Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Earth Technology

Recycling Is Dying 371

HughPickens.com writes: Aaron C. Davis writes in the Washington Post that recycling, once a profitable business for cities and private employers alike, has become a money-sucking enterprise. Almost every recycling facility in the country is running in the red and recyclers say that more than 2,000 municipalities are paying to dispose of their recyclables instead of the other way around. "If people feel that recycling is important — and I think they do, increasingly — then we are talking about a nationwide crisis," says David Steiner, chief executive of Waste Management, the nation's largest recycler.

The problem with recylcing is that a storm of falling oil prices, a strong dollar and a weakened economy in China have sent prices for American recyclables plummeting worldwide. Trying to encourage conservation, progressive lawmakers and environmentalists have made matters worse. By pushing to increase recycling rates with bigger and bigger bins — while demanding almost no sorting by consumers — the recycling stream has become increasingly polluted and less valuable, imperiling the economics of the whole system. "We kind of got everyone thinking that recycling was free," says Bill Moore. "It's never really been free, and in fact, it's getting more expensive."

One big problem is that China doesn't want to buy our garbage anymore. In the past China had sent so many consumer goods to the United States that all the shipping containers were coming back empty. So US companies began stuffing the return-trip containers with recycled cardboard boxes, waste paper and other scrap. China could, in turn, harvest the raw materials. Everyone won. But China has launched "Operation Green Fence" — a policy to prohibit the import of unwashed post-consumer plastics and other "contaminated" waste shipments. In China, containerboard, a common packaging product from recycled American paper, is trading at just over $400 a metric ton, down from nearly $1,000 in 2010. China also needs less recycled newsprint; the last paper mill in Shanghai closed this year. "If the materials we are exporting are so contaminated that they are being rejected by those we sell to," says Valerie Androutsopoulos, "maybe it's time to take another look at dual stream recycling."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Recycling Is Dying

Comments Filter:
  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2015 @08:19AM (#49968863) Journal

    Every waste disposal stream has costs. The choice is what we're willing to pay to deal with it.

    That, and most Americans are too fucking lazy to sort, or have any kind of care in avoiding contamination (or even learning what that means).

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The choice is what we're willing to pay to deal with it.

      Unfortunately, what we're willing to pay isn't necessarily what we're thinking we're going to pay.

      So many hidden fees and charges, it's difficult to get a good cost-analysis.

      • A good cost analysis is never difficult. A 3 sort recycle also clears everything up - metal, plastic, paper. Glass goes in the garbage and food goes in the compost.

        If you want to take that a step further than send all paper and plastic to local plasma furnaces. Heck, they even take dried bio waste such as lawn clippings.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Why would you throw away glass? It's easy to recycle that.
        • Cost analysis (Score:4, Informative)

          by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2015 @11:47AM (#49970505)

          A good cost analysis is never difficult.

          Speaking as a certified accountant I could not disagree more. If you think cost analysis "is never difficult" then you don't understand how to do it properly. Some trivial cost accounting problems are easy but that describes a rather small subset of the cost analysis problems out there. Let me put it this way, I get paid fairly well because cost accounting isn't something just anyone can do competently.

        • by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2015 @01:15PM (#49971141)

          Its not quite that simple.

          Glass - really easy to recycle, we have even been doing this for decades in the UK. Only thing is, you have to sort it by colour first or it cannot be recycled, except as glass that is used in non-consumer areas.

          Metal: easy to recycle, ferrous material is even easier as a big magnet can sort it. The rest is basically aluminium from drinks cans.

          Paper: can be easy, but not if its contaminated with plastic (eg windowed envelopes) or plastic (coated to make it shiny). Even then, there's a limited recycling cycle for it, but it can still be burned in the end.

          Plastic: now we get a problem. There are so many different types, (you can see them on your products by looking for the number inside the recycle triangle). Then there's problems with the colours - put black plastic in with the rest and it can only be turned into more black plastic. The prices for most plastic is so low that its often cheaper to just chuck it in the garbage.

          Ultimately sorting at source is the only option to make recycling cost effective (and even then, if one neighbour decides to stuff his rubbish in the recycling bin, none of the lorry load that collected it gets used).

          Round here, we do plastic in bags; metal, paper and glass in bins. I used to live in a place where you could put the latter 3 in a single bin as sorting that was relatively easy, but they didn't take plastic at all.

