As someone who checked plastic for the recycle symbol including the # to be certain my collector accepted that particular plastic and washed away food waste, I was dismayed to learn from the latest issue of Sierra Club magazine, I might have been contributing to plastic being dumped in the ocean. I had blamed cruise ships and careless fishermen. Now I learn with China’s rejection of our products intended for recycling — first by rejecting unclean waste, and now altogether — that they have been routinely dumping the unclean waste into our oceans. We turned to Malaysia, which soon rejected the waste for similar reasons. In fact grocery bags, yogurt containers, Styrofoam, and clamshells are supposed to be recycled, but they almost never are. Plastic bags, soda straws, plastic wrap, and bottle caps are unrecyclable junk. Somewhere I read not to try to recycle anything smaller than a credit card.
Shredded paper confuses recycling equipment. Further, all undesirable plastic contaminates bales of genuine recyclables. The plastic would have been better off in a landfill. It should be noted that China is now producing more of its own plastic and subsequently trade war or not, they won’t be wanting our waste.
Fortunately, only the less desirable half of our recycling had been shipped overseas. Edward Humes, the author of the Sierra Club article sees China’s rejection as a wakeup call to an opportunity for our country to do better: improved recycling facilities and factories, more education of the public, clearer directions to the public on what is recyclable in their communities, deposits on plastic bottles, and less use of single use plastic. Places where recyclables are separated before they reach the curb yield the cleanest and most desirable material for recycling. We need to emphasize the first two of the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, and not depend on others to sort out our “when in doubts.”
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