Author Topic: Recycling may become a thing of the past  (Read 2183 times)

ergophobe

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Recycling may become a thing of the past
« on: November 28, 2018, 07:35:32 PM »
https://weather.com/science/environment/news/2018-11-27-recycling-crisis-china-extinct

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“All of a sudden, material being collected on the street doesn’t have a place to go,” Pete Keller, vice president of recycling and sustainability at Republic Services, one of the largest waste managers in the country, told the New York Times. Keller noted that Republic has diverted more than 2,000 tons of paper to landfills in the Pacific Northwest since the Chinese ban came into effect.
« Last Edit: November 28, 2018, 07:37:57 PM by ergophobe »

littleman

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Re: Recycling may become a thing of the past
« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2018, 08:11:31 PM »
Imagine how things would change if the producers were made responsible for the cost of recycling -- at least for the product packaging.

rcjordan

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Re: Recycling may become a thing of the past
« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2018, 08:45:34 PM »
We're headed for a crisis at warp speed.  Oh, I know, we'll just dump it in the ocea ....nevermind, it's full.

Twenty-thirty years ago, I read an article about the Japanese compressing non-food trash, then encasing it in concrete to make large, lego-style blocks for highway retainer walls. I wonder how that's going?

ergophobe

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Re: Recycling may become a thing of the past
« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2018, 09:09:26 PM »
highway retainer walls.

We don't have enough highways to make a dent in that.

Imagine how things would change if the producers were made responsible for the cost of recycling -- at least for the product packaging.

That's crazy talk!

Fundamentally, though, it's the same idea as a carbon fee. It's basically a waste fee on the front end.

And BTW, rumours that Sweden is running out of garbage are greatly exaggerated
https://www.treehugger.com/energy-policy/no-sweden-does-not-recycle-99-percent-its-waste.html

rcjordan

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Re: Recycling may become a thing of the past
« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2018, 10:49:19 PM »
>We don't have enough highways to make a dent in that

I know. I was thinking we'd build an island in the South China Sea.

ergophobe

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Re: Recycling may become a thing of the past
« Reply #5 on: November 28, 2018, 11:40:34 PM »
That's an excellent idea, but the Japanese might complain. I hear they don't like it when other countries do that.

Brad

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Re: Recycling may become a thing of the past
« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2018, 10:27:17 AM »
So what is the answer, increase domestic demand for recycled products, thereby increasing demand for domestic processing of recyclables?

rcjordan

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Re: Recycling may become a thing of the past
« Reply #7 on: November 29, 2018, 02:21:30 PM »
Deposits would help a lot.  It worked for Pepsi bottles. But they need to be specific, targeting problematic items like plastic water bottles. Otherwise, we'll just end up with mixed trash which nobody wants. EG & I have discussed the mixed trash problem somewhere around here.

ergophobe

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Re: Recycling may become a thing of the past
« Reply #8 on: November 29, 2018, 05:28:17 PM »
So what is the answer, increase domestic demand for recycled products, thereby increasing demand for domestic processing of recyclables?

Solution 1. Eliminate single stream recycling. Most of the problems with contamination flow from that. It only ever worked because China was willing to take our low-grade supply. We have to sort.


Solution 2. Go to single-stream refuse. No separating recycling from trash, then have processing at the receiving end that *expects* there to be lots of trash mixed in.

China will still take recycling, but they went from allowing 5% contamination to setting the limit at 0.5% and we are unable to supply that from the US.

Anyway, I've often said that the main purpose of recycling is to alleviate middle-class guilt over our consumption habits. It's a measure that often achieves little, but lets people think they are eco-friendly, thus resolving the cognitive dissonance.

Now, my friend Jorge is trying to go zero waste in his household... that's another matter. That really does make a difference

littleman

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Re: Recycling may become a thing of the past
« Reply #9 on: November 29, 2018, 07:18:01 PM »
>zero waste

Though that would be great, I don't think it is completely binary.  There is something in between.  We've been separating our trash for many years. 

We have:

Compost Bin - yard waste, coffee grounds, soiled paper products, food waste

Recycling Bin - glass, tin, plastics, foils, clean paper/cardboard
(we'll wash items that need to be washed, we also separate out the for cash stuff and collect that for $)

Trash - everything else

Our trash bin is about half the size of our compost and recycling bins. We've also been using reusable bags for about 12 years.  Doing things like getting your coffee in a reusable cup adds up too.  None of this is really that hard to do.

 https://www.recology.com/recology-san-francisco/your-three-carts/

ergophobe

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Re: Recycling may become a thing of the past
« Reply #10 on: November 29, 2018, 09:14:20 PM »
>zero waste

Though that would be great, I don't think it is completely binary.

He hasn't achieved it yet, but he's getting close. He is also trying to implement a zero-waste plan for the hotel we work at. The actual "zero waste" standard allows for some small amount of waste, as it turns out. So he's trying to meet the standard, not actually get to the point where nothing gets thrown away. I think you're considered zero waste if you divert 95% from the landfill, but "5% waste" is not a good marketing term.

But the main thing he said is that the key is always on the consumption end. So he does a lot of looking at the supply chain and making his purchases based on the plan.