          There are ways to encourage recycling like we used to do: community groups could collect things like paper, you'd store them until a church or scout group would turn up to collect bundles of one type of material (say, papers) where they would take them to be recycled and possibly even get paid for them as the bundles would be properly sorted and thus worth a lot more, or you could just put a penny deposit on glass or metal that could be refunded on return.

          BTW, Ars had an interesting tour of a recycling centre:

          http://arstechnica.com/science... [arstechnica.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The problem is not that landfills are too cheap, as the title of your comment says. It's that raw natural resources are too cheap. At some point that will change as they become depleted, but for now we still exist in a time where it's cheaper to harvest or extract virgin resources than it is to recycle new, with a few notable exceptions such as aluminum. Until that changes, and it eventually will, but until it does because of the laws of supply and demand and simply economics there is not any force on ea
      • It's really disturbing if that's the case too, because it shouldn't be that way. Raw materials, when mined, are not refined; you have to not only expend energy to move them to where you need them (frequently across or between continents), but you also have to expend more effort and energy to refine them and turn them into something useful (e.g., from crude oil into high-density polyethylene, a common plastic for food containers). With recycling, you bypass a lot of that, so it should be cheaper and more e

        • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2015 @12:04PM (#49970621)

          Raw materials, when mined, are not refined

          Realistically lots of recycled materials effectively require a "refining" step. That recycled milk jug comes frequently isn't clean so it has to be processed before the materials can be utilized.

          you also have to expend more effort and energy to refine them and turn them into something useful

          You have to do the same for recycled materials. The real question is whether less effort and energy (thus less cost) is required to recycle. For some products (like aluminum) the energy to turn ore into ingots is MUCH higher than to recycle. For others (like plastic) the economic advantage of recycling isn't so clear because it's relatively cheap to make the virgin product.

          With recycling, you bypass a lot of that, so it should be cheaper and more efficient: instead of going through all these refining steps, you just take some used HDPE, grind it up and/or melt it down, and make more HDPE containers out of it.

          Unfortunately it isn't that simple. Recycled materials require that they to be sorted, contaminants have to be removed, it has to be cleaned, it has to be processed into a useable form for processing. These costs are not trivial and the waste stream is definitely not clean and well organized [cracked.com]. Furthermore for many materials like plastics or paper the contaminants cannot always be removed or the chemical structure is altered such that they cannot be a perfect substitute for virgin materials.

          So if the economics are favoring using virgin raw materials instead of recycling existing refined materials, we're doing something really wrong.

          Or it means that it is a more difficult problem than you are presuming. It sounds like it should be easier but unless the energy inputs for the raw materials are very high (like for aluminum) for processing raw materials relative to recycled there is no particular reason to presume that recycling should be more energy or labor efficient than processing from raw materials. It sounds good on paper but that doesn't mean the economics work out nicely in the real world.

          • by Megane ( 129182 )

            That cracked.com link also points out a general problem with the general level of human stupidity. (a person is smart, people are dumb)

            So first of all, for the love of all that is good and holy (also, my work gloves), do not put things that are drenched in your bodily fluids in the recycling bin. Piss-soaked bed liners and used diapers and, holy shit, bloody tampons just end up going to the landfill via a more roundabout route. I suppose I can understand the mindset -- not knowing any better, people assume everything under the Sun can be crapped in, cleansed with fire, and then reused. I hate to say it, but that's just not how it works.

            (etc.) People also put the stupidest crap into the Goodwill donation bins. I know because they have a "salvage outlet" store here where they take the stuff the either doesn't sell or they don't want to take the time to put it on a regular store shelf, and put into enormous bins for people to go all shark feeding frenzy over. Though at least they don't go as far as stuff wit

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Well, if it makes you feel any better, this story actually prompted me to contact the director of our local recycling center to get more information on what, precisely, contamination is and what I can do to help minimize it. Our system is a pre-sort system. I'll grant that before moving to where I now live (recently), I was used to a single sort/commingled system. Having to pre-sort was a bit of a shock, as I'd never lived anywhere that required this. That alone prompted me to contact our local recycling ce

      • by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2015 @01:29PM (#49971253)

        Yeah, me too. I think part of the problem with recyling is lack of education. I honestly don't know what actually is and is not ok to put into what...

