We can throw all the recyclable materials and their pallets into the ocean until we fill them up. Turn the oceans into "land" so we can build 5,000 square foot condos for everybody, golf courses, gated communities, and Respectable Street....
I've written many times about the need to conserve, or not buy stuff in the first place. We must drill into ourselves the necessity of producing less waste in the first place. Recession will help me cut back on everything quite nicely.
We must change our diets so we have fewer packaging materials to recycle or toss. Yams and green beans come in their own nature-made packaging materials - how nice. Big Macs come with sacks, napkins and wrappers - lots of waste.
Reuse plastic and paper bags over and over and over and over. Used plastic bags and old socks today to cover water faucets before the upcoming, end of the world, big freeze, super storm this weekend.
Do almost everything on line so about all I get is junk mail. But even the junk mailers are having to cut back due to the faltering economy. You can quash receiving physical phone books by following this link:
Recently got my rolley bins which make me all warm, fuzzy and verklempt....
All the recycling in one bin instead of having to meticulously sort. The rollies are large which prompt me to recycle more but I don't move the recycling to curb but once a month now.
I'm painfully conscious that I still produce too much waste by eating fast food and not using my cloth bags instead of the stores' plastic and paper bags. Bad, trurl9, bad!
Pallet, not Palette I think.
Thanks, EthanPDX. I have fixed the typo.
Actually recycling is easy for me. There's a center nearby where you just drive in and dump your containers, no questions asked. I've actually started recycling more than I did.
In the 35 years that I have been in the business I have seen recycling prices drop to levels where collection costs exceed sale prices and people argue whether or not ?recycling makes sense?. However I have never seen the prices go down so fast, so far and across so many commodities at once. But none of this is any excuse to stop recycling?however, it may be a time to evaluate who pays for it.
The biggest benefit to our planet through recycling is not about reducing stuff that goes to a landfill but rather in reducing the need for stuff to be extracted as natural resources? whether they are mineral or biological (i.e. forest resources, etc.). Scientific research indicates that the carbon impact, energy conservation, air and water pollution reduction benefits achieved through using recycled material over extracted ?virgin? materials are over 100 fold greater than the benefits of just keeping stuff from going to the landfill. (I not saying that it?s not important to keep stuff from being wasted through diversion efforts, etc? just that the relative impact of benefit is so much more important upstream in the material extraction, manufacturing, consumption, and discard cycle.) (check with David Allaway at ODEQ).
The most ?self correcting? consumption cycle would be where the waste generated by the product is the responsibility of the person making the product. Oregon?s new electronic take-back law provides that manufactures of computers and televisions who sell their product to Oregon consumers are now required to be responsible for the take back (and environmentally responsible disposition) of those products. This type of ?producer responsibility? system creates a vested interest in those manufacturing the product to look at its recyclability both in the materials used and how they are assembled (and can be disassembled) as well as in practical logistical programs to recover them. Scrutiny of and work to perfect the working of this new law going into effect the first of the year will pay dividends to showing the way to expanding this concept eventually to all goods that we consume.
Of course if anything good can be said about this unfortunate economic difficulties we are all coping with is that it is an opportunity for us, both personally and as a society to re-examine our addiction to consumption? for us to re-evaluate our economic (and social) systems that focus on consumption? to reassess our ?values?, our ?needs? and our ?wants?. This is not something that can be done quickly or easily? but this is certainly a time to consider such.
I am very excited about your show on recycling. I know you like to focus on local topics but there is amazing technology that I hope you will muse about on Think Out Loud.
In our rapidly progressing world the maxim ?if its too good to be true it probably is? has become a hindrance. The innovative technology is called ?plasma gasification? and it turns the worst most un-recyclable waste into clean burning fuel for green energy and a solid similar to obsidian rock that can be used as bricks or ground into sand or gravel usurping the need for quarries, like the one that scars Ross Island, and the land fills that often replace them. It?s not futuristic it?s not even in development because it already exists. The first five real working facilities went up this year and there are many companies happy to build one for our fair city. The problem as with many high capital infrastructures is an abundance of tax-payer skepticism. It?s not science fiction it?s real and it can clean up our world, build up our manufacturing sector, rehab our oil addiction, and return its own investment. It would make Portland proud.
This geek is so enamored by the quantum leap in green tech that I hope to eventually hear you interview the engineers designing the first plant to open on the West Coast (besides Vancouver) right here in Portland. In the mean time I?ll just cross my fingers in the hopes that maybe you can swing a five minute phone interview today with some one from any of these companies.
