June 22, 2019

"A Guardian investigation reveals that cities around the country are no longer recycling many types of plastic dropped into recycling bins. Instead, they are being landfilled..."

"... burned or stockpiled. From Los Angeles to Florida to the Arizona desert, officials say, vast quantities of plastic are now no better than garbage.... Once the largest buyer of US plastic waste, [China] shut its doors to all but highest-quality plastics in 2017. The move sent shockwaves through the American industry as recyclers scrambled, and often failed, to find new buyers. Now the turmoil besetting a global trade network, which is normally hidden from view, is hitting home.... In total, only about half (56%) of the plastic waste that America once exported is still being accepted by foreign markets in the wake of China’s ban. This week, the Guardian revealed that what still goes overseas is inundating countries including Vietnam, Turkey, Malaysia and Senegal. But much of what remains has nowhere to go."

The Guardian reports.

117 comments:

Beasts of England said...

I'm shocked that virtue signaling isn't economically viable!!

Michael K said...

Recycling has always been about virtue signaling. Second graders know about recycling but can't read.

Sydney said...

The recycling centers around us have all closed.

exhelodrvr1 said...

Something else for Elizabeth Warren to have a plan for.

stevew said...

Sounds like a business opportunity that cities and towns will have to pay for, whether they just toss the recycling in the trash or pay to have it picked up separately.

wild chicken said...

It's not signalling. The stuff is awful. I used to think they could melt it all down and reuse...hsha jokes on me. It floats in the ocean instead.

We get so many things in plastic containers it's ridiculous. I've been trying to find alternatives, like buying milk in the old style cardboard containers instead of plastic jugs.

I would not mind it all went back to cardboard and glass...

Hagar said...

As far as I know, Albuquerque never has recycled, but only hauled the "recycle" to the City dump way over by the Rio Puerco and stored it above ground covered with tarps in the hope of someday finding a customer for it. Or anyway, it may become someone else's problem if they can keep this quiet long enough.
Garbage service in Bernalillo County is provided by Waste Management Corp., a private company, which presumably can not dare to pull such a stunt, but I do not know how they deal with the problem.

Crazy Jane said...

A century ago, there was no plastic. Now it's choking the planet.

An entrepreneur/inventor who finds uses for this trash would become wealthier than Jeff Bezos. Also more loved.

Wince said...

So, plastics "recycling" formerly consisted of sending it to China to be thrown in the ocean?

Henry said...

Recycling plastics has always been a magic backstop for industry unable to actually reduce waste. Manufacturers and retailers push the idea of plastic recycling (hello Amazon) as an alternative to the less palatable environmentalist arguments against over consumption and over packaging. The mantra starts with reduce and reuse.

The article contains this LOL line:

From Los Angeles to Florida to the Arizona desert, officials say, vast quantities of plastic are now no better than garbage.

It was always garbage! It was just garbage that could be managed a different way.

I'm curious about "highest quality" plastics. From the article, these are...

water bottles, laundry detergent bottles and milk jugs

And not these:

the No 3,4, 6 and 7 plastics are going into landfills and incinerators.

Henry said...

Here's a plan for reduction:

In Canada, a program already requires manufacturers to pay for the recycling of their products and packaging, and also incentivizes them not to use hard to recycle packaging in the first place.

Let me pre-empt the libertarians by pointing out that this is a completely defensible way to get the free market to account for externalities.

Temujin said...

Crazy Jane is right.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Other than large metal items associated with our business...we have never recycled.

There isn't anywhere near us to take recycled materials. By near I mean within 40 to 80 miles. So everything...glass bottles, plastic bottles, soda cans,...everything that we can't burn....goes to the dump.

If there was a place nearby we would recycle. Maybe. It just isn't worth our time or money (with gasoline at almost $5 a gallon, and with a truck to haul the crap, that gets 15 mpg) Even so, to accumulate piles and piles of cans and bottles, until the next recycling run, would be not only unsightly it would be a health hazard attracting rodents, insects and scavenging critters.

Recycling has always been a joke.

Now that the dump is no longer going to take the large metal items, we are seeing the back roads and areas of the National Forests becoming dumping grounds. Old appliances, beds, wire, boats, cars, windows....you name it. It is now a part of the "pristine" landscape.

Lyle said...

Banning plastic won't save the planet. Educate yourselves people.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-sorry-banning-plastic-bags-wont-save-our-planet/

Howard said...

Until oil become too expensive, reuse not viable. Landfilling best option for sequestration. Recycling scam based on fake science report from USEPA claiming we running out of landfill space.

Crazy Jane typical female who because we fix so many problems, men can build a flux capacitor on demand.

Derek Kite said...

The headline should be Oberlin Shoplifting Culture to Blame.

That is the reason why products are wrapped two layers do with dense and thick plastic.

Henry said...

