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Info on recycling plastics
Old 04-24-2019, 04:12 PM   #1
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Info on recycling plastics

Hi Folks,

I found this story on The NY Times climate blog about recycling plastics rather informative

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/24/c...320190424&te=1

I found it interesting to learn which items are welcome in a recycling stream and which really mess things up.

I was interested in this quote

-
"We always encourage people to focus on Nos. 1, 2 and 5 because we have great markets for them in the U.S.,” said Brent Bell, vice president of recycling at Waste Management, a major garbage collection and recycling company.
-

I wonder if this really reflects the current situation? There seems to be a feeling that most of the stuff consumers put into the household recycle streams is ending up being buried or burned due to the current economics of the industry.
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Old 04-24-2019, 04:39 PM   #2
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I've known for a long time that stuff just gets tossed. However, that doesn't mean don't put it in the recycle bin. The reason is that if you don't put it in the recycle bin, then you have to put it in your regular garbage and it ends up in the same place, doesn't it?

We have curbside recycling where we don't have to sort anything since the waste management folks sort what they pick up.

One should probably just try to stop buying plastics. For instance, we know we are going to get a 'to-go' box when we eat out, so we just bring a tupperware-style container from home to avoid the styrofoam box.
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Old 04-24-2019, 05:11 PM   #3
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So, if we have great markets for 1, 2 and 5, shouldn’t most stuff be made of that? Even if it’s a bit heavy or not perfect for the application, as long as it’s safe and it works, the fact that it has a recycling market should be a major consideration.
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Old 04-24-2019, 05:49 PM   #4
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During WWII every US citizen was very aware of what had to be saved... metal and rubber, and even garbage that was sent to farms for slopping pigs, and fabrics used for bandages and other cloth that went to the war effort. Every thing that went to be recycled was cleaned first as a matter of course.

That said, we are serviced by Waste Management and since we moved here in 2004, have received not a single word about what should or should not be recycled.

Without getting political, the government appears to have none nothing to assuage this awful situation. Neither have the corporations done much to alleviate the problem... first by using non recyclable plastics, but at the very least, done anything about the all too sticky labels that preclude recycling.

Who knew? My guess... fewer than one in a hundred could explain what is or isn't recyclable.

As we poison the earth and fill in the oceans, I look back at the time when we could say "I'm proud to be an American".
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Old 04-24-2019, 06:13 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by LOL! View Post
I've known for a long time that stuff just gets tossed. However, that doesn't mean don't put it in the recycle bin. The reason is that if you don't put it in the recycle bin, then you have to put it in your regular garbage and it ends up in the same place, doesn't it?

We have curbside recycling where we don't have to sort anything since the waste management folks sort what they pick up.

One should probably just try to stop buying plastics. For instance, we know we are going to get a 'to-go' box when we eat out, so we just bring a tupperware-style container from home to avoid the styrofoam box.

According to someone who is doing this... NO... it cost more to sort the bad stuff out... so they would rather you do nothing than put in bad stuff...
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Old 04-24-2019, 06:52 PM   #6
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The Phillipines are ready to go to war with Canada over a 5 year old shipment of recycle plastic that was really trash. This is kind of crazy.


https://www.npr.org/2019/04/24/71669...r-over-garbage


Quote:
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte wants Canada to come get tons of trash that was wrongly sent to his country — and he's threatening extreme steps if Canada doesn't clean up the situation. "We'll declare war against them," Duterte said Tuesday.
The president was referring to a large shipment of municipal trash that has sat in Manila since its arrival in 2013 and 2014. The more than 100 shipping containers had been declared to hold recyclable plastic. But when the doors were opened, customs officials found "household trash, plastic bottles and bags, newspapers, and used adult diapers," according to Filipino news outlet ABS-CBN.
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Old 04-24-2019, 07:36 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Jerry1 View Post
So, if we have great markets for 1, 2 and 5, shouldn’t most stuff be made of that? Even if it’s a bit heavy or not perfect for the application, as long as it’s safe and it works, the fact that it has a recycling market should be a major consideration.
A major consideration for who? The restaurant owner who is barely getting by in an extremely competitive industry? Walmart, who's customers are extremely price sensitive and will change their purchases to save pennies? The average Joe to whom 1, 2, and 5 are meaningless?
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Old 04-24-2019, 10:24 PM   #8
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We have curbside recycling where we don't have to sort anything since the waste management folks sort what they pick up.
We have to put glass in a separate bin. Otherwise all plastic, paper, and metals go in the big blue can.