        For example I recently bought a mcdonalds meal...

        What about a macdonalds bag? Is that ok to put in the paper?
        What about Unused napkins? Used napkins?

        What about the 'cardboard' thing the bigmac was in? Is that paper or cardboard or is it just garbage?

        Can I recycle the the plastic fork? The little plastic bag the fork came in? or the straw? The plastic lid on the cup?

        What about the wax paper cup?

        Would I need to wash all these things? or does the recyling processes itself mean that a bit of salad dressing on the fork, or a bit cola on the cup is completely irrelevant?

        And what the hell am I supposed to do with a pringles can or the containers Ice Tea powder comes in? The ones with the cardboard cylinder (although maybe some sort of foil coating on it?) plus it has a metal ring at the top lid, and a metal base.

        Is the plastic lid recycleable? The ice tea has the #4 recyle symbol on it... but the pringles can doesn't have any symbol that I can see... but surely its recycleable? isn't it?

        Should I err on the side of caution, and toss anything I'm not 100% sure of in the garbage, or should i err on the side of recycling?

        I think most people, like me, simply don't know the answers to these questions and we make a lot of mistakes we'd avoid because of it.

    • by Gavagai80 ( 1275204 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2015 @08:50AM (#49969051) Homepage

      I'm a few blocks from the county dump. Across the street from the dump there's a large undeveloped foresty area.... which is covered in trash and furniture and such that people have dumped there because they don't want to pay the county dump to take their stuff. So I'd say the cost of landfills for consumers is far too high -- it needs to be free, like it is with e-waste, if we want to avoid people dumping everywhere (and not have a police state).

      A more reasonable solution would be to encourage people to get all their trash and recyclables to a central point by making it free, and then pay whatever we have to as a community via taxes to process it for recycling or disposal. We'd get a much cleaner world that way than we get by pretending we can make everybody responsible.

      • by peragrin ( 659227 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2015 @09:40AM (#49969453)

        Many towns do just a that. You pay a little extra tax and the town has weekly pickup as well as arranging days to pick up other things like furniture or electronics. You find it in towns that are generally clean and cared for.

      • It depends on the mentality.
        In Germany, you pay the county dump to take your stuff.
        In Italy, just a few hundred kilometers away from Germany, the county dump pays you to take your stuff, because they know that nobody would use it otherwise.

      • by orzetto ( 545509 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2015 @11:18AM (#49970277)

        The way it works here in Norway is that you pay an extra tax when you buy an eventually recyclable item. When you want to get rid of your old washing machine, you can deliver it to anyone selling washing machines ("you sell it, you take it"). Their logistic costs for handling the waste are paid by the taxes paid on new items.

        For some items you actually can get the tax back, e.g. for plastic bottles and beer cans. You bring them to the supermarket, feed them to a robot and get a receipt (one dime for small bottles, three for larger ones) and redeem it at the cashier. It's smal enough that people don't mind the extra price, but high enough that you see bums scavenging trash for bottles.

        That's the main principle you need to drive home—you make people pay when they want to buy things that they eventually will dispose of, when they have their wallet open, and make them pay nothing extra (or even pay them something) when they recycle it.

    • by kick6 ( 1081615 )

      and most Americans are too fucking lazy to sort

      I beg to differ. I'd sort, but I'm not going to sort AND pay extra money. In fact, let's be honest: I'm just not going to pay extra money period. And yes...recycling costs extra where I'm at.

      • I'd sort, but I'm not going to sort AND pay extra money.

        Yep. I was pretty diligent about recycling right up till the local government decided that they needed to charge extra for recycling. When they required me to do extra work AND pay extra money for the service, I stopped using the service....

        • by Art3x ( 973401 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2015 @10:06AM (#49969655)

          I'd sort, but I'm not going to sort AND pay extra money.

          Yep. I was pretty diligent about recycling right up till the local government decided that they needed to charge extra for recycling. When they required me to do extra work AND pay extra money for the service, I stopped using the service....

          Is it the government that requires you to do extra work and pay extra money, or is it just life?

          Recycling takes a certain amount of work. The government may be trying to split it with you. If they did all of the work, maybe the would have to charge even more.