One thing worth pointing out -- U.S. Landfills generally do a great job of handling trash. Taking mixed plastics to a landfill is actually a really sound solution.

gilbar said...

this is Great News!
One of The Biggest Problems In The World Today, is poor little marine animals being attacked by soda straws and six pack rings.

Now that we've admitted recycling was a sham from the get go; we can stop pouring plastics in the sea
Now that we can stop pouring plastics into the sea; WE CAN GO BACK TO USING SODA STRAWS!
HURRAY!

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

I'm not surprised. Americans in general, have no clue how to properly recycle.
You must clean the object. Which takes time and water. Nobody wants to do that.
They toss their dirty item in a bin and a magic fairy cleans it all.
Most of my lefty neighbors throw away gooey sticky recyclables. Clueless.

Howard said...

https://www.nytimes.com/1987/06/29/us/with-no-room-at-the-dump-us-faces-a-garbage-crisis.html

rhhardin said...

How do you tell treasure from trash? Somebody will pay you for it.

Henry said...

Lyle -- great article (dumb headline, though). As I mentioned, U.S. landfills are not the problem:

Research from 2015 shows that less than 5 per cent of land-based plastic waste going into the ocean comes from OECD countries, with half coming from just four countries: China, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam. While China already in 2008 banned thin plastic bags and put a tax on thicker ones, it is estimated to contribute more than 27 per cent of all marine plastic pollution originating from land.

Wince said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Harold said...

The glass the local trash companies picked up for 'recycling' used to go straight to the landfill. Then a glass recycling plant opened up, now the glass gets milled into cullet the primary use of which is to seal landfills. We pay a recycling fee of $15 or $20 a month to provide this and raw material.

Tommy Duncan said...

Meanwhile, the State of California has banned plastic straws to reduce plastic waste.

Why doesn't California create a demonstration project by banning all plastics in their state? Let them show us the way.

Howard said...

In the future, men will mine landfills. Just call it future recycling storage

Phil 314 said...

WALL-E

rhhardin said...

For some reason many decades ago trash from NYC was no longer accepted by whoever was accepting it, and a flying dutchman situation arose with what was called the "garbarge," sailing from port to port looking to offload. News ratings rose.

That was the beginning of long-haul trucking of NYC garbage to midwest landfills willing to be paid to take it.

Howard said...

We recycled newspapers and pop bottles in the 1960's

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

The concept of recycling is a good one, but yeah - you have to have the resources.
Rural areas are not going to go to that trouble. There is no incentive in any direction to do so.

I live in a city with gobs of recycle resources.
I've known for years that most of what goes into our recycle bins ends up as trash. A guy I used to know in the landscape design biz said he went down to the the recycle center and walked around out back and did some investigating one day. Asked some questions. Found out, if there is no "buyer" or anyone willing to take the recycled material, it ends up as trash in the landfill.
This was more than a decade ago.

Ralph L said...

Everyone gets a park bench.

We have (or had) a state law restricting cities to 1990 levels of landfill waste, adjusted for population growth. I assume they haven't been considering all recycling collection to be landfill. Now the City is going to waste more tax money changing all stoplights to LEDs, and we have far too many.

rhhardin said...

Here in rural Ohio you can pay extra to have recycle stuff picked up, if you want to recycle. Very libertarian. But anything can be left by the curb for regular pickup.

Beasts of England said...

'In the future, men will mine landfills. Just call it future recycling storage'

Indeed.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

yes - Wall-E and trash-a-lanche ala Idiocracy.

traditionalguy said...

Strangeness abounds.All trash needs to be buried in easily built and maintained land fills. Recycling is a fake religious duty easily imposed on legalists, akin to WWII drives for children to collect metal. Both are only homefront make work to stir feelings of patriotic participation. Aluminum cans are the only things that can actually be used but are still not worth the collection costs.

gilbar said...

Henry said...
One thing worth pointing out -- U.S. Landfills generally do a great job of handling trash. Taking mixed plastics to a landfill is actually a really sound solution.


AND! an Even Better Solution!
https://www.cityofames.org/government/departments-divisions-i-z/resource-recovery-system

In Ames, we don't have to separate our garbage; the resource recover plant does that for us .
Metals get separated into ferrous and nonferrous types, and SOLD! FOR MONEY!!!!
Plastics ans papers get burnt in our power plant, reducing fossil fuel use, AND SAVING MONEY!

WHY doesn't YOUR city have a Resource Recovery Plant? Do you Love the planet? Love saving Money?

Wince said...

Back in the early 1970s before recycling I stole a baseball from a drugstore.

Anyway, it got wet and became strangely lopsided; in boyhood ritual, I took it apart.

Instead of tightly-rolled string, it was filled with burnt garbage and dirt.

I even found crumpled old plastic wrap inside the debris.

One of my many tastes of cosmic justice.

Wilbur said...

Howard said...
In the future, men will mine landfills.

For what may we expect they'll be mining?

Howard said...

