Recycling where you live? (in Off-topic)


Admiralkiller June 11 2009 5:06 PM EDT

My city has recently adopted a new recycling program it is supposed to improve recycling by 50% or more. It's pretty wicked, reason why it will work is only the super lazy won't use it. It's so easy.

http://www.calgary.ca/bluecart/

Check it out. Also I would like to know if you have a similar program in your city.

QBsutekh137 June 11 2009 5:14 PM EDT

Couple data points:

-- St. Louis, MO: No city program, but that is mainly because garbage is done via alley/dumpster methodology (which I actually prefer to having to take cans out to the curb...) However, a private company charges something like $50 per year (or is it six months?) for a weekly pickup of a blue tub (no need to sort). All plastics except 6 can go.
-- Madison, WI: Almost exactly the same as what the Blue Cart appears to be for you. Curbside pick up, same day as garbage (except only every OTHER week). The trucks have the side-arms on them and trundle down the curb picking everything up.

I am actually more a fan of the centralized dumpster/receptacle methodology than I am curbside. Those trucks take FOREVER going down the street, starting, stopping, idling the whole time they are bring bins in. In STL, the truck goes down one alleyway, maybe 5-6 dumpsters, and bam, has covered a couple dozen addresses. You are right about recycling, though, anything short of a curb drag, and most people will just throw stuff away.

GnuUzir June 11 2009 5:15 PM EDT

I live in the S.F. Bay Area and we have had programs similar to that for years now...

The latest change we have had, about 3 months ago, is along with the garbage bin, the "green" (yard waste) bin and the recycling bin, we are supposed to be putting food scraps and food soiled paper (napkins, paper plates, etc.) in with the yard waste...

I believe, not too sure, but I heard they are either composting or burning it for fuel... kind of neat IMO...

{Wookie}-Jir.Vr- June 11 2009 5:29 PM EDT

I was going to respond in a long winded post, but figured I would just copy/paste considering there are enough long winded posts on the topic already.
:::


Google 'recycling' and what you get is a series of articles quoting scary statistics about the amount of waste we generate every year, tips for more effective recycling and calls to join the 'green revolution'. Combine recycling with almost every other search term you can think of ('recycling statistics', 'recycling facts') and you still get pretty much the same picture.

There is, however, a unique combination that will yield quite different results: 'recycling costs'.

Recycling is expensive. Even without taking into account the demands it places on people's time (a valuable resource), I think it is fair to say that most recycling programmes are loss making operations. While I could go on and on naming one local authority after another, the fact that private recycling operations are nowhere to be seen - with very few exceptions - neatly settles the argument.

When you read about a recycling programme 'paying for itself', what you see in effect is a covert tax on residents. When you see a recycling programme losing money, what you are witnessing is a public subsidy to the tree-hugger in all of us.

All the while, and completely discounting current welfare ('financial') considerations, it is at best debatable that recycling lives up to its purported raison d'etre - saving the planet. The environmental costs of recycling may well be far in excess of simply dumping waste. Extra trucks are needed on the road to collect the recycled bins, pumping tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. For many materials, the environmental cost of the energy used in recycling them is more than the environmental cost of simply tapping on nature's reserve to replace them.

Since the consumption of virgin materials or energy is not priced at marginal social cost, it is impossible to say with certainty whether a specific recycling operation is good for the environment simply by looking at the profit and loss account. For most materials, however, the available evidence seem to suggest that recycling is like shooting ourselves in the foot, all the while feeling we are doing the planet a great service.

Addendum: While looking at recycling, I came across this Wired article about GPI Atlantic's costing of the recycling programme in Nova Scotia. The headline finding was that Nova Scotia saved 'anywhere from $25 million to $125 million a year'. Here's more:

Simply adding up the costs of recycling and the revenue generated from sales of recycled materials would show that the program cost the province $18 million a year more than just throwing trash into landfills.