Here are some sources of more information if you need them. The first and best is Popular Science Magazine. Go to www.popsci.com and type ?plasma gasification? in the search field. The Wikipedia Page (Plasma arc waste disposal) has a list of both existing and planned facilities and very useful external links including a must see ?Pros vs. Cons? page on Slate.com.
To encourage interest on Plasma gasification I want to point out that it produces more energy than it uses, it reduces collection costs, the solid waste it produces is a "valuable" commodity. And the savings incurred by not destroying the environment is measured in terms of hundreds of great grandchildren starving or not starving.
The plunge in the commodities market points out that there's more to recycling than sorting your garbage and setting it out on the curb. Each one of us can help alleviate the problem by reducing consumption and focusing on re-using the stuff we already have.
Regarding ewaste, there's a wonderful organization called Free Geek, http://freegeek.org, that gives away free computers to volunteers and non-profits, as well as sells refurbished computers for real cheap. Or you can learn to fix your own, or recruit the geeky kid down the street to help you maintain your computer.
This has the net effect of reducing your footprint on the environment, and also turns out to be a cheaper option during the recession.
I've been reusing and recycling for 30 years and, believe it or not, I find it much harder now than when I started. 30 years ago it took me 6 months to fill a trash can, now it takes a month. The reason is plastic. 30 years ago I had paper, glass and metal. Paper got burned or composted. Metal was recycled. Glass was often reused, or recycled. About the only plastic I had then was wrapped meat and produce bags. Now it is everywhere. My goal has become to stop taking it in in the first place but it is an uphill fight. There are some things I can no longer find without plastic packaging.
Just like any other industry, this is one where the downturn spreads out far beyond the doors of just the recycling facilities. I'm part owner of Legend Logistics, a warehousing and transportation company. We have strong ties to the paper recycling industry and as the prices have dropped for paper and plastics, our export container trucking orders have dropped at the same rate. We're hoping for a quicker rather than slower turnaround!
Could this recession perhaps signal the needed change where we catch up to the rest of the world with our recycling practices? Why must we melt down all the glass bottles we use rather than just sanitizing them for re-use? I find it just as practical to chuck a bottle on the beach and let the ocean's regenerating process "recycle it" than to sentence a beer bottle to our ridiculous recycling program.
The idea of selling more products in re-usable/refillable containers is a very good one. Studies done in the early days of modern recycling (early 1970s) showed that in terms of "net energy" (total energy used from resource extraction, transportation, manufacturing, recycling, etc), the best system is to package as many products as possible in refillable containers. The model is the old system of bottling beverages in local plants, returning the bottles to stores and then to the local plants. The studies showed that it would be better to package canned food in glass jars with a deposit and return them for refilling. We already have standardized jars (mason jars) ready for such system.
One thing that's struck me hearing Jeff Murray talk is that the recycling and trash business basically puts a mirror up to society. More water bottles, less newspaper, more computers: what we throw away shows us, irrefutably, how we're living and who we are.
What do your trash (or recycling) bins say about you?
I spend some time picking out sparkling wine bottles from the yellow containers on the curb. One thing I'm noticing is that about one out of ten people seem to still sort their stuff according to the old rules (separating paper from plastic from cans).
I think a fair percentage of folks are recycling in a very reactionary mode, believing that it will "save the planet". I think we (as consumers) need to become more sophisticated in our understanding of how recycling happens.
(I agree with the comments about plastic. Try going a week without buying anything that's wrapped in plastic. It's harder than being a vegan kosher locavore. Really!)
I live in SE Portland (Milwaukie) and was informed that if any of the items in my re-cycle box(es) was unaccepable (upon pick up, just doing a "visual") that all that box(es) would go into the garbage, not re-cycle...if you read "the trash news" a paper that comes out, recycling gets really specific here, although, a class in recycling is offered for $50 (I think it's a 6 week class)-- I wonder how many people who are recycling through their garbage pick-up service are having all their recycled materials dumped into the garbage because they didn't follow protocol? mel
What does Jerry Powell and Peter Spendelow think about the practicality of expecting the "Producer Responsibility" concept that the new "e-recycling" law has developed for computers and t.v.s... to other items... packaging or other products, etc? How would this effect the economic system for recycling?
There is a great video that explains the process of how recyclables are separated at the type of facility that Jeff described and how recyclables are recycled. Watch it on Marion County's website or call the DEQ for a copy. It's called "Saving Little Pieces of Our Earth" and it's free. http://www.co.marion.or.us/PW/ES/video
Another great resource is the Master Recycler class which is offered in many areas throughout Oregon. Contact your county to find out if & when it's offered in your area. It's a fantastic course!!