          I may be wrong, and someone will certainly say something like that the government is just being greedy or wasteful. But if it were me, I would either investigate it to know for sure or just go with it.

          • Is it the government that requires you to do extra work and pay extra money, or is it just life?

            It was definitely the government. I don't have to send a check to life every month for water, sewer, and garbage collection.

            Recycling takes a certain amount of work. The government may be trying to split it with you. If they did all of the work, maybe the would have to charge even more.

            Then they shouldn't have put the tax to pay for the recycling center on the ballot as a "cost saving measure".

            Of course, ther

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo&world3,net> on Tuesday June 23, 2015 @11:53AM (#49970549) Homepage Journal

          Your's is a classic example of hidden external costs. It seems to you like just not recycling is the best option, but in the long run it may cost you more (your taxes have to be used to deal with what isn't recycled, the environment will be damaged, and maybe your health will eventually suffer). If you care about your kids it might cost them even more.

          That's why I'm in favour of simply taxing people more to pay for this stuff. People are generally too short sighted to see the benefit to themselves, but tend to be slightly more sympathetic when it's done on a wider scale. Even if they aren't sympathetic, it has to be done for the greater good, like a kid who doesn't want his vaccination shot because it stings for five minutes.

      • by pla ( 258480 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2015 @10:46AM (#49969967) Journal
        I beg to differ. I'd sort, but I'm not going to sort AND pay extra money.

        My town has a pretty decent way of handling this - I pay per bag of trash, and they take properly-sorted recyclables for free.

        I don't get a fine if I accidentally throw away a glass bottle. I don't get told off for not rinsing out my cans. I don't have any sort of "recycling gestapo" going around inspecting mandatory clear trash bags looking for any excuse to hassle me. They just call anything non-compliant "garbage", and I pay per bag.

        I therefore get to personally make the decision whether to pay more or recycle more.
    • by antiperimetaparalogo ( 4091871 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2015 @08:58AM (#49969121)

      Every waste disposal stream has costs.

      That is something we must teach kids even from kindergarten, so they will remeber it when they become autonomous consumers (if they are not already...).

      The choice is what we're willing to pay to deal with it.

      The choices are a) if we are willing to pay b) how much, if yes - since in reality for "a" the answer is always "yes" (even in the most uncivilized societies *some* "waste disposal" *must* be done), civilized societies must choose how much to pay for "waste disposal AND recycling".

      That, and most Americans are too fucking lazy to sort, or have any kind of care in avoiding contamination (or even learning what that means).

      If we Greeks can do it, Americans can do it better. I don't believe Americans are so lazy to sort: they just don't know how important is for minimizing the cost of their "waste disposal (AND recycling)" - if they are informed about the issue they will do the right thing (Americans were sensitive about recycling long before we Greeks were).

      In Greece we don't sort further than "for dump and for recycling". The major problem in Greece is that gypsies and illegal immigrants... illegaly sort further the "for recycling" bins! The recycling organizations loose the valuable stuff (e.g., aluminum cans) that gets stolen from the recycle bins from them, and they end up with only the less profitable (or unprofitable) "garbage", so it becomes problematic for them to continue operating

      That Greek lady mentioned in the /. summary, Valerie Androutsopoulos, is married to some other Greek, Angelos, that, while he is a computer programmer, own some recycling companies, both in Greece and USA. They understand the cost factors for, and how to operate the, recycling business, i hope others can do the society's education for the importance of that business (e.g., teachers - the way it is done in Greece... good values should start from family/school, as early as possible).

    • Maybe it's because the jacka$$es in charge don't do the obvious.

      1. Separate hazardous waste from the rest.
      2. Separate useful compost from the rest.

      And then have paper, cans, and bottles all in a third. First things first. Separate the hazardous from the rest.
    • by rhazz ( 2853871 )

      This might've been insightful if you'd removed "Americans". I'm in a canadian middle-income neighbourhood, and even here we have households who never put out a recycle bin. We have 3 programs here: rigid plastics & metal, paper & cardboard, and compost. It is paid for by taxes, and if it wasn't then many more would opt out. Even the bins are given out for free by the city. Thankfully most people realize that when our city's current dump fills up, it will cost far more to start shipping to the next a

    • by bored ( 40072 )

      That, and most Americans are too fucking lazy to sort, or have any kind of care in avoiding contamination (or even learning what that means).

