Well-intentioned “aspirational recycling” is actually making to harder to recover materials.
Among all possible climate actions, recycling ranks pretty low in its impact.
That’s why it’s smart to use fewer disposables, no matter what bin you put them in.
People who take the time to recycle hope they are doing their bit to help the planet. It’s no surprise, then, that recent news reports of US waste facilities burning plastics and sending recycled paper to landfill have sparked outrage. Thankfully, this should be a temporary problem.
The US used to send most of its recycling overseas. In 2016, it exported more than 40 per cent of its paper and a third of its plastics to China. But last year, China closed its doors to some foreign waste, and the US had to scramble for new buyers. Despite stories of recycling woes, the US seems to be finding them.
We take it for granted that recycling is the best way to dispose of waste. But is that just greenwash? New Scientist sorts through the trash so that you can make up your mind
Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23531352-000-throwaway-culture-the-truth-about-recycling/#ixzz6YNNHOrvk
Now that China isn't taking our recycling anymore, where will it go? Environmental scientist Kate O'Neill discusses recycling and the global politics of waste. "Once you throw something away, you've got to think about where's it going to go next," she says. Her book is 'Waste.'
A new type of plastic that can be easily broken down into its chemical building blocks and reassembled into high-quality products could reduce the amount of plastic waste ending up in landfill.
More than 300 million tonnes of plastic are produced globally each year and only a small fraction – about 10 per cent in the US, for instance – is recycled. The rest is tipped into landfill, incinerated or leaked into the environment.
Cities the world over are having a garbage crisis, or more specifically, a recycling crisis.
In 1950, the world produced about 4 billion pounds of plastic a year. Today, we produce about 600 billion pounds. Every year, about 20 billion pounds of it ends up in the ocean. Over 90% of produced plastic has never been recycled, and it typically takes more than 400 years to break down naturally.
From Australia to Japan, New York City to Hong Kong, garbage collectors are being forced to make a mockery of those curbside recycling bins we’ve all been trained to fill. In Philadelphia, for example, the city currently burns 200 tons of recyclables a day—half of what it collects. The result is an increase in carcinogens spewing into the air around the city’s incinerator in nearby Chester, Pa.
Laura Leebrick, a manager at Rogue Disposal & Recycling in southern Oregon, is standing on the end of its landfill watching an avalanche of plastic trash pour out of a semitrailer: containers, bags, packaging, strawberry containers, yogurt cups.
None of this plastic will be turned into new plastic things. All of it is buried.
To sort or not to sort, that is the question. Lots of people wonder whether it’s really worth their time and effort to separate, wash and store recyclable materials – especially if it takes more energy to recycle, or if the plastics sent for recycling end up in overseas landfill. The truth is, the issue is complex, and even experts can’t agree on the economic and environmental benefits of recycling.
Americans are consuming more and more stuff. Now that other countries won’t take our papers and plastics, they’re ending up in the trash.
For decades, Americans have been sorting their trash believing that most plastic could be recycled. But the truth is, the vast majority of all plastic produced can't be or won't be recycled. In 40 years, less than 10% of plastic has ever been recycled.
In a joint investigation, NPR and the PBS series Frontline found that oil and gas companies — the makers of plastic — have known that all along, even as they spent millions of dollars telling the American public the opposite.
Forget recycling, meet precycling.
Last year, Planet Money ran a show about why it doesn't make sense economically and, heartbreakingly, even environmentally to recycle plastic. But if recycling most plastic is not working now — and if it didn't work 30 years ago when the numbers and arrows first popped up — did it ever work? And why did it take us so long to learn the truth?
Some of the biggest consumer brands are trying out a new way to repurpose packaging. It’s a modern take on an old school model: think of milkmen picking up used milk bottles or recycling glass bottle to get the deposit back.
Nico is on a quest to help save the planet! He’s passionate about sharing his knowledge of recycling with everyone, so join Nico on his journey to reduce, reuse and recycle with tips and fun activities. Once you have the practices down, you can share your recycling knowledge with your family and friends too!
There's more to recycling than meets the eye. The paper coffee cup, for example. Looks recyclable, right? Relatively environmentally-friendly? Nuh-uh.
Like any other business, it’s neither altruistic nor completely self-serving; it comes with clear societal and environmental benefits–perhaps more so than many other businesses–but it also comes with some costs and cannot be considered a perfect solution to the United States’ large and ever-growing consumption and waste problems.
Last year many Australians were surprised to learn that around half of our plastic waste collected for recycling is exported, and up to 70% was going to China. So much of the world’s plastic was being sent to China that China imposed strict conditions on further imports. The decision sent ripples around the globe, leaving most advanced economies struggling to manage vast quantities of mixed plastics and mixed paper.
You probably know that you can’t put broken crayons in the recycling bin—after all, they’re made from petroleum-derived paraffin wax, not plastic or paper or metal. But you can grant them new lives by sending them to Martonosi. And crayons aren’t the only random hard-to-recycle objects that you can rescue from the landfill.
The debate over recycling obscures a bigger problem: We consume way too much to begin with.
It’s a lie that wasteful consumers cause the problem and that changing our individual habits can fix it.
People feel good about recycling, maybe even more so when it comes to electronics. Remembering to take your computer or smartphone and dropping it off to be recycled feels like an accomplishment in itself.
But while electronics recycling isn’t bad — making it a panacea for the e-waste problem we currently have certainly is. Unfortunately, that’s how we tend to frame recycling — and companies are eager to jump on that bandwagon to appear more “green”.
Recycling may be good for the environment, but working conditions in the industry can be woeful.
EACH YEAR THE planet generates some 50 million tons of electronic waste, ranging from batteries to mobile phones to light-up children’s toys. And although such devices may have been discarded, they’re not without value—the United Nations recently estimated the total worth of all that e-waste at $55 billion, thanks largely to the trace amounts of gold, silver, and other metals they contain. The problem, though, is getting them out.
Recycling has been relentlessly promoted as a goal in and of itself: an unalloyed public good and private virtue that is indoctrinated in students from kindergarten through college. As a result, otherwise well-informed and educated people have no idea of the relative costs and benefits.
With scientists predicting that if nothing changes in our plastic consumption habits, there will be more plastic in the oceans than there are fish by 2050...
Why has the world continued to increase consumption of plastic materials when at the same time, environmental and human health concerns over their use have grown?
One answer is they are immensely useful to humankind, and despite problems they create, they have provided countless benefits.
On Wednesday, researchers at the University of Georgia published a study based on United Nations data that predicts the world will have 111 million metric tons of excess plastic trash by 2030 that no one currently knows where to put. That’s because China, which has imported almost half of the world’s waste plastic in the past two decades, began imposing a ban on various types of “foreign garbage” in 2018 as part of an anti-pollution campaign. Why was China importing so much used plastic in the first place?
In the recent years, as more and more people start recycling their used products, an important question has arisen: Is recycling worth it?
The biggest reason recycling hurts the environment doesn’t have anything to do with the technical process—it’s the mindset it gives people.
Can you recycle coffee cups or greasy pizza boxes? If you’re tossing things in the recycling bin out of sheer hope, you might be an “aspirational recycler.”