This is probably because burnables are collected twice a week, unburnables once a week, recyclables once a week, and, if you live in an small apartment complex, of which here are many, there is no place to put the trash. You're required to store it in your apartment until the day of collection, which means if you don't clean it it will stink up your apartment.
So, people do have time or make time.
But, I 100% agree with you that this stuff should be handled by the trash companies. They could do it much more efficiently. They can do it correctly. Having it done in a few locations is also much easier to monitor, regulate, enforce.
As for your pizza box idea, I'm not sure that's not simply complicating things - now you'd have two independently-recyclable materials tha most consumers will simply leave together and dump in the box, leaving you with sorting problems, and oil going from foil to card anyway.
Also, I think the quality of the pizza might be impacted - my gut thinks that a pizza that's allowed to release some of its heat/grease into card makes it less squidgy and sweaty than one left to sit on foil. I haven't researched this though! :)
I mean, for crissakes - a neighbour in my block thinks that actual pizza crusts and leftovers are recyclable.
Live in an apartment and oh the things people throw into the recycling dumpster. Plants, chairs, mattresses, clothes, you name it. People toss it into the recycle.
I honestly would not be surprised if 10% of what gets tossed into that bin actually gets properly recycled.
Drives me nuts!
How do folks have time to clean their glasses but don’t have time to wash a milk bottle or whatever? It takes like 15 seconds…
They don't. They put it in a dishwasher.
> It takes like 15 seconds…
Not counting setup and cleanup times afterwards. Given the two are large enough and most packaging isn't dishwasher safe, it makes sense to clean a bunch of trash in one run, which requires having space for extra trash containers at home...
Edit: is LDN London?
I've somehow gotten myself into the habit of using that shortcode over the past few years. I should really stop - the energy saved from not using three characters isn't really worthwhile :)
Deliberately obtuse way to write €160 million. Why write that like?
> The meaning of the word "million" is common to the short scale and long scale
It's the same in Europe with many types of olive oil - much of it is grown and extracted in Iberia, but then sent to Italy, etc, for processing, becoming 'Italian' olive oil..
Doesn't bother me though - my favourite olive oil comes from Spain...
The problem is that it isn't true - the 100% British & Irish beef is actually beef from Britain & Ireland. It's a myth that it's the company name.
English & Irish law on the country of origin of products is pretty strong and certinally does not allow processed beef from other countries to be labelled/marketed as British. Also a 5 minute google search shows this is just simply an urban legend.
As you were!
Yea, I'm going to call bullshit on that. "100% Irish Beef" is a marketing slogan by Irish beef producers to signify that all of their beef comes from Ireland.
This is definitely not true. And it's a common myth in Canada as well.
I disagree with this, there are some municipalities that will fine you for putting recycling in the regular trash.
Presumably you're referring to the Green Dot / Der Grüne Punkt . Its often confused with the symbol that indicates recyclabililty. I'm never sure whether that's intentional or not.
Are people actually getting confused by this? It looks very very different from the recycling symbol. It's a different shape both inside and out, a different color, has a different number of arrows, and the arrows abut. It doesn't look anything the same to me.
Yes. Until about 3 minutes ago, I believed this symbol meant "recycleable", and just assumed that it's another case where producers can't (or don't want to) agree on a single symbol scheme.
Also, anecdotally, I know multiple people who believed (and in some cases still insist) that it indicates recyclability.
Metalized plastic film (as used as packaging for potato chips / crisps) is particularly aggravating because it will often be printed with a green dot but is very rarely recycled, and it effectively poisons the genuinely recyclable material that it is often mixed with.
As far as I know San Francisco recycles clean plastic food containers, plastic cups, plastic plates, and utensils , but backwards Mountain View specifically does NOT recycle utensils, black-colored containers, and fruit containers .
I am under the impression it mostly used to mean plausible deniability for consumers whose consumption could be exported back to China for “recycling”.
One annoying thing I've noticed in the UK is some products having a symbol that looks a lot like the recycling symbol but upon closer inspection is not the same symbol. It turns it can be processed in a specific plant of which only one exists in the entire country. I doubt many get sent.
As many HNers are aware, plastic can't really be recycled at all. It can be reprocessed, but never recycled. That plastic tray your food comes in will never become another plastic tray that food comes in. So the recycling symbol doesn't seem to mean much apart from being a way to help people sort their waste.
I don't understand how that's even allowed.