This is an ideal time to think about reducing! In other words, what can product producers do to limit the amount of packaging, first that is non-recyclable (which goes into the landfills anyway) and second, the packing that is recyclable. Can governments provide an economic incentive for companies which use less packaging? Will consumers band together and pick products with less packaging?
The word "recycling" includes the word "cycle" and so if we do have things which can be recycled, it is important to not only focus on the things to recycle but the things which can be made from recycled products. If I remember correctly, Portland recently considered incentives for businesses which buy more recycled products to get a reduction in their trash collection fees. Not sure what happened with that proposal...but the idea was a good one: try to improve the market for recycled materials. More needs to be done in this area.
Continuing on the issue of growing list of supposedly non-recyclable items. We've found the only real solution is to purchase bulk foods almost exclusively using our own durable containers for each refill. Thanks to the Peoples Co-op in Portland this is possible for all the consumables our household uses, even the liquids. It would be great to see more grocery stores go beyond the recycled bag.
I live in Corvallis and work for the recycling program at Oregon State University, coordinating education and outreach. Recycling is a learned, social behavior. Given the current state of the recycling market, I think it is very important that people do not get out of the habit of recycling. If your recycling provider stops accepting a material, I recommend holding on to it. You can recycle it when the market picks up again and it will keep you in the habit (Plus it will likely be very mind-opening to see how much you collect!).
It is also very important to put more emphasis on the other two "R's" - reduce and reuse. We need to reduce our waste stream entirely, both what is bound for the landfill and your local recycling depo. When you do need to buy something new, BUY RECYCLED. We need to support those markets.
There is a first step to "REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE" and that is REFUSE. Don't buy what you don't need. If you can get something without packaging, then don't buy it with packaging. If you can get it in a reusable container, then don't buy it in a throw away or even a recyclable container.
I actively look for compostable containers and buy them preferentially.
Although the idea of biodegradable food wear sounds great, currently in the Portland metro area, compostable containers are not helping us much. They cannot go in with plastics recycling, and we lack an industrial composting facility in the Portland area that could handle those materials and actually break them down. Therefore we are left with more organic material going into the landfills which is problematic for a few reasons, firstly because they take up more space. Even more, because landfills are sealed, the oxygen required to biodegrade materials is not present, and those containers will just sit there for years, rather than going back into the earth in a natural way. And last, when/if they do break down, they create methane gas, which is a green house gas.
The only current benefit of compostable containers is that they are not made directly from petroleum products, like plastics are. Hopefully in the next few years, Portland will house a composting facility that can process our food scraps and biodegradable service wear. Unfortunately for the time being, the only option is to throw those items in the garbage.
1. It seems wiser to save recyclables (for future use) than to bury them--especially in hard times. I continue saving my quarters even though they are worth less than they were a year ago. 2.If Asian markets can recycle and re-use materials more efficiently than we can, perhaps they can outright buy our unsorted recycled materials that we load onto freighters. It would be one more thing America can not do for itself, but it would be a market: selling our refuse.
One area of concern is industry and business. In the Master Recycler class we learned that industry's pre-consumer waste is a huge issue. After discussing this with my spouse, we implemented a plastics recycling program at his workplace, which already recycles cardboard and glass. A family-owned business in Marion County recycles plastics, both rigid and stretch plastic. They search out American markets for these materials.
Recently, however, costs have fallen and this recycler can no longer take rigid plastics. They most likely will go back into the dumpster and to the landfill in Polk County. (Marion County, by the way, has a waste-to-energy facility, not a landfill).
What can we do, or our government do, to encourage recycling by businesses - and then make it feasible for Oregon companies to handle materials that will otherwise go to the dump? What about all the recent talk of creating "green jobs" and a "green economy"?
I also highly recommend the Master Recycler training. Marion County's program is now accepting applications!
Listening to the show I am brought to remember learning the three R's in elementary school: Reduce, reuse, recycle. There is a reason 'recycle' is the last of the three: We happily throw our recycling out to the curb and feel good about how we are bettering the world. The material is sorted and shipped all over the world using huge amounts of petroleum every day. The materials are melted down and reformed in places of the world that are 'out of sight, out of mind'. The workers are most likely not provided with adequate protection against the huge amounts of pollution they are producing. Not only does that pollution get into the worker's bodies, but also into global weather patterns that affect everybody's health.
This is why we need to reduce our consumption first and reuse what we can second. We all recycle because it is the easist of the three R's.
