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How to recycle effectively (Lip service?)

  1. Apr 18, 2017 #1

    sophiecentaur

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    I was reading that up to 20% of UK recycled waste ends up in landfill because it is 'contaminated' . What is meant by that?. I must say, I am surprised it's not a lot worse than that. I have lived in Essex and Sussex and been recycling for many years but the instructions that the council supply for residents are sketchy and really don't help. For instance, how 'clean' should glass bottles be? Washing in hot soapy water involves extra cost and should be discouraged if all they need is a rinse; not specified. Plastic containers often have "widely recycled" written on them. How wide is "widely"? Does it matter? I would imagine that separating the various types of plastic could be expensive (labour intensive) but without sorting, the resulting mix might be totally useless or only good for low grade bags or thermal insulation.
    Why not educate / inform the public how to recycle effectively? Surely a bit extra in your landfill bin and a higher quality of stuff in your recycle bin would be better value, overall.
    And all councils seem to be different. That's bad for a start because the residents everywhere produce much the same waste. It's just lip service, a lot of the time and 'jobs for the boys'.
     
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  3. Apr 18, 2017 #2

    Mark44

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    I believe it means that there is non-recyclable material mixed in the cans, bottles, paper, etc.
    I really doubt that glass bottles have to be all that clean. After all, to recycle glass, they break it into pieces and melt it down.
    Here (in Washington state, U.S.) the recycled materials get hand sorted at the recycling center, which has to be a tedious, mind-numbing job.
     
  4. Apr 18, 2017 #3

    sophiecentaur

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    Well, yes, that's true but 'contamination' needs to be specified better than that if we are to end up with a truck load of stuff that's actually useful. Many plastic bottles are unsuitable for the recycle bin and, for instance, I learned that shredded paper is not suitable because it clogs up the works. That has never been made clear by our local authority and could have been responsible for a lot of wasted materials.
    Yes and unpleasant when there are smelly deposits in bottles and cans. But how 'clean' should things be? Too clean could be wasting more energy than the recycling process saves overall.
    I remember, when I was young, milk bottles had aluminium (with an "i" in) foil caps and people used to wash them, save them in their hundreds and drive with a few hundred grams of them to a depot. Very mis-placed activity, I think, bearing in mind how cheap aluminium is.
     
  5. Apr 18, 2017 #4
    In Pennsylvania (at least Wayne County,) most of the tedious work is done by non-violent prisoners.
     
  6. Apr 18, 2017 #5

    Ryan_m_b

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    In our house we clean things until they're clean. I.e. a glass bottle for the recycling will be as clean as a glass I'd drink from. The energy cost of hot water and soap is absolutely tiny. Tbh I'm not sure of how much of a difference it makes but if nobody did it I imagine there would be a huge amount of waste food gumming up the works.
     
  7. Apr 18, 2017 #6

    Mark44

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    It might be misplaced for the small amount of aluminum (U.S. spelling), but not so for cans, IMO. Aluminum might be cheap, but it takes an enormous amount of electricity and natural gas to smelt aluminum from bauxite ore.

    Near where I went to college there was a smelter close by. From what I remember of the process, they used the natural guess to turn large pieces of oak into charcoal for the anode (or maybe cathode). Crushed bauxite ore was placed in a sort of oven and heated to melting by applying a powerful electrical current via the charcoal anode/cathode. Merely melting down aluminum cans required only a small fraction of the electricity as compared to the smelting operation.
     
  8. Apr 18, 2017 #7

    sophiecentaur

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    That is a proportionate situation. A single can was the sort of weight of milk bottle tops that people would collect over several weeks and they would get in their cars to deliver that small amount - using perhaps a half gallon of fuel to do it. A significant net loss in money, fuel and time.
    But my real issue here is how to arrange that recycling could be done effectively and in an informed way without wasting peoples' time and minimising loss. That's got to be through appropriate education.
     
  9. Apr 18, 2017 #8

    sophiecentaur

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    Can you justify that amount of water and energy for that regime? A bit OTT, perhaps.
     
  10. Apr 18, 2017 #9

    Ryan_m_b

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    How much water do you use to clean a glass? Just fill up the sink with hot water and washing up liquid and clean everything as part of washing up. I'm not putting recycling in the dishwasher lol.
     
  11. Apr 18, 2017 #10

    sophiecentaur

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    It's ok as long as you are 're-using' the water to clean up the 're-cycled' stuff. But many people tend to make very free use of hot water and w/u liquid dedicated to jobs like that. Full marks to you if you are that well organised and parsimonious with your resources. A work top covered in used food cans and beer bottles is hard to resist and wait for the regular washing up to come along.
     
  12. Apr 19, 2017 #11

    cobalt124

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    I increasingly resent the time spent recycling (U.K.). We don't know what is recycled or how by the local authority, agree details are sketchy to say the least. Different local authorities use different companies to recycle who all have different rules (and requirements) for what they can recycle. I wouldn't be at all surprised that most of it ends up in landfill, especially when finances are getting ever more tighter.
     
  13. Apr 19, 2017 #12

    sophiecentaur

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    I wonder if the landfill 'tax' is less for stuff that goes on the recycle rout through the system.
     
  14. Apr 19, 2017 #13

    Dr Transport

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    Recycling aluminum saves ~75% over the original energy costs for smelting, that is why you should do it.

    If you're efficient with your water usage, i.e. wash your recyclables in the same dish water you wash your dishes in, you are not wasting either water or money. If you drop off your recycling while you are out on normal business, the gas/energy usage is minimal, in the US, you can usually find a recycling can somewhere on your travels without going out of your way.