Traditionalgay fails to understand the enormous power to convert bauxite in to aluminum
Hint, the big dams built in the depression is what beat the Nazis.

Howard said...

Wilbur: whatever pays

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

What I find amazing is that so much of what we toss in the recycle or the trash was barely used or touched.

I go to Costco and buy a box of zip-lock bags. the big box that houses the little boxes is perfect. Into the trash/recycle it goes.

I often walk the mail straight to the recycle bin. That giant Restoration Hardware catalog doesn't even make it in to the house.

GatorNavy said...

There is an Aspergillis species that can break down plastic. With start up money and CRISPR tools, a fungal species can be manufactured. Don’t forget to create an “off” switch for the fungus.

Tommy Duncan said...

One of my pet peeves in life is the tamper-proof plastic packaging that makes opening Christmas presents nearly impossible. Plastic clam shell packages are the bane of my existence. Those packages are (by design to prevent theft and tampering) nearly impossible to open and prevent us from closely examining the items we are buying.

Cardboard, on the other hand, can actually be recycled or burned for power generation.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

The earth + plastic.

Fernandistein said...

Dong Phat love your plastic long time.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

"Plastic clam shell packages are the bane of my existence."
sing it.
Ever open one without drawing blood? nope. Cannot be done.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

We recycled newspapers and pop bottles in the 1960's

That is all economics. The cost benefit to the person recycling was better then.

I used to, as a kid in the late 50's early 60's take a wagon behind my bike and every week, go around the neighborhood collecting glass soda bottles to take to the store to turn in. As I recall it was about 2 to 5 cents a pop bottle.

That was when the minimum wage was $1. That was a 5% return on a potential $1 wage. For a kid of 9 years old, gathering 30 or so pop bottles and getting $1.50 was the equivalent of having a job and working for 1.5 hours. I could buy a LOT of candy or even a toy for that!!! :-)

You can't buy JACK for $1.50 today. They need to make it worth our time and money it takes to get to the center to recycle.

The only people I actually see gathering bottles and cans are homeless people who have plenty of time.

Glass bottles (soda and beer) were reused by the manufacturer many time and saved them a lot of money too. Or the glass eventually remelted into something else.

Now we just throw stuff away. We should go back to glass bottles.

Greg Hlatky said...

Melt, crack, refine. Most of this is better than refinery bottoms and asphaltenes.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

China doesn't want our dirty gooey cheese covered cherry brawndo covered plastic?
Odd.

[I mean - the fairy cleaned it! the same fairy who picks up all the trash and dog poo on the open space trails left behind by asshole CA visitors and rich snobby losers from Aspen]

Seeing Red said...

My husband and I argue about this. I still think there’s a unifying molecule or molecules which can be targeted to break the chain. I see melting it and separation by that.

Or someone was working on a plasma? Garbage machine. It would turn garbage into bricks. Load up a rocket aim it at Mercury.

Or

MR. Fusion like Back to the Future.

bagoh20 said...

Landfills are excellent technology now. Areas landfilled become some of the best parks, golf courses and developments. It's backfill that does not have to be mined, is free, and which serves a valuable purpose beyond being fill alone. All the trash from the U.S. for the next 300 years would fit in an area equal to one small town. Landfilling isn't a problem - it's a solution and a asset. Plastic is best, because it doesn't decompose into gas and leaching liquids. Plastic is the least problematic of the landfill matrix. I love plastic and all the benefits we get from it. If it was gone, life would be very unpleasant, unhealthy and difficult compared to what we live today. I love plastic more than sex, and the best thing of all is sex with plastic.

Seeing Red said...

Release the FemBots!

stlcdr said...

Shocked, I tell you! Shocked!

Hagar said...

I sincerely hope your plastic eating bacteria never develop a taste for PVC pipes.

bagoh20 said...

We create huge, absolutley huge strip mines around the world mining materials we need. These are huge holes. Why not fill them up with garbage. The hole is already an environmental monster, so just turn it into a different one to prevent needing to create new ones.

stlcdr said...

Blogger Harold said...
The glass the local trash companies picked up for 'recycling' used to go straight to the landfill. Then a glass recycling plant opened up, now the glass gets milled into cullet the primary use of which is to seal landfills. We pay a recycling fee of $15 or $20 a month to provide this and raw material.

6/22/19, 8:23 AM


The problem I have with not recycling is the volume that trash now takes up: If I could recycle (rather, re-purpose) glass for something like this, then I'd do it. Cardboard is a big volume eater.

Any 'recyclable' material which can't sit around for several weeks/months (until I decide to do something with it) is not worth the effort.

cyrus83 said...

The government would very much prefer you not peek behind the curtain and see what really goes on once that plastic bottle is dropped in that cute plastic recycling bin. It would also prefer you not think about the waste of materials and power required for the automated bottle return machines developed so supermarkets didn't have to spend as much manpower and space to collect returns at no benefit to the business.

tcrosse said...