Considering what happens to our recycleables, we are forced question the true value of recycling. Is it really better to recycle than to throw it all in a landfill?
Fleece jackets, cardboard boxes, and water bottles are still being made, they're just not being made in the quantities they were during the boom times and they're not being made out of recycled materials, they're being made out of virgin materials. And why are virgin materials more economical to use than recycled materials? It's because the virgin materials industries are able to externalize much of their costs (particularly environmental costs). This is a place where government intervention in the market is entirely appropriate and badly needed. If the extractive industries were required to internalize all their costs, it's very likely that recycled materials would be more economical than virgin materials for manufacturers to use. Then the environment would benefit in two ways -- extractive industries would cause less environmental damage, and the demand for recycled materials would provide strong incentives for recycling. Think of how many people who don't currently recycle would if the collectors paid them instead of them having to pay the collectors.
Paper vs. Plastic:
Which is worse: Cutting down a tree to make a paper grocery bag, or using plastic garbage bags to dispose of our trash?
Ya gotta use one or the other to get rid of your garbage. I'd rather use a bag that quickly degrades so that I do not have to add plastic bags to the landfills.
I hear lots of disucssion about how "green" the totes are that many retailers are offering, but very little about the millions of plastic garbage bags that are tossed in landfills every week!
If I switch to totes, or if paper bags are eliminated, I will be forced to use plastic gabage bags. This seems like a step backwards to me unless I can be convinced that using plastic garbage bags is somehow "greener" than plastic...
We need to include the use of plastic garbage bags in this equation and disucssion.
I am involved with a community group that is looking at expanding local recycling options.
Does anyone have any suggestions on the best manner to do so given the current economic climate and the depressed market for recyclables? Specifically, what would you recommend an organized group concentrate on: education, access to bins and other recycling options, new options for re-use and avoidance of packaging in the first place?
Any thoughts you have would be greatly appreciated.
What happends to "contaminants" on the assembly line that are recyclable? Do they go into the landfill or are they diverted to be recycled?
What about all the stuff that is now going to the landfill because people are not going to want to bother dealing with the current situation? Once it goes to the landfill, it probably won't come out. Are landfills going to be able to handle the load? Aren't they filling up too fast anyway, without all this going on?
I'm a Master Recycler and I work in a retail store. At work and at home storage space is limited, and it's VERY hard for me to put ANYTHING in the garbage. Especially at work, there is a lot that does not get recycled in the first place. People just don't know or care enough.
I am hopeful that the upcoming administration will set some new policies. What about that, and enforcing such? What are others feeling about this?
Many people don't realize that you can bring your own glass container to the grocery store to fill at the bulk section. You just take it to the counter to have them weigh the container before you fill it. This used to be standard practice in health food stores and co-ops, but for some reason at New Seasons and the new big healthy grocery stores this isn't common at all. Every time I bring a container in another customer sees it and says, wow, I never knew you could do that!
It really doesn't do anything to decrease trash production by buying in bulk if you're still using one of their plastic bags.
A few years ago recycled toilet paper came out but it was brown and so looked like reused toilet paper which was very unattractive. I think better marketing was/is needed because it was good idea.
Modern recycled toilet paper is soft and white (although not whitened with chlorine bleach) and virtually indistinguishable from non-recycled. It's widely available in food co-ops and natural food stores in the Seventh Generation brand (and some others) and, perhaps in some supermarkets as well. Trader Joe's has a brand of recycled toilet paper, too.
I really appreciated the encouragement to store stuff at home. We don't have much space here, but for plastic bags you don't need much space so I guess I'll at least hang on to them. I'll also send out an email to my list encouraging folks to store their recyclables.
I was a little distracted during the show, so please forgive me if these questions were already addressed. 1) what about plastic pots for plants? They should be easy to find buyers, no? 2)years ago there were a couple of gas stations that would take plastic motor oil containers. DEQ regulations stopped that, but I think it would be good to start that up again when the demand and prices increase. I thought about cleaning mine with kerosene or gas, but I knew they still wouldn't be accepted. Seems like this is an area that could increase the percentage for Oregon.
I have two questions:
1) To speed and automate sorting of co-mingled items, is it possible to scan bar codes by plastic or glass type? If not in the current bar code system, could this be done at national/international level? It seems that it would reduce time and expense.
2) Should landfill space be dedicated to sorted recyclables so that in the future, these resources can be quickly "mined" for use when their value is higher (e.g., sections for: newsprint, tin, glass, plastic, etc)?
Comments are now closed.