To get an accurate picture of the real value of Nova Scotia's recycling and composting program, the report considered a number of factors, including [...] the direct and indirect value generated from new employment in the recycling sector.

I assume that the recycling programme hired only chronically unempoyed, or even better, unemployable people - and I hereby petition the government to extend this beneficial policy and hire loads more in loss making public enterprises at subsidised wages. The direct and indirect value generated from employment of this type is surely worth it.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Plastic seduction
STEVE STALLONE / The Fifth Column / San Francisco Bay


THE IDEA of recycling plastic is so seductive that even many well-meaning environmentalists can't resist it. But plastic recycling is a fantasy, a fraud, a scam perpetrated by the plastics industry to keep people buying their disposable products. The city of Oakland has already been complicit 11 this conspiracy by collecting plastic containers in its recycling program. Now, in an otherwise laudable new city purchasing policy presented by Councilmember Sheila Jordan to the council's Finance Committee on Dec. 7, Oakland may expand its participation in the hoax by adding plastic products to the list of recycled goods it would emphasize buying.


Let's be clear here, because sloppy language breeds sloppy thinking, and both are used for political manipulation. To "recycle" means to make a bottle from a bottle, paper from paper.
This is never done with plastic. A plastic bottle is not remade brio a bottle. At best, it is "reused" for another purpose. But even that reuse is extremely limited because every time plastic is melted down, its molecular composition changes, its quality degrades, and the range of its usefulness shrinks. The plastic soda bottle you leave for curbside recycling tray be shredded and used for sleeping bag insulation or carpet fibers, but after that it's headed for a landfill.


Compare that to glass, metal, and paper, items that can be recycled many times over, and if they eventually land in a dump still won't be around to greet the next millennium.


That's why Berkeley's Ecology Center, the pioneer of urban recycling, does not accept plastic in its curbside collection program. Americans were starting to get lip to the petroleum by-product's anti-environmental qualities, the Ecology Center's information coordinator, Karen Pickett, told me. So a few years ago the industry began spending millions of dollars ($20 million per year according to the industry trade group, the American Plastics Council) on commercials telling us plastic is now recyclable.


"People want to do the tight thing, so the way for the industry to get them to use plastic containers instead of metal or glass is to convince them it's recyclable," Pickett said.
Unchallenged, the propaganda is working. Go to your local store and try to find a glass soda bottle today.


So where does all that plastic you leave on your curbside go? The three companies that collect it in Oakland sell the stuff to brokers - at a sizable loss. Neil Cutler, a spokesperson for Karl's Recycling and Pacific Rim, told me his firm gets about $1,000 a ton for the highest-quality stuff like soda bottles, but that half those dollars come from the deposit you pay on the bottle at the store. The other kinds of plastics bring about $25 a ton. Cutler estimated that the cost of collecting and sorting plastic ranges from $1,000 to $3,000 a ton, with the difference made up by the recycling fee on your garbage bill. So you're paying twice for the industry to continue making millions and junking up the planet.


The brokers are reluctant to say where they sell the recovered plastic (proprietary information, you know), but they acknowledge that much of the lower-grade stuff is shipped to Asia.
As part of its Toxic Waste Trade Program, Greenpeace compiled statistics on plastics slipped from U.S. West Coast ports to Asia. In the six-month period between September 1992 and February 1993, Greenpeace found, more than 30,000 tons were exported, some 4,500 tons from Oakland.
Greenpeace sent researcher Ann Leonard to Asia to follow the plastic trail. She found that much of the plastic was simply dumped in landfills there. And at all the so-called recycling facilities she visited, workers sorted through plastic waste without protective gloves, clothing, or masks, and the reprocessing work was done indoors, in hot crowded rooms filled with noxious fumes and no ventilation. Leonard's conclusion: environmental racism.


Jordan's purchasing-policy proposal is aimed at expanding markets for recycled products (no use saving and collecting the stuff if it isn't being bought and used) and at creating local recycling industries. That's great for things like paper and glass, but not for plastic. Oakland should be taking the lead in saying no to a poison industry (including changing its plastic curbside-collection policy) and should not be building the local economy on eco-disasters.


