The Reality Of Recycling – How Much Is Actually Helping?

The evidence is piling up that recycling is a waste of time and money, and a bit of a fraud….so how do we help ?

Amulya Chirravuri , Writer

The New York Times recently reported that unknown to most families who spend hours separating garbage into little recycling bins, much of the stuff ends up in a landfill anyway.

One big reason: China has shut the door to U.S. recyclables.

About a third of recyclables from America gets shipped abroad, with China the biggest importer. But starting this year, China imposed strict rules on what it will accept, effectively banning most of it. This has forced many recycling companies to dump recyclables into landfills.

Massachusetts has issued dozens of landfill waivers so recyclables can be dumped in them. Up to 30% of the stuff residents put in recycling bins ends up in landfills.

Worse, some officials aren’t telling residents this for fear that they will give up on recycling altogether.

Plenty of “recyclables” end up in landfills, in part because of “single-stream” recycling. That’s where people can put everything in the same bin — a switch designed to encourage more recycling. But it results in more stuff that can’t be recycled because it’s “contaminated.” One study found that about 30% of plastic collected in these “single-stream” bins can’t be recycled.

How can we help ?

  • Paper and Cardboard:

Paper of all sorts is acceptable, including books, flyers, magazines, and colored paper. Cardboard can be recycled as long as it is not saturated with food and grease.

  • Plastic:

Most recyclable plastics have the numbers on them, often on the bottom, and one through seven are accepted.  If you can easily crumple the plastic, such as with a bag, do not include it in recycling bins but local grocery store might collect them.

Most of these tips are already known but a reminder or just even a friendly tip to a person who isn’t recycling something might change the course that item might take.