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Is the U.S. Behind in Recycling?

Posted November 02, 2011 7:19 AM

A new study shows over 85% of plastic is landfilled in the U.S. With all the initiatives and press about recycling — why aren't Americans recycling more? What will it take to get Americans to stop tossing plastic that could be converted to energy or re-purposed?

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#1

Re: Is the U.S. Behind in Recycling?

11/02/2011 11:12 PM

"...why aren't Americans recycling more? What will it take to get Americans to stop tossing plastic...?"

The secret here is that Americans expect the Government to clean up after them. One needs an enterprise to intercept the plastic at the landfill and demonstrate that a profit can be made from this. This will get Americans up in arms over someone profiting from what should be a Government function. The populace will divide into those who:

1- Attempt to start their own companies to emulate the pioneer, thereby driving profit margins down to the point where said companies find it cheaper to load the plastic into the empty containers that are shipped back to the orient and reprocessed in a lower labor cost market.

2- There will be those that object to a private company profiting from what should belong to the community as a whole and will file law suits that effectively shut down the operation for twenty years or so as the case works its way through the courts (this will be the most likely outcome in California).

3- There will be those who "discover" that recycling plastics result in the release (or, possibly, the potential for release) of substances that may or may not be carcinogens who will lobby the EPA and Congress to either stop the practice all together, or to seriously regulate it, to the point where it is no longer profitable. Since the infant industry is not earning enough money to throw a bunch around through lobbyists in Washington, the Government will effectively shut the operation down anyway.

4- Finally, there is that small group of realists that understand that no matter how anyone tries to approach the issue, the Government is going to figure out some way of turning this in to a chaotic nightmare, so why bother?

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#2

Re: Is the U.S. Behind in Recycling?

11/03/2011 10:39 AM

The USA and Canada have a significantly lower density of population than Europe. Thus if we truck glass, which is nothing but sand and not very valuable, to the locations where the factories are, it is much more harmful than simply putting in the landfills. We only do it to "feel good". In addition, colored or tinted glass is unique and would contaminate the clear products so must be sorted out.

Aluminum packaging has value and we have a 50-60% recycle rate as I recall so that is justified in moving to the manufacturing locations. We expend significant effort light weighting our plastic such as water bottles which I think have gone too far in thinning the walls. And this effort at times dictates alternate plastics. Not all things can be made out of polyethylene or PET. There are technologies to break the plastics down into their basic polymers but I do not believe it is cost effective without paying a premium over virgin resins. So a few will do that for the PR but for no other reason.

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#7
In reply to #2

Re: Is the U.S. Behind in Recycling?

11/07/2011 1:39 PM

I would also say that with the lower population density we also have more cheap land available for the landfills, so simply throwing things in the trash is relatively easy and inexpensive in North America. It seems that without an immediate benefit (ie. bottle deposit return), we're for the most part too lazy to bother with recycling. Even with the threat of a looming city tax increase due to a new landfill needing to be set up soon (ours is nearly full), several people I know are still unconcerned with recycling. Welcome to Generation Now!

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#3

Re: Is the U.S. Behind in Recycling?

11/03/2011 11:55 AM

The answer to this problem is to apply a refundable tax on all plastic items. The tax would be refunded when the used item is turned in at a plastics recycling center. The operation would be similar to bottle and can redempstion centers set up in many states. Take a look at the recycling stats for aluminum beverage cans. In my area the homeless, and other disadvantaged people continually scavenge trash and along roadways for discarded recyclables. If it is recyclable for cash there is usually no trash problem associated with these items.

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: Is the U.S. Behind in Recycling?

11/03/2011 12:02 PM

Yeah tax!!! Taxes are always the answer. When in doubt?...Tax. Think there might be a problem...Tax. Think there will be a problem...Tax. Don't think there is a problem...that's right TAX!!!

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#5
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Re: Is the U.S. Behind in Recycling?

11/03/2011 12:31 PM

I agree. Where I live we have curb side recycling for plastics and paper, glass, aluminium and bi-metal cans. The more enterprising homeless folks dig through the trash cans and take their gleanings to the many local recycling centers for cash. There are bins at the entrances to most supermarkets for returning used plastic shopping bags. I think that the problem is that many Americans are cussedly ornery folk, who take great sport in finding trivial things to get pissed-off about. As cwarner7_11 points out some of us are mad because somebody makes a (small) profit from recycling, and others because the 'gummint' is telling us what to do with our own personal trash. Aren't we better than that? I guess maybe not...

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#6

Re: Is the U.S. Behind in Recycling?

11/04/2011 1:17 PM

You could answer your own question by telling us how other countries are doing, and then go on to tell us how and why they are doing it. In my county there is much recycling, but not plastic grocery bags. My wife collects them and takes them somewhere. I have heard rumors that they will be outlawed soon.

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#8

Re: Is the U.S. Behind in Recycling?

02/21/2013 10:04 PM

In Lee County, Florida, the trash recycling program is so successful that it financed a second incinerator to take care of the burgeoning full time population not mention the million tourists who come here every year.

It burns 600 tons of trash every day, uses waste oil as a secondary fuel, is hooked to 3 generators totalling 99MW which power the whole process.

Has 3 600tpd waterwall furnaces with Martin reverse-reciprocating grates and ash handling system.

http://www3.leegov.com/gov/dept/solidwaste/Pages/default.aspx

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