Our waste management is constantly reminding what does and does not belong in recycling. There's a big diagram stuck to the top of the blue can, and they send out a big poster every couple of months just in case you forget. It's clear a lot of people must be putting things in the bin that don't belong there.

They have a frequent slogan "If in doubt, throw it out".

Quote:
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One should probably just try to stop buying plastics. For instance, we know we are going to get a 'to-go' box when we eat out, so we just bring a tupperware-style container from home to avoid the styrofoam box.
These days it's hard to buy anything that isn't packaged in plastic.

Most restaurants in our area have cardboard take out boxes. We still can't put them in recycling since they're coated, but they should biodegrade quicker than styrofoam.
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Old 04-25-2019, 08:59 AM   #9
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I do have one plastic question: so if basically everything in the world is packed in or stored in plastic, why is it that straws are the new evil?

Personally I think this is an area where ingenuity is really needed. What can be invented to replace plastic and not harm the environment?
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Old 04-25-2019, 09:05 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LOL! View Post
I've known for a long time that stuff just gets tossed. However, that doesn't mean don't put it in the recycle bin. The reason is that if you don't put it in the recycle bin, then you have to put it in your regular garbage and it ends up in the same place, doesn't it?

We have curbside recycling where we don't have to sort anything since the waste management folks sort what they pick up.

One should probably just try to stop buying plastics. For instance, we know we are going to get a 'to-go' box when we eat out, so we just bring a tupperware-style container from home to avoid the styrofoam box.
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According to someone who is doing this... NO... it cost more to sort the bad stuff out... so they would rather you do nothing than put in bad stuff...
The new mantra/reality for residential recycling is "when in doubt, throw it out" - meaning don't throw anything in your recycling that you're not absolutely certain is recyclable. And if it's not reasonably clean, don't put it in recycling. If it's a single use plastic bag, styrofoam, coffee cup lid, solo cup, clear plastic cup, food or cling wrap or any thin/light plastic - please don't put it in your recycling!

Americans got in the (well intended) habit of doing just the opposite, known as 'wish-cycling' - where they put everything in recycling that might be recyclable. Many Americans have assumed all along that ALL plastics can be recycled (that was never true), and didn't look for the recycle triangle much less the code.

Some crude sorting is done by automated equipment but a lot is still manual - so sorting is expensive and time consuming. Even back in the good old days of recycling before China inevitably clamped down, about 25% of what consumers sent to recycling was trash - imagine that sorting task. And single use plastic bags, dirty cardboard (pizza boxes), and other light or un-recyclable stuff is wreaking havoc on recycling sorting centers more than ever.

The more Americans continue to 'wish-cycle', the more "recycling" goes to landfills.

Quote:
  • PS#6 is the code you will find on your foam, or polystyrene, cups and “to-go” boxes, as well as plastic coffee cup lids, Solo© cups, and other clear plastic cups and containers. This is a very low grade plastic and is not economically recycled, as stable markets do not exist for these materials.
  • Plastic films (usually labelled as #4) are recyclable, but not at the recycling facilities used for processing curbside recyclables, as it is very difficult to “sort” this material via the mechanical methods used at the facilities. In fact, plastic bags wreak havoc on sorting equipment, causing many mechanical breakdowns and process delays for equipment clean out. The best way to ensure that plastic bags get recycled is to take them to local grocery stores or retailers, where they can be captured as a clean, separated, and specialized commodity. Other flexible plastic materials that can be recycled this way include dry cleaning bags, bread bags, flexible plastic packaging from products such as paper towels, cases of soda, cotton balls, or bathroom tissue; shipping pillows, and sealable or “zippered” plastic food bags. Note that food or cling wrap, prepared food bags or biodegradable bags should not be recycled.
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Old 04-25-2019, 09:15 AM   #11
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What really concerns me is plastic in the oceans. I'd like to see a deep dive study on how it gets there. I've heard, but not verified that it is largely from poorer countries dumping trash directly into rivers. I have seen this first hand in Peru. If so, perhaps there is a way to carrot and stick the bad actors to stop new plastic pollution in the oceans. I'd also like to see more work on biodegradable alternatives and clean up technologies to remove what is there now.
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Old 04-25-2019, 09:28 AM   #12
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What really concerns me is plastic in the oceans. I'd like to see a deep dive study on how it gets there. I've heard, but not verified that it is largely from poorer countries dumping trash directly into rivers. I have seen this first hand in Peru. If so, perhaps there is a way to carrot and stick the bad actors to stop new plastic pollution in the oceans. I'd also like to see more work on biodegradable alternatives and clean up technologies to remove what is there now.
Every report I've seen says almost all of it comes from China/SE Asia/India and virtually none of it comes from U.S./Europe. U.S./European plastic straw bans are feel-good virtue signalling.
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Old 04-25-2019, 09:36 AM   #13
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Every report I've seen says almost all of it comes from China/SE Asia/India and virtually none of it comes from U.S./Europe. U.S./European plastic straw bans are feel-good virtue signalling.
The US should do all we can but...
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Old 04-25-2019, 09:43 AM   #14
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My township recently enacted stricter plastic recycling rules. I thought I was being a good citizen, previously, on my diligent plastic recycling. Apparently, much of what I thought I was recyclable wasn't. We're now limited to basics such as bottle, detergent containers, glass jars and soup cans. They are actually threatening fines if too much incorrect stuff is put in recycling, since the recyclers themselves are going to impose fees. My garbage load has now become bigger, as a result.
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Old 04-25-2019, 09:44 AM   #15
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Our county recycling contractor has a nice database on their web site where you can enter arbitrary text and it will search and give directions for that item. Very useful if the recycler wants to get junk out of the stream.

