Even at the risk of being pelted with Dasani bottles, I admit to being a skeptic about recycling.  Oh, I do my part, depositing the junk mail in a basket and saving frozen pizza boxes, not the sticky take out kind, cheese and pepperoni being a no no in the recycle bin. But to be honest, my hearts not in it.  

I find it annoying to stack old cereal boxes and wine bottles on the dryer until I tote it all outside to the blue bin. One of the happiest days this year, let’s face it this has been bleak year, was putting an end to newspaper delivery.  No more straightening the flyers, refolding the sports page and trying to stuff a weeks worth of newsprint into a Trader Joe’s paper bag. 

 I understand the warm fuzzy feeling we get from filling up that blue bin with junk mail, cereal boxes, plastic water bottles and Pepsi cans. But a closer look at recycling might throw a damper on that fuzzy feeling.

Recycling is a myth. That’s the title of the article in the November’s Reader’s Digest. Who would doubt anything coming out of the feature section called That’s Outrageous.   Before you go all ballistic,  let’s see what the article says about recycling.

While plastic has its good points – it is both lightweight and durable, saving fuel in transport- the best thing about it is that it’s easily recycled.  Now, about that . . .

In fact, over the past four decades, less than 10 percent of all plastic in the US has been recycled.  We repurpose about 30 percent of used water, soda, shampoo and bleach bottles.  But that still leaves 70 percent piling up in dumps, or worse being tossed as litter.   

NPR, working with the PBS series Frontline, recently dug up reports sent to industry executives that called recycling plastic “costly . . difficult … infeasible”  And this was way back in the 1970’s and ’80’s “There was never an enthusiastic belief that recycling was ultimately going to work in any significant way”, Lew Freeman, former vice president of the industry’s lobbying group, told NPR and Frontline.

Though not much has changed since those reports were written, the plastics industry continues to shovel millions of dollars into promoting recycling via ads and education.  Why? Public relations, “If the public thinks the recycling is working, then they’re not going to be as concerned about the environment’, (and they will continue to purchase mega tons of stuff in small plastic containers) says Larry Thomas, another member of the lobbying group. 

What a shocking disregard for our environment and this demonstrates how easily we were convinced that using individual plastic containers was a great idea. After all, those water bottles are so  handy.   Here we thought we were doing our part as good citizens,  separating plastic from garbage and hauling those blue bins to the curb. We envisioned new things made out of our recycled water bottles.  Nope, not happening on the scale we assumed, folks.

In the past, China accepted our recyclables but in 2018 China said turn the boat around, we have our own pollution problems we don’t want yours.  As a result, the global recycling system has been crumbling, and plenty of cities in the US are now struggling to figure out what to do with their recycled goods. Some cities just toss the contents of  recycle bins in with the rest of the landfill stuff.  WHAT, after I separated all that crap!

A 2019 article stated, Tucson is still selling most of its plastic, glass and paper overseas — to Taiwan, Indonesia, India — but at a significantly reduced price. Stripped of its revenue-generating potential, the city’s  recycling program costs $300,000 per month and has a high environmental impact. Think about the huge trucks lumbering up and down the streets all day  picking up the recycle bins.  That’s why many cities have simply abandoned their recycling programs, it is costly and ineffective. 

On the other hand, this mornings paper (the electronic version, no newsprint for me)  had an interesting article about recycling glass. I feel good when I give the wine bottle a quick swish of water and pop it into the recycle bin, but I admit I’m not scrubbing out the applesauce jar.

 The Tucson City Council voted last week to remove glass from its curbside recycling program, marking the beginning of a community glass reuse plan. Starting Feb. 1, glass will no longer be accepted in residential and commercial blue bins, but will instead be collected at 22 drop-off sites around the city. 

Once collected from the new sites, glass will now be taken to the landfill where it will be processed through an industrial glass crusher, a machine capable of turning glass into dust in seconds. The “glass sand” will then be used locally to fill sandbags or as an aggregate for construction projects.

This seems worthwhile, although I’m still struggling with the thought of how much water it will take to clean up a salsa jar for recycling.  I’m willing to separate glass from the rest of the trash if it doesn’t take a couple of gallons of water to rinse the stuff.    As a desert rat, I’m worried more about wasting water, than recycling glass.

Some people might balk at having to make an extra trip to the glass drop off site, but maybe there is a community service opportunity here.  Organize your community to set glass out once a month and the neighborhood guy (you know the one with the pick up truck) can collect it and make a run to the local glass site.  HOA’s will love this.   If that doesn’t work I can see the truck guy setting up a business charging $3.00 a month to pick up your glass.  Might be a nice little side hustle.  

I only hope we are not to being duped about glass the way we were with plastic.  You know the old saying, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.



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