Weekly column by Barbara Hirsch
Considerably more than half of all of our trash ends up in ever filling landfills. Besides the sheer transport of hundreds of thousands of tons per day to those landfills, they are the third largest emitter of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
Certainly recycling is good, but far from good enough. So called “single stream”, recycling – all in one bin – was to make it easier for consumers. The result is tremendous cost to municipalities and uneven results, including pollution.
Of our recyclables, more than half of them get shipped to China, mostly plastic and paper. (The only U.S. product we ship more of to them is soybeans.). A few years ago in an effort to clean up their environment, China began to reject much of the recycling (the Green Fence) coming into their ports. The great amount of contaminants was being burned and polluting. It is now diverted to other countries for further removal of contaminants, and associated pollution.
From a recent piece in the Guardian “by pushing to increase recycling rates with bigger and bigger bins – while demanding almost no sorting by consumers – the recycling stream has become increasingly polluted and less valuable, imperiling the economics of the whole system.”
For another side of the story, here is a rosy story of recycling, though definitely worth a viewing, from Santa Barbara.