      Why the fuck should I have to waste my $100/hour time to sort some goddamn garbage when the city can hire someone for $10/hour to do it?

      So get off your high horse about the recycling BS, and charge me another $50 a month or something for trash collection and sort it all manually. I'm totally of the opinion that things that can be reused be removed from the waste stream

    • by ranton ( 36917 )

      That, and most Americans are too fucking lazy to sort, or have any kind of care in avoiding contamination (or even learning what that means).

      As another post mentions (although a bit rudely), there is no reason why I need to sort my trash myself. Mixed waste recovery facilities [latimes.com] can achieve almost 80% landfill diversion rates. One such service in South Pasadena costs under $40 per month, which is the same as standard garbage service in nearby LA.

      There is no reason why I should waste my time sorting trash. I don't waste my time vacuuming my own home or landscaping my own house either. I pay professionals to do it who will do it much better and in l

    • by znrt ( 2424692 )

      Every waste disposal stream has costs. The choice is what we're willing to pay to deal with it

      we? the cost of disposal should be part of the manufacturing cost. what we are doing wrong is letting corps get away with simply not paying it, albeit making millions in profit.

    • by mark-t ( 151149 )

      The way you make them care about it is to issue fines. Kind of like how you make people care about shoveling their front walkways in the winter... when they don't do it, you fine them.

      If the consumer lives in an apartment where garbage cannot be obviously traced to a single dwelling, then the entire complex is fined... this may eventually translate to increased apartment rents for everyone, but the more people do what they are supposed to do, the less likely that is to occur.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What a surprise! Shipping trash to China is *not* "recycling". If those trash were actually worth recycling, then do it within your borders.

    • by jonnyj ( 1011131 )

      What a surprise! Shipping trash to China is *not* "recycling". If those trash were actually worth recycling, then do it within your borders.

      If China recycles the shipped trash, surely it is recycling? If China is reluctant to allow unsorted recycling through its ports, presumably some other nation will step in, do the sorting and ship the sorted materials to China. Their workers will benefit from gainful employment, and, if that pushes up China's manufacturing costs, US based manufacturers may have an opportunity to purchase cheap raw materials and gain a competitive advantage. That's how markets work.

  • Incineration (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2015 @08:26AM (#49968899) Homepage

    Just burn the stuff for energy. It's better than letting it pile up and getting into our oceans.

    Reduce, Reuse...Incinerate.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Shh dont try and make sense the eco warriors will get you. Hartford, CT is a bit of the poster child for this, they separate out what they can automaticly and burn the rest for electricity.

      • Re:Incineration (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dave420 ( 699308 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2015 @10:48AM (#49969993)
        It all depends how you do it. Plenty of environmentalists applaud sensible refuse-burning power plants & community heating projects. If you just stick it in a field, cover it with gas, light it, and try to generate electricity from that, of course environmentalists would complain. You'd probably complain too if it was near you.
        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          I live near a rubbish burning facility and it sucks. Massive amounts of dust and ash since it opened. When they run the thing you get a fine layer of black ash over everything left outside.

          It is possible to do it properly, but often it's done badly. People who object have probably just seen how bad it was elsewhere.

    • Re:Incineration (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Smidge204 ( 605297 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2015 @08:57AM (#49969115) Journal

      More specifically, burn paper but not the plastic.

      Paper is a renewable resource, and it doesn't make as much sense financially or environmentally to recycle it. It's also the major constituent of landfills. Fix up the supply side of the paper industry - switch from wood pulp to some other, easier to grow feedstock (switchgrass, hemp, etc...) - and close the carbon cycle by burning it. You recover the energy and reduce the volume of the remaining waste.

      Plastics are harder to justify burning, IMHO. The materials needed aren't entirely renewable and they more often contain additives that don't play nice when incinerated.
      =Smidge=

    • Re:Incineration (Score:4, Interesting)

      by fortfive ( 1582005 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2015 @09:12AM (#49969233)

      The energy return on incineration is dubious. Most, if not all, incinerators use additional fuel (oil or natural gast) to get the thing to burn at all, and often, if not always, the energy return is so low it ends up costing more than just burning the supplemental fuel.

      This is not to say that incineration is not a useful option for waste disposal in some circumstances. But it's disingenuous to promulgate the process with promises of a net energy gain.