Back in the day, glass coke bottles would have the location of the bottling plant molded into the bottom. My first job as a kid was stocking coke machines and collecting the empties. It was like being a Ham looking for good DX trying to find the most distant or obscure bottling plants.

buwaya said...

Incinerators.
Oh wait, global warming.

The Chinese recyclers were mostly scams.

The West Coast population takes this recycling jazz as an article of faith.
I have tried arguing this, but it does not work. Its gone on too long, the propaganda dates from childhood, has become part of personal identity, and questioning it is an existential risk. It is part of the modern definition of virtue, to be assiduous at this daily ritual. To question is to be heretical.

ga6 said...

https://www.harborsidegolf.com/

Harborside International Golf Center, home to both the Port & Starboard Courses, has been Chicago’s home for golf since 1995. Located only minutes from Chicago’s Loop, Harborside offers the premier golf experience in the Chicagoland area. As the only facility with two of Golfweek’s “Best Courses You Can Play in Illinois” and the home to the most expansive driving range and practice facility.

Book a tee time for your next golf outing...

The link goes to what is the site of the garbage (I am old) dump that serviced the Southside of Chicago for more than fifty years. I grew up less than 3 miles north of there. (on the poor side of Stony Island)

chuck said...

Penn and Teller called Bullshit on this long ago.

tim in vermont said...

In Palm Beach County if you go directly to the dump, there are two types of dumpsters “burnable” meaning anything that will burn, IIRC even tires, cardboard, paper, styrofoam, etc, and the rest goes into landfill.

Ray - SoCal said...

Agree with Buwaya about recycling being an article of faith in Ca.

Burning of garbage is limited in the us from what I can find.

Plastics have many different types, which makes recycling more expensive.

Los Angeles just tripled their commercial garbage rates to pay for recycling, increasing the piles of garbage downtown due to illegal dumping.

A benefit of having so many homeless in Ca, is we have lots of recycling of cans and bottles.

tim in vermont said...

I recycle aluminum, because it takes huge amounts of power to make it and it recycles well, and any metals I can separate, and cardboard, because it’s so bulky and they take it for free If anything else gets recycled around my house, it’s because the millennials threw it in the bin, which I have to take half the stuff out of, BTW because the center doesn’t take it.

Narayanan said...

Don't call it landfill.
Call it sanctuary for garbage.

tim in vermont said...

Los Angeles just tripled their commercial garbage rates to pay for recycling, increasing the piles of garbage downtown due to illegal dumping.

In Burlington they charge $20 to accept a tire. I had a friend who immigrated from the third, well, second and a half world, ask me why I didn’t just throw them in a ditch rather than pay $100 to get rid of them? I asked him if I gave him $100 too, would he shut up? No I didn’t, but I should have.

chickelit said...

bagoh20 said...We create huge, absolutley huge strip mines around the world mining materials we need. These are huge holes. Why not fill them up with garbage. The hole is already an environmental monster, so just turn it into a different one to prevent needing to create new ones.

Better still, many of those strip mine are connected to rail so the trash could be shipped to landfills by rail. Win-win!

Michael K said...

the site of the garbage (I am old) dump that serviced the Southside of Chicago for more than fifty years.

I remember it well. My parents had a "Victory Garden" across the highway (extension of Stoney Island)during the war. No trees on those closed landfills made into golf courses. In Newport Beach CA, the Big Canyon Country Club is on top of the old landfill.

mockturtle said...

I've been trying to tell people this for some time and am usually met with skepticism. They ask 'why, then, are there recycling bins'? I say 'because it makes people feel better'. Most recycling plants simply can't keep up with the supply. My residential garbage service was confronted with the fact that both the regular and the 'recycle' bins were being dumped into the truck together. They explained, disingenuously, that the garbage was separated at the dump. Right. The best solution, IMO, has always been to avoid buying things in plastic containers when at all possible.

bagoh20 said...

The Penn and Teller Bullshit video on this is great. It explores where it all started, and it's a pretty fraudulent set of events, and the result of just a couple "experts" who were listened to despite being entirely wrong on the facts. The set of people who are both frauds and experts is a huge percentage of both.

bagoh20 said...

In fact, the easiest way to become an "expert" is to first be a fraud, and I think that has always been the case.

buwaya said...

On this question, of recycling as a civic religion, who is a heretic and who is an infidel? I think I count as an infidel. Most Americans today, if not of the faith, would be heretics.

Crimso said...

I remember getting McDLTs in styrofoam containers. Life was good. Now you get cardboard for your double quarter-pounder with cheese meal, upsized to a large. Seems to function as well.

wholelottasplainin' said...

"Plastics ans papers get burnt in our power plant, reducing fossil fuel use, AND SAVING MONEY!"

How does using fossil fuels to burn plastics reduce fossil fuel use?

How is money saved?

Also: green weenies will object to all the CO2 put into the atmosphere by burning plastics.

Asking for a friend...

