Challenges in Recycling

Depending on where you are located in the United States, and in the world, cities are managing their recycling in different manners, affecting the end result of how much of our recycling actually gets recycled.

For example, in the city of Boston, all recycling can be put into one container (single stream) no need to separate, very little work on the resident end. Although this method might increase the number of people recycling, it could decrease the quality of materials and therefore decrease the quantity of items that actually do get recycled. According to Boston Building Resources Advice Blog, recycling glass for example, may be challenging with single stream recycling. When glass is broken and mixed with other glass colors, it becomes hard to use, process and therefore sell. The better alternative to recycle glass is to separate the glass and take it to a redemption center where the glass will be separated by color and recycled into new glass containers. Paper also presents an issue, since the paper mills that process the recyclables require the paper to be free from contaminants. This means, for example, in order for a pizza box to be recyclable it must be free of excess oil, cheese, and pepperoni.

The city of Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada has a goal to have zero waste by 2040.

They have strict guidelines as to what is allowed to be thrown into the trash and what is allowed to be put into recycle. According to the city’s website, in January 2015 the City of Vancouver and the Metro Vancouver regional district banned food scraps from being thrown into trash bins. The city provides a special “green bin” for all organic waste material. In terms of rules regarding recycling, items are separated by recyclers based on the following criteria: mixed paper, mixed containers and, as mentioned above, organics. Items not mentioned in these categories can be dropped off separately at a local recycling center.

Sweden has similar strict recycling rules as Vancouver does. However, along with traditional recycling, according to their website, they also burn 50 percent of household waste to produce energy (a controversial subject in the US, but not so in Sweden). The smoke from the incineration is filtered, resulting in 99.9 percent of the gas produced being non-toxic. The ashes are combed for items that did not burn and are then recycled. For example, tile that does not burn is turned into gravel for road construction.

Looking at countries that are trying to advance their green initiatives, you will see they are just starting to push recycling as part of their citizens daily lives. For example, Costa Rica is trying to increase the amount of waste it recycles. Currently items must be separated based on material, however it is not this issue that is affecting the participation in recycling, but rather the resident’s location. Depending on their location, it could be a three-hour drive to the closest recycling facility, as most small towns do not have recycle pickup. That being said, small recycling centers have been setup through donations and are run by volunteers. Without these centers, it is more likely that people will burn and/or dispose of recyclable material in an improper manner (The Costa Rica News).

Though the manner of recycling may differ, and may be evolving or in need of refinement, the bottom line is that the effort is being made.

We hope you enjoy this issue. As always, we welcome your comments. Email with your feedback.



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