Certainly some existing plastic should be reused where possible and appropriate, like for playground equipment or piers. But we should not confuse this with, or glorify it as, recycling.
When Jordan returns with the proposal early next year, she should drop the plastics section of it. Such technological choices are social decisions that require conscious political movements to push for alternatives. (Remember when we couldn't live without aerosol sprays and Styrofoam?)

Otherwise we will be left with whatever poisons make the most money for the industry cartels that control market forces.

Thak June 11 2009 6:05 PM EDT

We have had this in our area for years now with recycling. And i love it.
We have one big can for garbage and another big can for recycling. (Ours happen to be green cans not blue) You just dump all recyclables into the recycle can. No need for sorting paper, plastic, glass, etc.. all go into the one cart. There are days when i dont have to take the garbage out for 2 weeks cause there was not much generated by my house.

Admindudemus [jabberwocky] June 11 2009 6:37 PM EDT

my county does recycling but we have to take it about fifteen miles to the county seat. they are pretty selective though and only take aluminum, glass (sorted by color), plastics (only 1 & 2). we still do what we can but end up doing mainly cans and plastics. they also take electronics once a week and their schedule is pretty darned difficult.

i am glad we have some option though and there are just some things that you give up when living in a rural area on a spring-fed, cypress lined creek.

{Wookie}-Jir.Vr- June 11 2009 6:38 PM EDT

:) Dude I feel your pain. If I could get fast internet were I live, I would stay here forever. Though a few miles away a house is being built. I'm pretty grumpy about it :(

{Wookie}-Jir.Vr- June 11 2009 6:39 PM EDT

And to answer the OP, there is a similar system in the nearby city, blue can next to the trash that the city picks up once a week. Also a few drop off locations throughout.

Admindudemus [jabberwocky] June 11 2009 9:03 PM EDT

hehe, i do now have dsl, it started out a year ago at 512k download speed for 50 bucks a month but they have recently bundled some long distance and services to allow me to move up to 1m download.

the traffic is a dream though unless you count deer, raccoons and armadillos! ; )

Daz June 11 2009 9:19 PM EDT

In Perth, Western Australia, we've had recycling for a looong time. I think I vaguely recall a time when we didn't, but it would have been a long time ago.

Basically, we have two wheelie bins. One has a green lid, the other a yellow lid. The Yellow lid is for recycling, and is picked up every fortnight. Rubbish is picked up every week.

QBsutekh137 June 11 2009 10:04 PM EDT

Madison models itself after Perth, apparently! *smile* Colors aside...

Eurynome Bartleby [Bartleby's] June 11 2009 10:33 PM EDT

Recycling has been around, where I live, for quite some time. But most people are just too retarded to read the instructions mailed to them by the guys in charge of the program...OR the instructions right on the freaking recycle bin. So there is a disgusting amount of crap that gets shipped with the paper and cans. Citizen incompetence is a big part of the recycling problem here, as is evident if you visit the local facilities.

My neighbor used to throw filled diapers in there. (How in heck could anyone think those are reusable or that anyone could be paid to seperate the diapers from their filling?) All her paper went in the thrash, I observed. Wow. She ran for mayor, once. Made me depressed.

Side-tracked again, I see. But anyway, what I mean is:

Recycling is a nice initiative. It's potential is currently limited though, and if you can't even ensure that it's properly executed before the trucks take away the bins...

Adminedyit June 12 2009 5:38 AM EDT

I live in upstate NY, here our little town has come to a real easy solution. They closed the landfill and went in with the county for rubbish removal. Now there are several different dumpsters where the landfill used to be.

Throwing anything in the recycling dumpsters is free of charge. Throwing anything into the "garbage" dumpster is charged by the pound.
You'd be surprised the number of people who now recycle as much as they can just to not have to pay to throw it away.
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