Jupiter said...

bagoh20 said...
"The Penn and Teller Bullshit video on this is great. It explores where it all started, and it's a pretty fraudulent set of events, and the result of just a couple "experts" who were listened to despite being entirely wrong on the facts. The set of people who are both frauds and experts is a huge percentage of both."

Rachel Carson was an expert on DDT.

MountainMan said...

"How does using fossil fuels to burn plastics reduce fossil fuel use?

How is money saved?"


It is quite common in the organic chemical industry to use scrap materials and unusable co-products and byproducts as a fuel substitute, providing BTUs for generating steam that would otherwise come from burning fuel oil, coal, or natural gas. At the large chemical plant where I worked we had a very efficient, high-temperature incinerator that was used to burn unusable small quantities of solid and liquid waste chemicals to generate steam that then supplemented the steam supplied to our processes by the large power plants we also operated. We also did a very good business in selling rail car and tank truck quantities of unneeded materials on the spot market at the equivalent $/BTU price of No. 6 fuel oil. This is a widespread practice in the US chemical industry. You try to find a use for everything.

n.n said...

So, recycling was the cause of excessive waste (e.g. plastic) in our oceans. Catastrophic. That, and other "green" products, including recovery, manufacture, and reclamation of "green" photovoltaic panels, windmills, cars, etc.

Anthony said...

Duh.

n.n said...

Also: green weenies will object to all the CO2 put into the atmosphere by burning plastics.

Selective-carbon in the wild is not limited to selective-child.

Crazy Jane said...

Nike now accepts old sneakers at most of it stores, and apparently the shoes are repurposed into other products.

I met a man who bought a rug or carpet made, at least in part, with some of those old sneakers. Asked how much more it cost, and he said, "A few cents more per square foot than the traditional stuff." Next time I need floor coverings, I plan to look into it.

Birkel said...

This was known more than 20 years ago.
There was an HBS case on this fact.

It's nice that Leftists are coming closer to reality.

Ray - SoCal said...

Link in the penn and teller video?

Ray - SoCal said...

Video seems to be in amazon prime, originally on showtime.

MountainMan said...

There is no way we would ever want to go back to paper or glass containers for food products. The costs are too high across the entire lifecycle of the products being packaged and they have significant environmental and energy costs relative to plastic packaging, especially polyethylene (PE) and PET polymer.

The reason the soft-drink companies moved so rapidly away from glass to PET in the late 1970s and early 1980s was the significantly reduced costs, energy usage, environmental issues, and safety associations with PET vs glass.

Glass bottles required significant energy to produce and every time a bottle was re-cycled the energy content of that bottle went up even more. Though some long for the good old days of a glass Coke bottle - and you can still get them, there just aren't many of them produced - they were difficult and expensive to handle. Breakage was a big issue, both before, during, and after use. When brought back to the bottling plant from the retailers to be re-filled they went through an expensive process of being washed by extremely hot water to clean and sterilize them then passed along a line of inspectors looking at them in front of very bright lights as they moved along a conveyor belt to try to weed out the ones that were chipped or cracked as they risked exploding when filled under pressure of CO2. And they never caught all of them. I was told by someone who worked at Coke that in the hot summertime you were at risk in a warehouse of being struck by broken glass as heating bottles under pressure would explode, sending shards of glass and sticky product in a wide radius.

Beyond those energy-consuming and safety problems the cost of transporting the heavy bottles was very high. Anyone as old as me remember the big, lumbering old red and white Coke trucks hauling all those big heavy wooden crates of bottles on the highway? They spent more money on diesel fuel moving the packaging than they did the product. Moving to PET cut out all that expense, all the energy consumption, and all the safety issues. And over the decades new formulas of PET and new bottle making techniques have resulted in light weight bottles of very think polymer for the same volume of product. Coke's latest innovation - like the Freestyle machines you find in Five Guys that use small containers of highly concentrated syrup mixed on demand - have cut packaging to a ridiculously small amount given the volume of product sold.

Paper cartons, like once used for milk, are just PE coated paper, might was well just use the PE alone for the packaging instead of adding paper to it. Paper requires much more energy intensive and is more environmentally problematic than making PE. No need to add paper to the packaging when it is not needed.

PE and PET can be recycled but it has to be economical. I don't know about right now, with raw material and energy prices so low, if recycling is a better alternative than just producing these from raw materials. Most recycling, as pointed out above, is just virtue signaling. Where it makes sense, do it, otherwise just compact the stuff and landfill it.

And all this concern about straws and lids and plastic bags is ridiculous. The problems of plastic in the oceans is not a problem for the US - or Canada, Europe, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, and any country that has effective trash collection, landfilling, and recycling. About 95% of the plastic in the oceans comes from China, SE Asia, India, and Africa. Perhaps the UN could make itself useful and help them to clean up their issues. Banning these items in the US will accomplish nothing.

MountainMan said...

