The next time the trash goes out and you place your bins out on the curb, ask yourself why recycling is good? With all these anti-recyclers out there, it makes you wonder if there is some truth to recycling being an awful thing nationally. It turns out recycling is not as helpful for the environment as we once thought. Here are the top reasons why recycling is terrible.
Some of the more popular beliefs about recycling in communities are simply untrue. While recycling does help the community and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the production of these materials. It also increases greenhouse gas emissions in other ways. Not all of the materials are recyclable in the local bins, and there is no universal manner of recycling, not to mention that radiation toxicity could result from using some recycled materials.
Plastics: All of Them are Not the Same, nor are They All Recyclable
Most plastics that we use daily are not recyclable. However, the throwaway, thin plastic containers, and bottles you receive with food items are usually recyclable. And technically, every plastic that has a number with a recycle triangle is recyclable in some fashion. However, not every I.D. number is as easily recycled as communities believe, Contributing to cross-contamination of materials.
The plastics that are usually accepted are numbers one, two, and four. These are the everyday things people are used to putting in the recycling bin, such as beverage containers, bottle caps, food containers, plastic bags, and some medium-density plastics.
Checking with your local recycling service is the only way to know what Resin Identification Numbers (The number inside the recycle triangle symbol) will be accepted for processing. Everything else winds up at the landfill in most cases. Other plastics that have a high concentration of chemicals also cannot be fully recycled. Out of the seven main types of plastics used in today’s world, only two of them are recyclable.
Everyday Household Items that Should be Recyclable but are not:
- Plastic Hangers
- Plastic Ice Trays
- Plastic Forks
- Plastic Cups (We’re looking at you Red Solo Cup)
- Plastic bags
- Any Black Plastic
Material Processing Costs Lead to An Underinvestment for the Recycling Industry
Jeff McMahon wrote a recent Forbes article that displayed the top three reasons why recycling is failing. In this article, Jeff refers to senior policy analyst David Allaway stating that the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality was only about forty percent effective in recycling solid waste in Oregon.
The Issue that David Allaway leads to, according to McMahon, is that governments are subsidizing both parts of the recycling industry, which hinders the natural economy from regulating the price points of materials and allowing the free market to control its costs. In addition, Allaway points out that the companies purchasing the processed recycled materials are getting it for less than the cost of collecting the recyclable material.
The cost savings that should have occurred through the natural market is undetectable as governments subsidies fund both sides of the industry. First, they subsidize the collection and processing of the material and then support the companies purchasing the materials. It is important to note that without these subsidies, the industry would not be sustainable.
That is because of Under-Participation from local communities and producers alike. These producers do not see any economic benefit to changing packaging to recycled material and lack any incentive to use different materials from what they currently have worked.
McMahon points out the final reasons for the outdated laws regarding recycling processes and the current climate in which these laws exist. For instance, Newspaper was a large portion of the recycling industry and contributed to the significant push for public acceptance of the practice. However, now newspapers are primarily online, and minimal newspapers are being recycled anymore.
There Are Not Enough Universal Standards for the Industry to Thrive
With such a growing interest nationally, it would beg the question that there must be some oversight. You would be correct to assume that the Environmental Protection Agency would be involved at the national level. The EPA is responsible for oversight in a variety of national waste concerns mostly centered around hazardous waste.
It is left to the local states to regulate their recycling and waste management systems. Each state uses a different strategy that helps define the rules of engagement for their states. While each state has other laws that govern its recycling programs, there is a lack of universal standards in which a large industry needs to thrive. Since every state is responsible for its agenda, that means Americans are recycling fifty different ways.
With enough universal standards of how to conduct business and the correct amount of oversight, the economy would regulate and self-adjust to market conditions based on activity in the marketplace. As a result, the initial recycled commodities would change as companies would be forced to adapt to changing market conditions, leading to less plastic waste, production, and usage globally.
Some Big Industry items that the Recycling Industry is Missing
- Centralized Global Information Hub
- An Internal recycling program that combines the efforts of all states
- Free market management
- Diminishing Subsidies
- Actual data and population statistics set recycling Goals for every community on a county-level or lower
Cross Contamination from Incorrectly Placed Recyclables Creates a Huge Problem
Cross-contamination occurs when an unrecyclable material, such as food particles, is mixed with the recyclable material that causes the recyclable material to be non-recyclable. Most food containers that are never rinsed out become contaminated and must be incinerated. Some countries that are not currently in an industrial developmental phase are banning imported recyclables.
In the years twenty and eighteen, China implemented a policy that banned the import of most plastics that were not up to modern recycling standards. China chose to implement this policy because of the amount of trash exported to China through the international recycling contracts that were in place at the time.
Cross-contamination occurs at the collection point when the items are placed into the collection bin. Unfortunately, most recycling people do not realize that they need to rinse the plastics and clean the containers before placing the item in the recycling collection bin. Furthermore, the problem doesn’t rest with plastics alone; cross-contamination occurs in all types of recycling materials.