    • My municipality tried this whole incinerating thing.

      The short version: the technology wasn't up to the task, the amount of energy they got out of it was woefully inadequate, the company went out of business.

      Incineration technology just doesn't sound like where it needs to be, and it doesn't produce energy in a way that is worth actually doing.

      It may be a good idea in theory, but in practice, I don't think it works very well.

      • by dj245 ( 732906 )

        My municipality tried this whole incinerating thing.

        The short version: the technology wasn't up to the task, the amount of energy they got out of it was woefully inadequate, the company went out of business.

        Incineration technology just doesn't sound like where it needs to be, and it doesn't produce energy in a way that is worth actually doing.

        It may be a good idea in theory, but in practice, I don't think it works very well.

        Without having the whole story, I will say this- power plants should be designed by power plant engineers. Many of the smaller power plants out there which burn %byproduct or %unwanted_materials are not designed by people who design power plants. There are a lot of Engineering/Procurement/Construction (EPC) companies out there who think "we did a recycling facility before, we put in some gas compressors and diesel engines at that landfill on the other side of town to burn landfill gas, a steam power plant

  • So because China cut back imports and we have no one to sell it to the plants are struggling. It isn't that consumers aren't interested but that recycling companies who made their profits by selling raw materials can't sell those materials any more.

    Stop blaming consumers when it is other companies and goverents at fault. Next recycling companies will want consumers to shred and sort everything ahead of time so they can save more money.

    • by cjjjer ( 530715 )
      When you live in a capitalistic / consumerism fueled society yes it is about money and everyone is to blame
  • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2015 @08:30AM (#49968929) Journal

    I RTFA the article on contamination.

    It's very disengenuous.

    For example it's all "oe noes toxic inks removed from paper during recycling are landfilled", so recycling is bad! Somehow this is different from dumping the very same toxic inks into a land fill while temporarily attached to paper.

    The same complaint is repeated through the article.

    Basically they're blaming recycling for the toxic crap that's in stuff, while ignoring the fact that landfilling toxic crap has exactly the same problems.

    And lead based spray paints? Apart from for historical reconstruction work, lead paint has been illegal here since 1992.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 23, 2015 @08:48AM (#49969037)

      Toxic inks? All food packaging is made with food-safe inks, usually made from vegetable oils. Newspapers (remember them?) have been using low toxicity inks for years. Most corrugated packaging (cartons) are printed with inks similar to food inks.

  • Screw capitalism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Squapper ( 787068 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2015 @08:30AM (#49968931)
    If we don't want to save the world because it's "not profitable", then we are truly fucked. What are we, Ferengi?
  • by ITRambo ( 1467509 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2015 @08:32AM (#49968943)
    I'm an American. We recycle in our home and business. It was my understanding that the paper/plastic stuff was being recycled here in America. Electronics were being shipped to China. The summary states that the overseas market for American recycled goods is drying up. I do not see why all of the paper/plastic that I recycle isn't recycled in the US, other than greed. Take what you can get for it locally,turn the paper into pulp and put the plastics into new goods, and stop complaining about cost. Recycling is getting more expensive like most other things. It's still better than putting it all in landfills.
  • by jones_supa ( 887896 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2015 @08:34AM (#49968949)

    One big problem is that China doesn't want to buy our garbage anymore.

    Well, we westeners are still happy to buy all sorts of garbage manufactured in China. ;)

    • I find it oddly funny that China doesn't want to buy our "contaminated" garbage, but is perfectly happy to ship us products contaminated with lead and other toxic stuff.

  • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2015 @08:34AM (#49968951) Homepage Journal

    Really Aluminum, glass, and steel are easy to recycle. Plastic and paper can be burned for energy or recycled. I am not a fan of "green" as I feel most are just nut balls but come on I see recycling as just the way we should throw stuff away.

    • Really Aluminum, glass, and steel are easy to recycle. Plastic and paper can be burned for energy or recycled. I am not a fan of "green" as I feel most are just nut balls but come on I see recycling as just the way we should throw stuff away.