And in my comment above that should be "very thin polymer" not thick. And I hate the ones that are too thin, you twist the cap off and water or drink shoot out the top like a volcano. But they save a lot of money and energy.

Michael K said...

Anyone as old as me remember the big, lumbering old red and white Coke trucks hauling all those big heavy wooden crates of bottles on the highway?

It seems to me they were yellow with red lettering but I spent a couple of summers working as a helper when I was in high school. I remember when the larger bottles came out one hot summer. The driver and I took the turned in small bottles, which were cold out of the reefer, and sat on the sidewalk and drank the whole case. We wore uniforms that were sort of flesh colored beige and had blue military style belts. One hot summer, I sweated enough to leach the blue dye out of the belt and dye the front of my pants blue.

John henry said...

Wild Chicken,

If you believe its a problem (I don't) many products that are commonly packaged in plastic bottles are also available in "flexible packaging". Bags, pouches and the like.

You can buy Malto-o-Meal cereals (better than kellog equivalents) in bags with no box. Same amount of plastic but you can save a tree or two.

In some markets you can buy milk in plastic bags.

I doubt there is anywhere you can't buy shelf stable milk in tetrapack cartons.

Even if you buy milk in the old style gable top cartons, there is still a lot of plastic in the "paper" .

Do you drink water from a tap? Or do you buy water in a bottle? We currently throw away about 100mm water bottles per day.

30 years ago you couldn't even buy personal size bottled water. (other than a few very high end brands like perrier, Evian and such)

And if you do drink bottled water, remember that with a few exceptions all bottled water in the us starts as municipal tap water.

So there's plenty you can do besides whinging.

John Henry

Big Mike said...

Recycling plastic has always been an issue. First, the recycler has to be 100% perfect in sorting the types of plastic before they can be melted down and repurposed. Put some polyvinyl chloride (SPI code 3) in with high density polyethelene (HDPE, SPI code 2) and the batch has to be thrown out. And you have to carefully clean the material before it can be recycled. Easier just to make electricity by incinerating all the plastic, though some plasticizers contain heavy metals in trace amounts -- but incinerate enough and the heavy metals can be another issue.

Last time my wife (formerly a scientist for the EPA) looked, a common plasticizer for HDPE (SPI code 2) was cadmium, and cadmium poisoning symptoms include anosmia.

My county has already stopped recycling glass and is planning to stop recycling plastic if a new buyer cannot be found. I think aluminum and ferrous cans, and cardboard, will continue to be recycled, but right now even that is iffy.

ALP said...

I have seen the Alpha and the Omega of recycling. Had a job in one of the first recycling centers in the US way back in the 1980's. The guy that managed the place reminded me of Slim Pickins in "Dr. Strangelove". He told us: "Before, you had nothing. NOW - you have a home."

John henry said...

This is a bit old and weights have continued dropping. This is typical of plastics in general. Price of pet resin varies but is typically 50-60 cents per pound.

WEIGHT OF PET BOTTLED WATER CONTAINERS HAS DECREASED 32.6% OVER PAST EIGHT YEARS, SAVING 1.3 BILLON LBS. OF PLASTIC RESIN

For Immediate Release
February 18, 2010

 

Alexandria, VA – A new analysis performed by the Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC) for the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) shows that over the past eight years the gram weight of the 16.9 ounce “single serve” bottled water container has dropped by 32.6%. The average PET bottled water container weighed 18.9 grams in 2000 and by 2008, the average amount of PET resin in each bottle has declined to 12.7 grams. BMC estimated that during this time span, more than 1.3 billion pounds of PET resin has been saved by the bottled water industry through container light-weighting. In 2008 alone, the bottled water industry saved 445 million pounds of PET plastic by reducing the weight of its plastic bottles.

ALP said...

SpaceX will be engaged to take tons of compressed garbage into space.

John henry said...

 Howard said...

Traditionalgay fails to understand the enormous power to convert bauxite in to aluminum
Hint, the big dams built in the depression is what beat the Nazis.

That's why it make economic sense to ship dirt fr the Caribbean to Oregon.

John Henry

Francisco D said...

Anyone as old as me remember the big, lumbering old red and white Coke trucks hauling all those big heavy wooden crates of bottles on the highway?

Central Wisconsin in the early 60's - no national brand sodas.

People bought cases of pop from local sources. You had to pay for the bottles, so everyone recycled. The pop was sweeter and less carbonated than the national brands. You can tell if someone is a Wisconsin old timer if they ask for "sweet soda" instead of 7-Up.

My ex and I used to drive up to Milwaukee in the early 80's to buy really inexpensive cases of Wisconsin beer. The bottles were beat to shit because of recycling, but the beer (especially Point) was still good.

Anonymous said...

I know something about that Ames, Iowa system that burns the garbage. I toured it about 25 years ago. I was with a group of mechanical engineers and we asked a lot of technical questions.

