We Need to Close the Loop

I picked up new recycling bins a few days ago, as our bins have been totally mangled and broken by the pick-ups. Not to blame the hauler, but the bins get thrown around quite a bit, are outside in all temperatures and in direct sunlight as well. They break apart after a year or two of weekly use.

I picked up the new bins and asked if we should break up our old bins and just put them into the new for recycling. The answer? “No, you’ll have to put them in you regular trash. They are not recyclable.”

Houston, we have a problem.

This linear process thinking must stop, and it would make sense that is stops right away in a municipal system that needs to encourage and increase recycling rates to save money and maintain landfill usability for several more years. Shouldn’t the methods of recycling themselves be recyclable? There would be so many benefits. Once the bins are damaged they go right back into production to produce more bins, and maybe instead of residents having to drive to go get new bins, the truck could swap out broken ones for new.

For all those greener chemistry folks out there, I do know recycling is not this simple, and we cannot recycle plastic, in particular, at the same level of quality. In fact, right now, since we have outsourced most of our recycling to China, we have no in-nation business benefits from increasing recycling rates. And due to the unfolding “trade wars”, China is being more stringent about the quality of the loads of recycling they will receive for processing; They are rejecting much of what they receive, as well as fining the companies delivering the contaminated loads. This all reveals deeply embedded issues in our entire material management cycle.

But let’s start simple and at least be able to recycle broken bins. Perhaps move, over time, to recycling bins that are durable for a longer timeframe, don’t degrade in the sun, and remain flexible for years of use. How about moving to the model I’ve seen in the Netherlands where people bring recycling to a community pick up station, usually a big metal bin or large sheltered containers, within a block or two of their home or associated with the central grocery/store area of town?  Maybe eventually cut to the real issues and move our production and purchasing habits away from all these unneeded and non-recyclable plastics. They certainly have been causing us more trouble, worldwide, than their single, wasteful, toxic-laden use warrants.

Reduce first, to be greener,



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