The latest statistics from twenty and eighteen show that only about four percent of all plastics were recycled. Plastics grew four point three million tons from the year twenty and ten to twenty and eighteen. The highest percentage category that plastic was scored in for the twenty and eighteen statistics from the EPA was landfill material.
Cross-contamination can easily be prevented through public education and awareness. Unfortunately, most cross-contamination events are easy to miss simply because people are unaware of what’s recyclable and what’s not. People can check with their local areas to see what numbers of plastics recyclable in their local area are; anything that isn’t on that list is most definitely going to wind up in the landfill.
Most Municipalities Ignore the Biggest Culprits of Waste
Globally, food waste is the most significant waste product. However, collection and disposal of food waste present several challenges globally—the first being distribution of food waste and the safety of the facilities and landfills. In addition, compost waste presents a considerable fire hazard in any contained area.
One of the many ways that communities are dealing with the food waste issue is waste to energy facilities that will take food waste. Waste Management Solutions is leading the path to food waste recovery with some intuitive products. In some significant metropolitan areas, Waste Management Solutions has set up processing plants specifically for food waste.
They can turn the food waste into a sludge that creates energy to power homes through a wastewater management plant. Aside from processing this waste into sludge, this waste product can also be used to heat their administrative buildings. Food waste currently makes up about twenty-one percent of total collected waste.
Most Municipalities either do not have the resources to process food waste or toss it in the local landfill as a biodegradable material. In addition, most municipalities do not have a large enough population to fund a recycling center and keep it running. The cost of opening a recycling center is astronomical compared to other energy-producing solutions.
Recycling Facilities Have High Entry to Marketplace Barriers and Expansion Costs
Recycling facilities have a higher entry to marketplace barriers than most other businesses. To open a recycling facility, a person must secure a large enough facility to house all machinery. It must also be up to code for the local municipality. On top of that, a company must also buy, finance or pay, the machinery used to process the recyclable materials.
Some other initial costs that are usually passed over, not considered are the administration costs, training costs, and initial administration fees that all businesses must realize at the opening time. In addition, since the recycling industry is a second-hand industry, they rely heavily on recycled material, which must also be collected.
For a municipality to open a recycling facility, the city must receive funding from taxes or other funding measures. In addition, will Smith polities require voter approval for facilities of a similar nature. Finally, getting community support also has added costs; the public awareness campaigns would have to be funded by nonprofit organizations.
Since most of this industry is already subsidized by governments or programs, the high entry to marketplace barriers prevents many private enterprises from entering the recycling industry. As a result of increased access to marketplace barriers, municipalities in private companies must find other ways to be competitive. In addition, this type of environment is not attractive to private investors, as their return on their investment would take an extremely long time to see a profit if they ever saw a profit from a recycling center.
Some of the Upfront Costs to Entry Are:
- Utility Vehicles
- Public Awareness
- Initial Administration Fees
- Facility Maintenance
The Process of Recycling Causes Global Warming and Green House Gas Emissions
Several different processes cause a lot of the global warming and greenhouse gas emissions that recycling is trying to prevent. One of the most considerable greenhouse gas emissions that are emitted is methane. Methane is harmful to the environment when not burned as a fuel. Methane traps more heat in the atmosphere than any other hydrocarbon fuel on Earth.
Carbon dioxide is emitted from the vehicles that are required to collect the recyclable material. Most of these vehicles use diesel engines and are subject to state emission laws in which they operate. While carbon dioxide may be the least of worries about greenhouse gasses, it is also the most impactful as it controls the size of the gas cloud, controlling the temperature.
The tradeoff between the greenhouse gas emissions from producing and recycling the materials has a negative return; Meaning that until the industry finds a more efficient way of reclaiming the materials in minimizing waste, recycling doesn’t seem practical.
Another genuine concern is the contamination of metals from radioactive materials. It was recently discovered that a building in Vietnam built with recycled steel has been infecting the people who have worked there with radiation poisoning for the last 12 years. What cost does “Saving the environment “become too costly?
Other Causes for Concern:
- Pollutants in the air from vehicles
- Contaminants in the air from ventilation systems at processing facilities
- Radiation Pollution
- Abandoned Sites
- Contamination from Processed Materials
- Dirty Facilities
What is the biggest problem with recycling?
When you consider all the symptoms from above, you realize that the real problem with the recycling industry is that it’s a second-hand industry. Like the black market, second-hand industries always rely on primary industries to flourish. As a result, suppliers of raw materials are far and few between. Since recycling was pushed heavily by the newspaper industry and has seen a steep decline in the demand for physical papers, the recycling industry relies on other recyclable materials. However, paper products still make up most of what products are being recycled successfully. These symptoms combined with the political environment and a national lack of community resources and education or the recycling industry’s real problem.