5 recycling myths

The recycling industry is rapidly changing and evolving. This area of ​​activity is becoming increasingly global and is influenced by complex factors, from oil prices to national politics and consumer preferences.

Most experts agree that recycling is an important way to reduce waste and recover valuable materials while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and conserving significant amounts of energy and water.

If you are interested in the topic of separate waste collection and recycling, we present to your attention a few myths and opinions about this industry, which may help you look at it from a slightly different angle.

Myth #1. I don’t have to bother with separate garbage collection. I will throw everything into one container, and they will sort it out there.

Already in the late 1990s, a single-stream waste disposal system appeared in the United States (which has recently been practiced in Russia), suggesting that people only need to separate organic and wet waste from dry waste, and not sort garbage by color and material. Since this greatly simplified the recycling process, consumers began to actively participate in this program, but it was not without problems. Overzealous people, seeking to get rid of any waste, often began to throw both types of garbage in one container, ignoring the published rules.

Currently, the U.S. Recycling Institute notes that although single-stream systems are attracting more people to separate waste collection, they typically cost an average of three dollars per ton more to maintain than dual-stream systems in which paper products are collected separately. from other materials. In particular, broken glass and plastic shards can easily contaminate paper, causing problems in a paper mill. The same goes for dietary fat and chemicals.

Today, about a quarter of everything that consumers put in trash cans cannot end up being recycled. This list includes food waste, rubber hoses, wires, low-grade plastics, and many other items that end up in bins through the efforts of residents who overly rely on recyclers. As a result, such materials only take up extra space and waste fuel, and if they get into processing facilities, they often cause jamming of equipment, contamination of valuable materials, and even create a danger to workers.

So whether your area has a single-stream, dual-stream, or other disposal system, it’s important to follow the rules to keep the process running smoothly.

Myth #2. Official recycling programs are taking jobs away from the poor garbage sorters, so it’s best to just throw the trash out as it is, and those who need it will pick it up and give it to recycling.

This is one of the most frequently cited reasons for declining separate garbage collection. No wonder: people simply feel compassion when they see how the homeless are rummaging through garbage cans in search of something valuable. However, this is clearly not the most efficient way to control waste.

Around the world, millions of people earn their living by collecting waste. Often these are citizens from the poorest and most marginalized sections of the population, but they provide valuable services to society. Waste collectors reduce the amount of garbage on the streets and, as a result, the risk to public health, and also make a significant contribution to the process of separate collection and recycling of waste.

Statistics show that in Brazil, where the government monitors some 230000 full-time waste pickers, they have boosted aluminum and cardboard recycling rates to almost 92% and 80%, respectively.

Worldwide, more than three-quarters of these collectors actually sell their finds to existing businesses along the recycling chain. Therefore, informal garbage collectors often collaborate with, rather than compete with, formal businesses.

Many garbage collectors organize themselves into groups and seek official recognition and protection from their governments. In other words, they seek to join existing recycling chains, not undermine them.

In Buenos Aires, about 5000 people, many of whom were formerly informal garbage collectors, now earn wages collecting recyclables for the city. And in Copenhagen, the city installed trash bins with special shelves where people can leave bottles, making it easier for informal pickers to pick up trash that can be recycled.

Myth #3. Products made from more than one type of material cannot be recycled.

Decades ago, when humanity was just starting to recycle, technology was much more limited than it is today. Recycling items made from different materials, like juice boxes and toys, was out of the question.

Now we have a wide range of machines that can break things down into their component parts and process complex materials. In addition, product manufacturers are constantly working to create packaging that will be easier to recycle. If the composition of a product has confused you and you are not sure if it can be recycled, try contacting the manufacturer and clarifying this issue with him.

It never hurts to be clear about the recycling rules for a particular item, although the level of recycling is now so high that it is rarely even necessary to remove staples from documents or plastic windows from envelopes before giving them for recycling. Recycling equipment nowadays is often equipped with heating elements that melt the adhesive and magnets that remove the pieces of metal.

A growing number of recyclers are starting to work with “undesirable” plastics, such as grocery bags or mixed or unknown resins found in many toys and household items. This does not mean that you can now throw everything you want into one container (see Myth # 1), but it does mean that most things and products can really be recycled.

Myth number 4. What’s the point if everything can only be recycled once?

In fact, many ordinary items can be recycled over and over again, which saves energy and natural resources significantly (see Myth #5).

Glass and metals, including aluminum, can be efficiently recycled indefinitely without loss of quality. Aluminum cans, for example, represent the highest value among recycled products and are always in demand.

As for paper, it’s true that every time it’s recycled, the tiny fibers in its composition thin out a little. However, over the past few years, the quality of paper made from recycled elements has improved significantly. A sheet of printed paper can now be recycled five to seven times before the fibers become too degraded and unusable for new paper production. But after that, they can still be made into lower quality paper materials such as egg cartons or packing slips.

Plastic can usually only be recycled once or twice. After recycling, it is used to make something that does not have to come into contact with food or meet strict strength requirements – for example, light household items. Engineers are also always looking for new uses, such as making versatile plastic “lumber” for decks or benches, or mixing plastics with asphalt to make stronger road building materials.

Myth number 5. Waste recycling is some kind of massive government ploy. There is no real benefit to the planet in this.

Since many people don’t know what happens to their trash after they’ve given it in for recycling, it’s no wonder they have skeptical thoughts. Doubts are only raised when we hear on the news about garbage collectors throwing carefully sorted waste into landfills or how unsustainable the fuel used by garbage collection trucks is.

However, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, the benefits of recycling are clear. Recycling aluminum cans saves 95% of the energy needed to make new cans from raw materials. Recycling steel and cans saves 60-74%; paper recycling saves about 60%; and recycling plastic and glass saves about a third of the energy compared to making these products from virgin materials. In fact, the energy saved by recycling one glass bottle is enough to run a 100-watt light bulb for four hours.

Recycling helps reduce the amount of trash known to spread bacterial or fungal infections. In addition, the recycling industry creates jobs – about 1,25 million in the United States alone.

While critics argue that garbage disposal gives the public a false sense of security and a solution to all of the world’s environmental problems, most experts say it is a valuable tool in the fight against climate change, pollution and other major issues facing our planet.

And finally, recycling is not always just a government program, but rather a dynamic industry with competition and constant innovation.


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