And though this is a propos of nothing... today he had his US citizenship interview. I'll be proud to have him as a fellow American!

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Recycling Bin - glass, tin, plastics, foils, clean paper/cardboard

This works in CA because the state subsidizes the costs so municipalities do not have to. Not that long ago, clean paper/cardboard fetched $95/ton and so it actually paid for itself to be carted away. Now it's under $10/ton (around $6.50 currently). That doesn't come anywhere close to paying the costs.

In places where the state is not subsidizing, most of the paper in recycle bins is actually going to landfill, because there's no market for it. It's expected that will happen for plastics too.

Outside/In did a great episode back in March on the limitations of single-bin recycling (or a "three bin system" like you have in SF)
http://outsideinradio.org/shows/onebintorulethemall

The situation has gotten much worse since that episode aired.
« Last Edit: November 29, 2018, 09:16:43 PM by ergophobe »

littleman

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Re: Recycling may become a thing of the past
« Reply #11 on: November 30, 2018, 01:37:44 AM »
>CA

https://www.recology.com/about-us/where-we-serve/

Looks like parts of Oregon and Washington are doing similar with the same company. 

I guess it's (mostly) a left coast thing.

ergophobe

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Re: Recycling may become a thing of the past
« Reply #12 on: November 30, 2018, 03:41:16 AM »
So far, not many companies are landfilling recyclables, but they interviewed some recyclers. Some are struggling, some have subsidies. I don't know about Recology specifically.

The thing is, just because they *collect* recyclables in Oregon does not mean they *recycle* them.

As of May 29 in the NYT:
Quote
In the Pacific Northwest, Republic has diverted more than 2,000 tons of paper to landfills since the Chinese ban came into effect, Mr. Keller said. The company has been unable to move that material to a market “at any price or cost,” he said. Though Republic is dumping only a small portion of its total inventory so far — the company handles over five million tons of recyclables nationwide each year — it sent little to no paper to landfills last year.

But for smaller companies, like Rogue Disposal and Recycling, which serves much of Oregon, the Chinese ban has upended operations. Rogue sent all its recycling to landfills for the first few months of the year, said Garry Penning, a spokesman.
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/29/climate/recycling-landfills-plastic-papers.html

Another big problem is "aspirational recycling." People want to feel good about their consumption, so they put all manner of things in recycling (notably, food-contaminated carboard). We have spent a lot of time educating people to recycle, but what we should have been teaching is:

If you are 99% sure it goes in recycling, then put it in the trash.

I've had this discussion with people all the time. They say "Oh our community is great. They recycle all plastics, even #7." The thing is, #7 means "other" which means there is no defined resin, which means there has *never* been a recycling market for all the #7 we use. Municipalities did this because the "catchment" was so poor on #1 and #2, which are the only ones anyone actually wants.

But now that China has raised the bar on contamination and has outright banned post-consumer plastic and paper, it means that single-stream recycling general won't work and thus...

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After China banned used plastics this year, many municipalities in the United States no longer accept plastics numbered 3 to 7, which can include things like yogurt cups, butter tubs and vegetable oil bottles.
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/29/climate/recycling-wrong-mistakes.html

The really surprising and interesting thing that I got from the Outside/In episode is that many people are now saying that the only two viable options are:

1. separating everything into separate bins for glass, plastic, office paper, cardboard and only accepting #1 and #2 plastic like we used to
2. not separating anything (that was the surprise). Trash and recycling in the same stream, and then build high-tech plants that do the separating at the end.

#2 has a few advantages
 - plants designed from the outset to handle trash, so handling "contamination" is built into the system and doesn't break the works
 - doesn't confuse people with the rules, so there is potential for much higher catchment
 - only one set of trucks, so big savings on labor, fuel, carbon footprint, etc.

I haven't looked into this and they didn't say a lot about it, but it seems that the big disadvantage is simply the capital cost. They implied the tech was actually pretty good already.

Being somewhat pessimistic about human nature, based in part on what I see in the park garbage cans in our rental recycling, I think #2 is the future of recycling.

Ever since I was a little kid, before we even recycled much, I always wondered when we drove by the city dump whether someday there would be robots that would "mine" landfills for all the recyclable buried there. It seems like we're almost there. I guess it will be a matter of ROI in the end. If the process is low cost enough, there has to be a lot of precious and semi-precious metals in the landfills of America.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2018, 03:50:29 AM by ergophobe »

ergophobe

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Re: Recycling may become a thing of the past
« Reply #13 on: November 30, 2018, 03:56:10 AM »
From the Recology site you linked to

Quote
Our latest engineering effort has been in planning, designing and implementing a system constructed to collect and recycle “film plastics” – which are used to make items like grocery bags.

That sounds promising. The more innovations like that, the more likely it is to get recycling to work.

I suspect part of it is that so much of the plastic that gets used in manufacturing gets used in China, without that market, there's always a struggle.

Rupert

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Re: Recycling may become a thing of the past
« Reply #14 on: November 30, 2018, 11:29:42 AM »
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Now, my friend Jorge
  Jorge the Peruvian ? If so a fine Gent.
... Make sure you live before you die.