      I agree. It seems like the big problem is "single stream". I had never even heard of "single stream" until this article. I currently live in a place that has "dual stream" and I still find it odd not to have to separate the cans from the plastic. It is more convenient but I would be happy to do the other and if we did happen to have "single stream", I would still probably separate the paper from the cans. Does "single stream" really increase recycling enough to justify the added expense? My experienc

      • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2015 @09:13AM (#49969235) Journal

        I agree. It seems like the big problem is "single stream". I had never even heard of "single stream" until this article.

        It's not much of a problem. I live in Southwark which is a single stream system. The Southwark Waste Management Facility is open one weekend per year and is well worth a visit if you like building sized machines.

        They went for single stream for various reasons, an important one being that in deepest, darkest London, space for storing stuff until the dustbin lorry visits is limited so people don't do it.

        Basically, the mixed recyclables come in and get put into a giant machine to sort the waste with an effectiveness of over 95%. It first goes under a huge hooked wire brush bag splitter. It then goes over very coarse interleavced rollers which removes the large sheets of cardboard. It then goes over finer meshing things which catch and crush glass to sort that out. Then comes the big magnet for steel. Then there's a pulsed magnet rollers which uses magnetic induction to fire off the aluminium into a hopper. That leaves mixed paper and plastic. This then goes past a multispectral laser clasification system which triggers a very powerful air puffer to sort out the paper and plastic.

        The sorted waste then goes past a small army of people who manually identify and remove any further errors. This gets it up to over 99.9%.

        It's then baled up into huge bales of aluminium, steel, paper and mixed plastic (glass doesn't bale) which is then sent off to various places for further processing.

        The facility is running slightly in the red in that the sales don't cover the running costs, but not by a large margin. That's pretty good because with a relatively small outlay of cost to run it, there's a huge amount not being landfilled.

        If you live in London or are in there when it's open, go and visit.

        • Wish I could mod you up. Thanks for the run down. It's kind of a shame there's still a human sorting step (cost) but nice to know about the inside automation (I also wondered about the Al sort). I'd worry that 0.1% contamination is kind of high, but maybe that's just a guess, or maybe remanufacturing really doesn't suffer from that level of contamination.

          • by dave420 ( 699308 )
            The quoted 99.9% is before it it sent for further processing. Those specialist processors will undoubtedly get the material to grade, otherwise they simply have no use for it.
          • I'd guess the 0.1% is still lower than you get than multiple "streams" where each household is responsible for the sorting,

        • I live in the Hartford CT area and we have Trash to Energy AND single stream recycling. First - Trash to Energy. The poster above was correct about it not being much of a net energy gain. They burn it in an oil fired plant. Cardboard, food waste, etc. all gets burned. The big thing isn't the energy as much as it is that we don't need a dump anymore except for the ash, which is compact and easy to dispose of. The main garbage dump in Hartford was closed years ago. So overall, a good option to lower th
          • Sounds like your local bunch are doing it badly. I think London is too big and dense to worry about such things: it can get very bad very fast is the rubbish clearing doesn't work very smoothly.

            I didn't mention but we also have a green waste bin for anything compostable, which is essentially all food and garden waste, including cooked food, bones, even wood infected with honey fungus. The large municipal composters can deal with it properly, kill all the nasties and keep the rats down to a minimum (they act

      • Dude - where I live (Western Oregon) we do triple-streaming - trash, recyclables, and yard waste (compostable organic matter).

        Bastards are picky about it too. For example, if you so much as accidentally leave one plastic grocery bag in the recyclables bin, they'll refuse the whole frickin' can that week, so you get to wait two weeks for the next pickup. Little wonder most folks say 'fsck it' and jam the trash can full of anything that's not an uber-obvious recyclable.

  • by hsmith ( 818216 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2015 @08:40AM (#49968985)
    How many years have these plants been running at a profit? How long have they had to improve techniques and cut costs to make this more efficient? Gas is no cheaper than it was 15 years ago (inflation adjusted) so what is the hold up? One bad year and "welp lets fold up shop!"

    Sounds like a shake down of municipalities.
  • Meh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alomex ( 148003 ) on Tuesday June 23, 2015 @08:48AM (#49969033) Homepage

    then we are talking about a nationwide crisis,

    Crisis: the most overused word of the environmental movement. Nothing is ever a snag or a bump along the way that needs to be sorted out. No siree, everything is a world ending crisis. Not enough demand for recycled cardboard? OMG. it's a crisis.