Huh, I didn't know that. TBH, I was pretty sure most of it was just going to landfill somewhere in Asia, with only a small portion really being recycled. What does "reprocessed" mean though? Taking the example of a prepackaged meal tray, what might happen to it?
Otoh plastic water bottles may end up as "carpet, clothing, plastic packaging."
It really shouldn't be this hard.
In short because glass breaks and contaminates paper and aluminum plus needs to be sorted by color it costs too much to handle and economics are more important than environmental externalities.
It takes less energy to melt recycled glass than to make new glass from sand.
It's also regional, so friends of mine a few cities away have a totally different list of what they can recycle because its based on the capabilities of the facility it ends up at.
I THINK those can go in compost, but I'd check your local regulations
The ridiculous part is that recycling plastic generates more carbon that making new plastic, and burying it is actually a great way to sequester CO2.
So the entire plastic recycling effort has been discovered to be counter-productive.
The US Society of the Plastics Industry designed their resin identification code in 1988 and made it similar to the recycling symbol which had been in use since 1970, even though many of the plastics thus labeled were not generally recyclable.
According to wikipedia they eventually changed the RIC "chasing arrows" to a solid triangle in 2013 to address consumer confusion, but I still see a lot of plastics sporting the chasing arrow symbol.
I hope efforts like California's succeed so that the recycling symbol can be reserved for products that can be recycled in practice. (i.e. there are more than a token number of municipal facilities that process that type of plastic into a reusable form)
The ideas about government policy on product labeling became popular a bit later than that, and the resin identification codes, together with food nutritional values were the main responsible for that.
My understanding is that in the 1970s the paper industry was the first to adopt a three-arrow symbol for paper products that could be recycled and later a slightly different three-arrow symbol for products that were made from recycled paper products. These seem in alignment with consumer understanding of the symbol. I also recall seeing the three arrow recycling symbol on bins at school in the 1980s so it was certainly in use by that point.
> I imagine they used the arrows because they are about recycling
Had resin identification codes restricted their use of the three-arrow design to plastics that were widely recyclable or products made from recycled plastic then I would have no issue. But some of the resin symbols (e.g. 7) essentially mean "not recyclable" and that is obviously causing confusion to consumers because people keep putting them in the plastic recycling.
It's confusing enough that the recycling center near me provides the following guidance: "The numbers on plastics are not great indicators of whether something can be recycled in a typical recycling program. Our advice is to think about the shape of your plastics. If they are clean and empty plastic bottles, jars, jugs or tubs, they are what we are looking for!"
> even if they don't mean "this product is recyclable"
Using a symbol to mean the exact opposite of its conventional meaning seems liable to cause consumer confusion.
It says so in the article you linked. It's the last column on the first chart.
Similar to how the junk food industry is all about telling people to "balance what you eat and what you do", and shrinking portion sizes while also selling "shareable" packs. They are trying to avoid customer ire and/or regulations against them.
unless you have evidence of this "great resin code conspiracy"?
However the fact that recycling programs (at least in my state) advise consumers to ignore the number and focus on the shape of the plastic means that (at least in my state) these symbols are not serving their intended purpose.
For example, many forms of polyethylene terephthalate are not recyclable even if the product is labeled with a RIC1/PETE symbol. In fact, the only time the RIC number is helpful to me is when confirming that a product is most definitely not recyclable. Of course, in those cases the use of the three-arrow recycling symbol to indicate a product's non-recycleability seems liable to confuse consumers.
This isn't the "charitable interpretation" - this was the stated and official purpose of the symbols with the numbers.
The "uncharitable interpretation" is that it was a dishonest way for plastic manufacturers to label unrecycleable plastics with recycling symbols to confuse consumers into thinking a greater number of single-use plastics were recyclable than actually were recyclable with no consideration given to the difficulties this would cause for the organizations actually responsible for recycling the plastic.
Because I was not there I do not know whether the people involved were misguided or unethical or somewhere in between.
That's why they are on the plastic, and why they have the recycle shape.
Certainly some experts at least are academically aware that U+2672 ♲, three clockwise arrows in a triangle, recycling symbol which indicates the product can be recycled or is accepted by curbside recycling pickup programs, is not the same as U+2676 ♶, three clockwise arrows in a triangle with a tiny number inside indicating LDPE resin, which typically means the product is not accepted for recycling.
But this is not common knowledge. I hope you're not confused into thinking that the average consumer knows the difference between the resin symbols and the recycling symbol!