The Resource Recovery Plant is adjacent to the city's power plant, which boils water to run a steam turbine which turns the generator. There is a compartment I will call the firebox. I recall it being about 15 feet by 15 feet by 30 feet tall. There is a roaring flame there. Above the fossil fuel flame (coal or natural gas) there is a pipe about 18 inches in diameter which delivers paper and plastic chopped up to a size it can be blown through the pipe. The paper and plastic burns as it drops through the roaring flame.

The Resource Recovery Plant itself is a metal building with large garage doors where garbage trucks can drive through and stop to dump their contents on the floor. A person with an endloader mixes up the garbage in a mix that works with the grinder. Workers fish out things that should not be ground up, or won't be ground up. For example, plywood would ride on top of the hammermill shafts, carpet unwinds to yarn like happens in your vacuum cleaner, propane canisters would explode. Steel cans are removed with a big magnet. (Iowa has a deposit law on beverage cans so all the aluminum cans go back to the grocery stores.)

So it works to get rid of the garbage and get something useful out of it--electricity. When we asked about the economics of this method our tour guide said the accounting statements always say the cost of operating the Resource Recovery Plant equals the cost of the fuel displaced. (I am not accusing anyone, but I got the impression that a miracle occurs every month when this calculation is done.)

John henry said...



 Dust Bunny Queen said...


Glass bottles (soda and beer) were reused by the manufacturer many time and saved them a lot of money too. Or the glass eventually remelted into something else.

If it saved them money they would still be doing it.

Some costs of reusable glass

Bottles weigh 2-3 times as much, increasing shipping costs

Stores need to store the empties for pickup. Space=money

Pop bottles will have residue attracting vermin

Tracking each bottle to make sure you get yours back instead of it going to somewhere else

Cost of cleaning and sanitizing each bottle

Risk that the bottle has been used for something not cleanable by the normal process.

Cost of a lawsuit if a customer is harmed by an improperly cleaned product

Cost of a lawsuit if a customer claims to have been harmed...

Etc.

Nope. The reason for non returnable is that the cost a shit-ton of money. Some exceptions of course but only when the total chain can be very tightly controlled.
Pretty much never for consumer goods.

John Henry

Francisco D said...

We recycled newspapers and pop bottles in the 1960's

Our landlord took our newspapers to burn in the furnace.

We used to scour the Lake Michigan beaches in the summer and collect pop bottles. A quart was worth 5 cents and a regular bottle was worth 2 cents. I made enough money to buy all the comic books (10 cents each, later shockingly raised to 12 cents) I wanted.

John henry said...

I see mountain man beat me to a lot of this.

Well done mm and I hope I added a bit of wisdom to yours.

John Henry

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

Nobody @ 9:37

Of all the materials to recycle - aluminum is the most efficient, responsible and worthy.

Ambrose said...

Landfills are remarkably efficient when properly operated.

Milwaukie guy said...

When we started recycling paper we were using a helluva lot more.

Megaera said...

Something like 30 years ago the company I worked for looked into recycling milk cartons (I wrote a contract for warehouse space with rail access) because recycling had just started to become a trendy social good; then management got the full info from the cost/benefit analysis, and the entire project was quietly shelved, never to be spoken of again.

Around the same time I recall separating out aluminum cans and lugging them to some smallish stand-alone parking lot facilities that weighed your contribution and spat out some de minimis amount of payment for it, always left feeling flushed with virtue. Then neighborhood recycling hit my town and the can recyclers disappeared overnight. Where we are now is big on the required pieties so I still separate paper, cans and Class 1 and 2 plastics for the recycling bin, though I notice (as others have) that it now goes into the same truck as the trash. Perhaps this serves as some sort of social penance for my consumption sins, who knows? It does give me a whole other bin to use for trash day, if nothing else.

Megaera said...

One other observation about the cash-for-cans facilities: while they lasted there were kids and homeless types always out scouring streets and bar ditches for cans, and the city was somewhat cleaner for their efforts. Once the neighborhood program went into effect, though, and the cash-return facilities vanished, the kid/bum cleanup efforts stopped too and street trash again mounted. So, there was that too for the virtue-mongers' efforts.

chickelit said...

The wine industry in California is entirely exempt from CRV tax and recycling. Therefore, most if not all empty wine bottles go into landfills. It must help to have clout at the State level, given how leftwing the legislature is out here. The same is true for liquor bottles.

Only lowly beer and soda drinkers are forced to pay CRV tax.

Bruce Hayden said...

We lost much of our recycling last year. All we have left is aluminum, tin cans, and cardboard. After spending several years trying to het my partner to proprtly separate everything.