    • then we are talking about a nationwide crisis,

      Crisis: the most overused word of the environmental movement. Nothing is ever a snag or a bump along the way that needs to be sorted out. No siree, everything is a world ending crisis. Not enough demand for recycled cardboard? OMG. it's a crisis.

      Fear is a great motivator. If movements do not bring the fear into your home to have it appear right next door, no one would ever accept giving up control and decisions to others. Yeah, you can call me a tinfoil hat wearer, but deny that it's not there and true. People need to remember that it's never as bad as it seems and never as good as it appears.

  • Recycling is just a manifestation of the sorts of externalities that fundamentally flaw many economic systems. For example, I find it intriguing that in London people go buy a plastic packaged sandwich that is relatively tasteless for lunch, while a comparatively poor person in Vietnam or Malaysia goes to a local shop and buys an incredibly tasty freshly made noodle bowl for about a tenth of the price.

    Which of those people is really wealthier? Sure one has fiat currency wealth, but the other arguably enjoys

    • I agree with your general point.

      Yes, the financial growth system is a mess.
      The problem is that both the left and right are just as dependent on GDP growth. Heck, probably the only opposition you have to the financial growth system comes from the extremes on the left (occupy wall street) and the tea party (right). Everyone other movement basically believes in growth and the financial section.

      Do you ever wonder why every big city (New York, Toronto, London) is 'progressive', while at the same time pretty much

  • It is now official. Netcraft has confirmed: recycling is dying

    One more crippling bombshell hit the already beleaguered environmental community when IDC confirmed that recycling market share has dropped yet again, now down to less than a fraction of 1 percent of all waste. Coming on the heels of a recent Netcraft survey which plainly states that recycling has lost more market share, this news serves to reinforce what we've known all along. *Recycling is collapsing in complete disarray, as fittingly exemplifi

  • There was an interesting report that came out about our local recycling. All glass that is recycled, the municipality ends up taking to the dump anyways. They said there is zero demand for recycled glass so they have no option except throwing it in the dump. However, they do tell people to keep recycling it anyways since when they eventually do find a source to take it, they dont want people throwing it out instead

    • There's actually some valuable logic there. It's hard to get people into a habit of sorting, but it's relatively easy to divert a (pre-sorted) waste stream to the most efficient disposal method.

  • Phoenix has a central separation facility. Everyone gets a blue wheelie bin, somewhat smaller than the regular trash wheelie. Everything recyclable goes into the blue bin, and it gets separated at one downtown facility.

    Because recyclables tend to be light but bulky items like milk jugs and newspapers, having to ship recycled material overseas means we have already lost. Processing needs to be by city and region, so transportation costs don't eat up the value of the material and so that the value of

  • This planet has finite resources. Past three to four decades has seen increase in consumer (not customer) attitudes for "use and throw" culture. Advertising, in-built obsolescence, consumer's rapidly changing tastes are all to blame.

    Everything (even rubbish products) require energy and other resources, to produce. A bigger problem exists for disposing them carefully. I foresee going back to change in consumer attitudes of owning few solid & good things which will last for long.

    Insofar entertaining (

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 23, 2015 @09:52AM (#49969545) Homepage Journal

    First, stop recycling glass, it is a boondoggle. It takes more energy than just making more glass. Throw it in the ocean, we all like beach glass. Just put it someplace where it statistically will get polished smooth before it washes up on a beach, problem solved. Outlaw any kinds of glass for containers that would present an environmental hazard due to additives.

    Second, let's get packaging under control, and just produce a whole lot less of it. And if we produce less plastic bottles, and go back to using more glass, then we won't need to do as much recycling, see point above. But packaging is just idiotic. What percentage of plastic clamshells are even stamped for recycling? That should be illegal. Everything plastic over a few grams should have to be marked for recycling by law if you want to sell it. For the want of a trivially-expensive feature, tons of plastic has to go to landfills that could reasonably be recycled. And since it's not food waste, it's not dirty.

  • Most of what consumers throw away is packaging. All we need is a packaging tax, and tax benefits for responsible packaging. This can be done before products reach consumers. They'll just be happy to have less to throw away. Creating a burden on every citizen to sort and recycle has never been the solution.

"It may be that our role on this planet is not to worship God but to create him." -Arthur C. Clarke

Working...