Wasteland: Why recycling isn't the answer to our trash problem

  
Via:  perrie-halpern  •  2 weeks ago  •  21 comments

Wasteland: Why recycling isn't the answer to our trash problem
In the environment-saving trio of reduce, reuse, and recycle, America has banked most on that last one over the past half-century or so. But as recycling reaches a fever pitch, landfills are still filling up faster. This is Wasteland, a deep dive into what we throw out and how it affects what's next. This episode explores what's really going on with recycling.

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Perrie Halpern R.A.
1  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.    2 weeks ago

Sometimes what we think is the answer isn't. 

Maybe something more creative?

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
2  Buzz of the Orient    2 weeks ago

I think lots of concepts are being tried, but if none work then build a huge rocket, fill it with garbage, and send it off into space.

whenworlds-01.jpg?resize=300%2C238

 
 
 
KDMichigan
2.1  KDMichigan  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @2    2 weeks ago
fill it with garbage, and send it off into space.

They tried that on Futurama.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
3  sandy-2021492    2 weeks ago

Composting.

Incineration to provide heat.

Reducing use - around here, reusable shopping bags still haven't caught on.  I'm usually the only person in Walmart using them.

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
3.1  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  sandy-2021492 @3    2 weeks ago

In China the stores don't just give out plastic bags any more - if you don't bring your own you have to pay for a bag.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
3.1.1  sandy-2021492  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @3.1    2 weeks ago

It was the same in Scotland when I visited, and I hear the same is true in some states in the US.

 
 
 
KDMichigan
3.2  KDMichigan  replied to  sandy-2021492 @3    2 weeks ago
reusable shopping bags still haven't caught on.

We have been using them for 5 plus years, Although we use plastic and paper bags around the home repurposing. 

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
3.2.1  sandy-2021492  replied to  KDMichigan @3.2    2 weeks ago

Same - they're handy to line smaller trash cans, or carry stuff in from my garden (where I compost kitchen scraps).

But I'm not exaggerating when I say I'm the only person in Walmart (or Food Lion) who's using them.  I get frustrated with my parents, who are usually all about recycling and environmentalism, because they won't switch to reusable.

 
 
 
KDMichigan
3.2.2  KDMichigan  replied to  sandy-2021492 @3.2.1    2 weeks ago
But I'm not exaggerating when I say I'm the only person in Walmart

It's the same here. and we shop at a big store like Walmart...Meijer.

 
 
 
Kathleen
4  Kathleen    2 weeks ago

Anything you can do can help. The new straws, use reusable water tanks. Those water bottles are a killer.  I occasionally use my reusable bags at the grocery store. I will start using them always now. 

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
4.1  sandy-2021492  replied to  Kathleen @4    2 weeks ago

I eliminated water bottle use at my office by buying a water cooler.  We all have Yeti cups and refill from it.  Before that, there were at least 5 or 6 water bottles in the trash every day.

I leave my reusable bags in the trunk of my car.  I like them better than plastic - they hold more, so fewer trips up the stairs.

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
4.1.1  Trout Giggles  replied to  sandy-2021492 @4.1    2 weeks ago

I buy bottled water about every year or so and refill the bottles at work. I have 3 that I use all day long.

Kroger is going to make us re-use our bags because they are going to stop giving out the plastic bags for your groceries. I'm gonna have to start a new habit....

 
 
 
Nerm_L
5  Nerm_L    2 weeks ago

We cannot separate trash but we're planning to send people to Mars?  Why is one not possible and the other is possible?

It's a matter of engineering.  The success of a Mars mission depends upon engineers.  The same is true for recycling.  Recycling offers far more interesting science and engineering problems than does building rockets.  But going to Mars is sexy while managing trash is not sexy.

If we intend to build habitats on the Moon or Mars then recycling becomes a necessity.  Launching non-recyclable materials into space is a very expensive way to do things.  A lunar landfill won't be an acceptable solution.  The engineering needed to recycle our own trash will be useful for the space programs.

Everything we discard can be recycled.  But achieving that will require engineering to separate, process, and refine the material into usable feed stock for a variety of uses.  We also need an industrial infrastructure that will utilize the recovered materials.  

 
 
 
Drakkonis
5.1  Drakkonis  replied to  Nerm_L @5    2 weeks ago
We cannot separate trash but we're planning to send people to Mars?  Why is one not possible and the other is possible?

Probably we can, but I would guess the limiting factor is the profit margin. 

If we intend to build habitats on the Moon or Mars then recycling becomes a necessity. Launching non-recyclable materials into space is a very expensive way to do things. A lunar landfill won't be an acceptable solution. The engineering needed to recycle our own trash will be useful for the space programs.