The high level descriptions don't do it for me "ie household metal and glass". I found the driver once removing a metal pet cage from the container. He said - they don't want that. I felt stupid and frustrated. Was happy when they finally put the online database together.

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Old 04-25-2019, 09:50 AM   #16
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30 years ago I had a co-worker that steadfastly refused to recycle aluminum pop cans at the office. When asked about it: "I'm ensuring it will be profitable in the future to go back and mine old landfills".


With the current trade tiffs, China has shutdown taking US "recyclables".
Last week the city here said they are now losing 3M a year on recycling because the market has tanked.


Lastly, I refuse to use drinking water to wash garbage.


The "reduce, reuse, recycle" mantra needs to be followed in that order. Avoid buying things with unnecessary plastics... do you really want your spaghetti sauce to come in air permeable plastic bottles? Re-use: We've got 3 plastic take out tubs from a Chinese restaurant that we use almost daily... the last time we went to that restaurant was 11 years ago. Every evil grocery bag gets used again either as a trash can liner or picking up dog poo... ban them and I'll have to buy just as many trash bags which are made out of thicker plastic.



Right now, recycling makes as much sense as ethanol fuel... it costs more energy to make it than you get out of it.
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Old 04-25-2019, 10:02 AM   #17
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Most restaurants in our area have cardboard take out boxes. We still can't put them in recycling since they're coated, but they should biodegrade quicker than styrofoam.
I was under the impression that CO2 is our primary environmental problem. If so, then shouldn't we be using non-biodegradable organics? If the carbon is locked up in landfill after use, it won't be forming CO2 in the atmosphere, right?

Maybe I was misinformed.
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Old 04-25-2019, 10:06 AM   #18
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The "reduce, reuse, recycle" mantra needs to be followed in that order. Avoid buying things with unnecessary plastics... do you really want your spaghetti sauce to come in air permeable plastic bottles? Re-use: We've got 3 plastic take out tubs from a Chinese restaurant that we use almost daily... the last time we went to that restaurant was 11 years ago. Every evil grocery bag gets used again either as a trash can liner or picking up dog poo... ban them and I'll have to buy just as many trash bags which are made out of thicker plastic.

Right now, recycling makes as much sense as ethanol fuel... it costs more energy to make it than you get out of it.
+1. Indeed. I watch people in stores walk out with one or two items in a single use plastic bag. Why?

I am glad some municipalities are outlawing or having merchants charge for single use plastic water bottles, plastic bags, straws, etc. Can't come too soon for me. YMMV
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Old 04-25-2019, 10:06 AM   #19
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I was under the impression that CO2 is our primary environmental problem. If so, then shouldn't we be using non-biodegradable organics? If the carbon is locked up in landfill after use, it won't be forming CO2 in the atmosphere, right?

Maybe I was misinformed.
Its not "locked up" in a landfill. Landfills just have a few feet of clay on top and thats not until they are actually closed after decades of use. The fermenting garbage creates pressure. To sequester CO2 its gotta be pumped way under ground like into old oil wells that can hold pressure.
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Old 04-25-2019, 10:29 AM   #20
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The fermenting garbage creates pressure.
Certainly food waste and similar material "ferment" in a landfill, but I'm not aware that plastics ferment.

For example, plastic pipe stands up to water quite well and is very stable or it wouldn't be used in water pipes.
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