There is a huge crisis in trash and recycling in the US today, and there are things you can do about it. In fact, I would suggest that we all need to act quickly to change behaviors.
I’ve had so many conversations with people over the years who are convinced that none of the things they recycle are actually recycled. They were convinced that the city pays all this money for blue bins, but then just dumps it all in the landfill, anyway.
This has not been true in the past. Phoenix has a goal of diverting about 40% of its waste by 2020. The last I saw, they recycle about 24% of its waste.
That’s far too little, for sure. The city does not recycle from office buildings and multi-family.
On reason for the lack of progress: our backward legislature made is impossible for cities to require multi-family dwellings (apartments and condos) to recycle back in 2015.
So, if offices and multi-family dwellings don’t pay for pick-up themselves, it simply does not get done.
Yet, things have changed in a dramatic way with the announcement by China of its “National Sword” policy, in which it will no longer accept recyclable materials from other countries.
This is a big deal if you are concerned about the future of our life on this planet.
Since the US, Europe and many nations were sending their plastic, aluminum and paper to China for recycling, rather than developing their own domestic recycling facilities, we are up trash creek without a paddle.
According to PRI, “Every day, nearly 4,000 shipping containers full of recyclables leave US ports bound for China. China sends the US toys, clothes and electronics; in return, some of America’s largest exports back are paper, plastic and aluminum.”
As if it were not enough that our oceans and fish populations are chomping down on poisonous plastics every day, now our capacity to recycle is greatly reduced.
To that end, please listen to this podcast called 99% Invisible, which will help you understand the reasons for the crisis and what you can do about it. Listen while you are cleaning or taking a walk. It is worth 45 minutes of your life.
Here are some things that we can do to make a huge impact:
- Find ways to buy less.
- Countries and cities need to pressure manufacturers and designers to find ways to use less materials in their designs.
- Countries and states need to invest in more domestic recycling facilities.
- Look in to products that use less –such as toothbrushes with replaceable heads or toothpaste dispensers that are re-useable.
- Let’s move past refusing straws and find ways to re-use the whole cup, which represents about 99% more plastic than just the straw.
99% Invisible said it best, “In the end, Operation National Sword Could be a wakeup call. But only if producers, consumers, and governments tune in and listen.”