    I routinely put out more recycling than normal trash, just a habit I guess. even when it wasn't being picked up at the curb, I would just stockpile the empty cans etc and make a trip to the center on my way home from work. Any amount is better than nothing as far as I am concerned.
     
  15. Apr 19, 2017 #14

    sophiecentaur

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    I have no argument with most of that. Our recycle bin (plus what I drop at the council centre) far outweighs the couple of black sacks that go out every week.
    But I am pointing our (in the milk bottle tops example, particularly) that there are attempts at recycling that actually save nothing and also waste time. Your figure of 75% saving is unlikely to include the costs to private individuals of hot water and transport. People just do not do the complete sums about such things. It is particularly ludicrous for people in a street to be going to the trouble of selective binning of their rubbish when one of their member is spoiling the whole truckload by contamination through their ignorance.
    "Any amount" is only better than nothing if the net gain is actually positive and it is not always positive by any means.
     
  16. Apr 19, 2017 #15

    Dr Transport

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    So in fact, you're saying that if I spend my time to recycle and it isn't completely utilized, my time is wasted so I might as well not do it at all, my time is more valuable than that.....
     
  17. Apr 19, 2017 #16

    sophiecentaur

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    That is an overstatement (Straw Man argument?) and I think you may be being too defensive about it all. What I am saying is that it is easy to spend more on resources than is gained on recycling if you don't consider the cost benefit. Recycling everything, whatever the circumstances can be counterproductive. It's not just time that's involved; it can be fuel and water, too - I just do not believe that the hot water and detergent that people use is always pre-used. Do you always store messy cans and containers until the washing up has been finished? I just couldn't arrange to do that in our kitchen area because the work top would be too full to work on. Keeping them in a holding container would then involve more mess and wasted resources.
    My main point is that people need to be educated and that the waste authority are the people to do it.
     
  18. Apr 19, 2017 #17

    russ_watters

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    There is another way to look at it that may make it more palatable:

    Recycling is prevention and insurance against future depletion of these resources. It's a pre-payment on and delay of the inevitable cost of these resources becoming scarce. While the future is nebulous and the benefit therefore difficult to actually quantify, it is there; it isn't just overpaying for a new soda can.

    So much of how our governments collect and spend money is generic debt or even worse "loans" from future generations who will be unable to pay them back without severe hardship. I'm OK with a little premature proactive prepayment....as long as they aren't dumping it into a landfill and therefore just expending extra energy (in collecting and transporting it separately) to do nothing different with it.
     
  19. Apr 19, 2017 #18
    For some AL ( abbreviation ) it is higher than that - up to 95% for the guy making stuff from aluminium ( Canadian ) ingot, if the scrap alloy ingot is similar to his needs, and the market value represents that of primary metal.

    The figure will vary depending upon where in the recycling supply chain the scrap is acquired, so quoting any figure should say where. The smelter price may drop to 75% for scrap ( I don't know what the value really is, but just using that figure as representative ), as he has to analyze the composition and produce a product others may buy, and he usually does not use total scrap, but mixes it with primary metal.

    You, as the initial scrap collector with the bins, get nothing as the city has set it up that way, due to the huge variance in quality. If you have a substantial amount of decent quality scrap, a scrap dealer may give you 20% and up of the going rate for Aluminum ( Canadian ), the discount to pay for his storage facility and transport.
     
  20. Apr 19, 2017 #19
    Some refuse is just much more difficult to recycle.
    Examples might be car oil filters, air filters of composite material including glue, glossy magazines, painted furniture, laminated presswood, CRT picture tubes with the lead, waxed paper products such as milk cartons, bottle caps, pillows, mattreses with springs inside, hospital refuse etc. Contamination is inherent in some refuse due to the composite materials used.

    One should note that recycling is not anything new but has existed for thousands of years as an economic activity. Second hand service still exists, from the automobile to what one can buy at a garage sale, and no doubt that is in the billions $ of economic activity. Dumpster diving is frowned upon for the mess it makes, but that is a good chunk of "what is garbage for one is gold for another." Landfill re-possession was available at one time in NA, but not so much any more, most likely due to liability involved.

    What is new is the amount of consumer goods consumed, and one should include the packaging, often times more superfluous than necessary, and the shift from the re-cycling mentality as a society as a whole to the throw-away.

    When was the last time one could go the a grocery store and ask for boxes for moving? When was the last time they re-used their own boxes for customers, rather than bags ( being phased out from store supplied to bring your own by govt decree ). Unrepairable products being made, in addition to the cost of repair, necessitates households to save money by just chucking and buying another.

    Didn't some EU countries attempt cradle to grave product compliance so that government organized re-cycling could become more streamlined and less costly to the point that it might pay for itself. Perhaps that's where the marking on plastic products comes from.
     
  21. Apr 19, 2017 #20

    sophiecentaur

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    Which accounts for my comment that a few wayward users of the recycling system can really mess it up. It is not hard to avoid contamination in many cases; it is more a matter of giving people the right information and for all authorities to have similar guidelines. Your "some refuse" could be identified better to avoid it getting into the mass of more straightforward stuff.
    Way back, there was 1 old penny (1d) deposit on drinks bottles and they were harvested by small boys who made a good income (relative term). Giving recyclable materials a monetary value could encourage a good habit that, at the moment, is totally voluntary. Many people just don't have the right attitude to these things and money could help change them.
    The 5p tax on carrier bags in the UK had a disproportionate (and pleasing) result. We need one on drinking straws and plastic cotton buds too.
     
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