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Is recycling a scam? - Page 2

post #21 of 26
This is interesting! My guess is that it's better in some regions of the country, and of course money and politics are going to be involved. I totally agree, REDUCE is the most important!!!

I've thought about the energy that goes into making things out of recycled materials, too. I do think it's better than using new materials. Take yarn spun from recycled cotton, for example. They're going to spin yarn out of either new cotton or recycled cotton, this way it's less cotton being grown with pesticides (unless it's organic, of course) less water used to grow the cotton, etc. etc. and the mill scraps are being used for something rather than thrown away. So it's good. Using less yarn is even better!
post #22 of 26

recycling isn't the answer

I have to agree with Ruthla - there's a reason why "recycle" is last on the list of reduce, reuse, recycle.

Recycling has its place - but it's not a catch-all solution to our waste problem. Take plastic bags, for instance.

Recycling rates for plastic bags are extremely low. Only 1 to 3% of plastic bags end up getting recycled.

In addition, economics of recycling plastic bags are not appealing. From the process of sorting, to the contamination of inks and the overall low quality of the plastic used in plastics bags, recyclers would much rather focus on recycling the vast quantities of more viable materials such as soda and milk bottles that can be recycled far more efficiently. If the economics don't work, recycling efforts don't work.

For example, it costs $4,000 to process and recycle 1 ton of plastic bags, which can then be sold on the commodities market for $32 (Jared Blumenfeld, director of San Francisco's Department of the Environment as reported by Christian Science Monitor).

Furthermore many bags collected for recycling never get recycled. A growing trend is to ship them to Third world countries like India and China which are rapidly becoming the dumping grounds for the Western world's glut of recyclables. Rather than being recycled they are cheaply incinerated under more lax environmental laws.

Even if recycling rates of plastic bags increase dramatically, it doesn't solve other significant problems, such as the use of non-renewable resources and toxic chemicals in their original production, or the billions of bags that wind up in our environment each year that eventually breakdown into tiny toxic bits.

What to do? Choose to reuse!

And when you're buying "new" plastic items, try to find products that are made at least in part with recycled materials. Because recycling only works if people are buying recycled, you know?
post #23 of 26
I live in N TX and we have two big cans, one for recyclables, one for trash. In spite of PICTURES on the can, I still see my neighbors and others putting in pizza boxes, yard waste, overflowing trash, etc. Where I used to live, in SoFLa, one of the sanitation guys told me that any of that stuff made the entire can go to the trash rather than the recycling center. Sometimes I see the garbage truck (not the green/blue recyclables truck) pick up both cans. So I believe the PP's husband who thinks most of it goes into the landfill. I recycle anyway.
post #24 of 26
The OP mentioned the energy costs of shipping waste to China for recycling. The actual use of energy to do this is very low.

There is a brilliant Chinese woman, Zhang Yin, one of the richest women in the world, who started a company shipping waste paper to China for recycling. She fascinates me. The thing is, there are thousands of gigantic container ships which come to the US from China every day, filled with cargo. They are unloaded and return to China empty. It takes little additional energy to have them filled with waste paper. To my mind, it's much more wasteful to have the ships go back with nothing than to recycle materials. This is obviously not as profitable in the current economy as it was.

Whether or not recycling is a scam depends on your particular community and how the material is handled. I do agree it's better to not use so much stuff in the first place. I do wish we would demand less packaging as consumers.
post #25 of 26
Thanks for the "reuse it" link. Yes, it's important to remember reduce - reuse - recycle in that order. It's really amazing how spoilt we've all gotten in regards to packaging and accumulating stuff.

I live in China and know that here in Suzhou the ayis (literally "aunts", meaning the household helpers, cleaning and gardening aids) will take paper and plastic bottles (milk jugs) to some recycling plant where they get paid a little something. Everything else ends up in the trash around here - including glass.

As the tap water quality is poor it is generally recommended that people buy drinking water (bottles, gallons, canisters). I try to set a good example by at least using stainless steel water bottles for me and my children. On the bright side: the local supermarkets don't give out plastic bags for free (you have to pay for your bag).
post #26 of 26
I personally recycle to keep things out of the landfill and to keep from drawing out new resources but instead to reuse what has already been made. That is worth my time......
As far as where the recycled stuff goes, I do not know. And I do not how much energy is used and such in recycling but I am more concerned with keeping stuff out of the landfill than the energy used to recycle it.
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