Making Sense of the Blue Bin

Recycling.  Great.  Reduce, reuse, recycle.  Got it.  Makes perfect sense.  Instead of throwing everything into a landfill let’s try to use some of it.  Okay.  Can we do this?  Is everything recyclable?  Where are these things recycled?  Does somebody have a magic wand that turns all that stuff in the blue bin into new bottles,…or new boxes,…or new magic wands?  The last magic wand I bought was thrown into the recycling bin because it didn’t work.  I am sorry, but recycling plastic, for the most part, does not work.

I was recently almost hit by a LA City sanitation recycling truck and it got me thinking about this whole recycling business.  We used to have one truck pick up everything, but now we have three.  Hmmmmm.  What is that doing to the environment?  What is the cost of all this recycling – the sorting, transportation, and storage?  Maybe we should be using that money for some other environmental good? Unfortunately, a lot of what we put in the blue bin does not get a new life.  Much of the plastic takes a long boat to China and does not make it back to our sunny shores.
Certain requirements must be met for recycling to be economically feasible and environmentally effective.  These include an adequate source of recyclates, a system to extract those recyclates from the waste stream, a nearby factory capable of reprocessing the recyclates, and a potential demand for the recycled products.  Sending plastic discards to China to be discarded there makes close to zero sense and I think we are smarter than that.  We need to stop buying, when possible, items wrapped in plastic.  More details to follow in my next post.

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