Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Recycling Problem

The Washington Post reports that the recycling industry is in trouble and in the red. What was once a money-making enterprise is now a money pit. Recycling has become costly for municipalities and other organizations, partly because of the way recycling is done, but also due to rising fuel costs, less demand for the materials, and contaminated batches of recyclables. 

The article points out that making recycling easier and easier has led to more contamination in the system. When people don't have to sort the materials, they're not as careful with what and how they recycle. In addition, well-meaning people throw in things that aren't recyclable with the idea that it's worth giving it a shot since maybe it is - and someone will make that decision down the road.

Even with the type of recycling where it must be sorted, people don't read the signs or are just lazy. In our community, we don't have curbside recycling so the materials must be collected at home and taken to recycling centers that have shipping crate sized receptacles to sort the materials into. The problem is, people don't think. They'll toss newspapers into the paper-recycling bin - in a  plastic bag. Or, if the clear glass bin is full, rather than taking it home or to another facility (which isn't that far away), they toss them into the next bin which is really for brown glass. I guess they think the recycling fairies will sort it all out, never mind that it's pretty obvious that there are separate bins because there are no fairies. Nor do they consider the extra cost involved with having to do the sorting.

Recycling is not the answer - and most Americans don't want to hear that. They want to believe that they can continue to live as they do - shop when they want, buy the latest-greatest-coolest new products - yet still be "green." Tossing items into the recycling bin makes us feel good. We've done something to "save" the environment. And by using the recycling bin, we've removed ourselves from the responsibility of the things we toss in. "We've done our part," is what we think.

Recycling isn't the perfect solution many of us believe it to be. The answer to the problem of diminishing resources and the increasing need for landfills is to reduce our consumption of everything in the first place. After we have reduced our consumption, we need to reuse the items we would normally recycle, such as glass jars. Instead of buying salad dressing, make your own and refrigerate them in repurposed glass jars; instead of buying a new glass container at Target or another big box store, use a glass jar that would otherwise be tossed in the recycling bin.

Despite the problems with the system, we still need to recycle - once we have reduced our consumption. Want to know the best way to recycle? Follow these tips


David said...

Cherie, recycling has indeed gone through some changes in my city. The seperate recyle bins are becoming less and less convienent. The curbside pickup recycles has now banned glass and will only pickup metal cans, papers, cardboard, and plastic (1,2,3, and 5). When they do pick it up, the entire load goes in the back of a garbage truck and squashed just like trash does. The city assures us that the recycles actually do get recycled but I still have to wonder if some just go to the landfill.

I reuse glass jars for left overs. If the left over is put in the sterilized jar while still warm, the jar lid will seal and keep the left overs from spoilage for up to three weeks. I haven't tried longer than that but it just might be ok longer. Bigger gallon glass jars can be used for storage of home made soap and other non perishables. Reuse and recycling is the responsibility of all those who consume. It's difficult to do in a world that likes to put a burger in a bag only long enough for the consumer to remove it and throw away the bag. The useful life span for a fast food item is very short. How many trees have been destroyed for the billions and billions of burgers delivered in them. It's a terrible tragedy when I think about it. The only change that can be made is on an individual level. Just as people don't make time for cooking food, they don't make time for recycling or re-purposing. So we who care will keep doing the right thing as best we can and try to educate those that don't.

Have a great recycle/re-purpose day. I pray that Bill's computer project comes to an end soon. This follower is missing his daily posts.

ain't for city gals said...

Arizona is so far behind on re-cycling that it is pitiful. After saying that I have to say I kind of don't like re-cycling at me it just give people an excuse to buy without thinking...when I just want to say "Think before you buy something"!!

Cherie said...

David, a few years back I learned that all the glass "recycling" in a nearby city really did go to landfill (I learned this while touring the facility). A big problem is finding a place to send all the recycling so that it is actually recycled. I think when supply streams dry up, municipalities are afraid to let the public know because once people get out of the habit of recycling items, then when the chain is up and running again it's difficult to get those habits re-established.

Thanks for the tip on the jars! I never thought about how the jars can reseal.

Cherie said...

Sheryl, you nailed it perfectly. Recycling does seem to give people a way to continue buying things yet still feel good about "saving" the planet.