I'm guessing the only thing that might come close to economically feasible in using space to get rid of garbage would be space elevators. I guessing that we'd have to have several dedicated elevators for garbage only. Get them up there and send it to the sun. 

Everything we discard can be recycled. But achieving that will require engineering to separate, process, and refine the material into usable feed stock for a variety of uses. We also need an industrial infrastructure that will utilize the recovered materials.

It seems that new ideas are already out there. Again, though, whether they are viable probably depends on the profit margin more than anything else.

 
 
 
Nerm_L
5.1.1  Nerm_L  replied to  Drakkonis @5.1    2 weeks ago
Probably we can, but I would guess the limiting factor is the profit margin. 

How much profit do sidewalks, streets, and highways generate?  The economic value isn't determined by profit margins of the infrastructure itself but, rather, by the profitable economic activity made possible by the infrastructure.  Landfills are profitable but they don't support any other profitable economic activity; landfills have less profit potential than does recycling.

Should we expect the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act to generate a profit?

I'm guessing the only thing that might come close to economically feasible in using space to get rid of garbage would be space elevators. I guessing that we'd have to have several dedicated elevators for garbage only. Get them up there and send it to the sun. 

Not the point.  People living on the Moon won't have the luxury of just flushing the toilet.  Recycling will be a necessity for a lunar habitat.

Learning how to recycle everything here on Earth will be a lot easier than learning to recycle on the Moon.  The engineering needed for recycling will be the same on both the Earth and the Moon.

It seems that new ideas are already out there. Again, though, whether they are viable probably depends on the profit margin more than anything else.

New ideas won't accomplish anything without application.  Science can and does generate new ideas.  But engineering is required to apply those ideas and create a workable solution.  

 
 
 
Drakkonis
5.1.2  Drakkonis  replied to  Nerm_L @5.1.1    2 weeks ago
Should we expect the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act to generate a profit?

I think you're missing the point. I wasn't saying we should base these things off of whether they are profitable enough. I was saying that you usually can't get people with the capital to get things done interested unless there's a healthy profit margin involved. 

Not the point.

True. I was actually thinking of someone else's comment when I wrote that. Sorry. 

New ideas won't accomplish anything without application. Science can and does generate new ideas. But engineering is required to apply those ideas and create a workable solution.

Not exactly correct, in my opinion. Engineering is needed to create a workable solution. Capital is needed to apply those solutions. Capitalists (the people who make and run companies) are not going to sink money into a solution that will not generate a profit. It isn't simply an engineering problem. 

 
 
 
It Is ME
6  It Is ME    2 weeks ago

Just Burn it, but that's another environmental issue it seems. jrSmiley_98_smiley_image.gif

Seems "Recycling" isn't sustainable due to costs and actual supply. The low Demand doesn't seem make it worth it.

This "Environmental" stuff sure does put a damper on getting rid of …. "Stuff" ….. doesn't it ?

 
 
 
Kavika
7  Kavika     2 weeks ago

China quit taking U.S. trash in 2018...This is helping create a problem that it seems we have no answer for. 

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/china-recycling-waste-ban_n_5a684285e4b0dc592a0dd7b9

On the upside robots are starting to be used.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jenniferhicks/2017/04/04/this-recycling-robot-uses-artificial-intelligence-to-sort-your-recyclables/#542bcff62d35

 
 
 
charger 383
8  charger 383    2 weeks ago

overpopulation, recycling efforts can't keep up 

 
 
 
freepress
9  freepress    2 weeks ago

Recycling is only one step, I think that corporations get a free pass on their pollution, waste, and garbage. More shame is directed at the general public rather than going after far bigger issues like the corporations who profit from creating waste and wasteful items for public consumption. 

 
 
 
Nerm_L
9.1  Nerm_L  replied to  freepress @9    2 weeks ago
Recycling is only one step, I think that corporations get a free pass on their pollution, waste, and garbage. More shame is directed at the general public rather than going after far bigger issues like the corporations who profit from creating waste and wasteful items for public consumption.

Industrial recycling is easier because the waste typically is not commingled and can be sold as scrap.  Unfortunately, EPA has required commingling and encapsulating some industrial wastes which makes recycling much more difficult.  EPA has also classified internal recycling of some wastes (particularly liquid wastes) as primary waste treatment that requires a permit and carries substantially greater liability.  In many cases EPA has proven to be an obstacle to industrial recycling and reclamation.  BTW that's more political than practical.

 
 
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