My pet peeve right now is that up until they used to pile a year’s worth of needles and other burnables in a huge pile at the dump then in the spring, burn it, releasing all that trapped CO2 back into the atmosphere, where it belongs. Fire wasn’t going anywhere due to the abundance of semisolid phase water (I.e. snow) covering the ground. But starting last year, the dump couldn’t get a burn permit. I believe that it was the EPA blocking the burn. Likely because some of the bureaucrats there had fully drunk the AGW hoax Koolaid. So now have to crush and bury all this burnable material, not returning the CO2 to the atmosphere, where it belongs. Not that it really matters in the scheme of things, with half the town burning large quantities of locally harvested firewood every winter for heat (as we are located in the midst of thick (mostly) pine forests almost as far as you can see in most direction).

Howard said...

Blogger Hagar said...
I sincerely hope your plastic eating bacteria never develop a taste for PVC pipes.


Now you're really cooking with gas. Nature finds a way

Howard said...

Could be a pm2.5 issue, Bruce.

James K said...

In NYC there are several fleets of trucks to pick up different types of waste, and building staff has to spend time sorting it out and putting it into see-through plastic bags. The extra trucks block traffic during rush hour (in the good old days a lot of trash collection was done in the middle of the night) and create much more pollution than any mythical environmental benefits from recycling.

Milwaukie guy said...

In Portland you have five garbage receptacles: trash, yard waste, the paper/can/plastic bin, the glass and, new, the compostable kitchen waste unit. Here, across the city/county line we only have first four until our weepy liberal city council changes it.

I think our mayor's joined the DSA. He's getting that light in his eyes.

ALP said...

BTW: anyone with a yard and garden can compost most paper/cardboard. In my Master Gardener class, I met another student with a long career in the printing industry. He informed us that most inks these days are soy. Most paper can be composted safely.

I've also used cardboard for mulching and overwintering garden beds. Not pretty but does the job.

Gospace said...

Mountain Man,it took a long time for plastic to be more economical than glass for soda. Post WWII my uncle used to deliver boatloads of sugar to the Pepsi bottling plant in Brooklyn. Literal boatloads - he was a merchant marine boatswain. The sailors involved in the delivery were invited to drink as much product as they wanted. The soda was cheap. They had to leave the empties, they were expensive.

Many local dairies sell milk in half gallon bottles. At the same price as plastic or waxed cardboard. For them, it's a wash as to total lifecycle cost of plastic vs glass. The milk in glass tastes better even though it's the same milk. (More true with any soda.)

In the wastestream, metal, batteries, and a few other things should be separated out. Everything else should be burned at ultrahigh temps to break the chemicals completely down into basic gasses, and the flue gasses scrubbed. Anything that doesn't burn should be landfill. There's a huge NIMBY syndrome regarding waste to energy plants. One in my area was recently shot down.

Ralph L said...

The milk in glass tastes better even though it's the same milk.

After 30 years, I've gotten so used to the plastic that the glassed milk was almost tasteless. I was also nervous about handling a half gallon glass bottle ($1.50 deposit some years ago).

gadfly said...

Build waste-to-energy plants in lieu of those ugly giant windmills and Burn Baby Burn anything that flames. Reduce garbage to ashes while generating electricity in the process. Sweden does it without problems, complaints or air pollution, every day. Appalachia would love to sell space in abandoned coal mines to dump the ash.

Rusty said...

Gadfly.
Plastics burn hot. Thats good. But they also release more chemicals in the air. That's bad. Solve that problem and you have another energy stream. Coal is cleaner and has the benefit of producing other necessary by products.

Gordon Scott said...

Apparently an engineer or two read this blog.

mikesixes said...

Recycling plastic always was and always will be stupid and wasteful, because it takes more resources ( ie does more environmental damage) than making new plastic from scratch. Grind it up and put it in a landfill. Of course, it would be better to reduce the amount of packaging that needs to be disposed of, but once it is produced, it needs to be handled rationally. Stop imposing the greenies' religious beliefs on the rest of us, just so they can feel superior.





Caligula said...

"recycling facilities would focus on separating plastics with the most value, but most other plastic items would go into a mixed plastic bale."

And then they gradually got better and better at separating out and removing the valuable stuff.

So, if you had a mixed bale that contained a little gold and a lot of dog poop, you'd probably be able to find a market for it. But maybe not if you got so good at separating that there was no gold at all left in the bale?

Kirk Parker said...

MountainMan,

The current PET bottles are so thin that unfilled ones are actually perishable and have a fairly short shelf life in warm weather. I did some work for Johnson Controls Plastic Container Division back in the 90s... One of their California plants was fairly badly managed and they tended to overproduce unlabeled bottles which just sat in their warehouse. After 3 months of sitting in the summer heat they would sort of collapse in on themselves and be unusable, at which point they were just ground up and sold off as scrap.

When PET bottles first came out, they were much thicker, and had a separate thicker "base cup" that was glued onto the bottom of the bottle (the bottom of which was just a rounded cylinder.)

Johnson Controls developed a single-piece version with center plastic overall but a thicker bottom that was slightly fluted and ended in 5 separate feet. They branded this design "Bigfoot" and must have licensed it to all their competitors because it took over everywhere in fairly short order.