Where your recycling goes
November 9, 2009 8:57 AM   Subscribe

Your cafefully separated recycling heads to the dump. Reporters in D.C. follow some of the trucks around town and watch them dump the trash and the recycling together into the same truck. (previously)
posted by caddis (67 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
cafefully separated recycling

So it's turned into cappuccinos and biscotti, then?
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:02 AM on November 9, 2009


And just try to get a garbage truck driver into sensitivity training.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:06 AM on November 9, 2009


I always assumed this was the case.
posted by cccorlew at 9:06 AM on November 9, 2009


This does not surprise me. Reminds me of the WWII recycling drives.
posted by strixus at 9:09 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I worked at a grocery store in high school, and we were always instructed by the manager to toss the contents of the plastic bag recycle bin into the trash dumpster.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:13 AM on November 9, 2009


So what happens to the money allocated for the recycling program, then?
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:14 AM on November 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


I always assumed this was the case.

This is not the case in all municipalities. I briefly worked for the "Sanitation Department" at my hometown and I can guarantee that the recycling was indeed recycled. It also gave a huge boost to our yearly budget, on the order of $10-$20 per family enrolled in the (free) program.
posted by muddgirl at 9:15 AM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


An industry heavily associated with organized crime being less than honest? You've shattered my noble illusions about garbagemen and the mafia forever.
posted by dortmunder at 9:16 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't bother. Now I am vindicated.
posted by knoyers at 9:18 AM on November 9, 2009


So what happens to the money allocated for the recycling program, then?

Around these parts, it probably goes to a nice gentleman (lulz) and Fenty associate named Sinclair Skinner, like a lot of shady transfers. Everything else goes through Marion Barry or the taxicab commission. DC municipal government is hilariously corrupt; hilarious because the people behind the corruption are really too stupid to pull it off and are only enabled by a bumbling enforcement system.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:22 AM on November 9, 2009


An industry heavily associated with organized crime being less than honest? You've shattered my noble illusions about garbagemen and the mafia forever.

Well, given that the article lists a dozen or so trash haulers all competing for business in the DC metro area, it's probably a safe bet that the mafia isn't running the trucks there.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:22 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


My city's recycling is all taken to a local division of Waste Management, which recycles what is marketable and yes, disposes of the rest. The recession has led to a general collapse in the prices of recyclable materials. For instance, clean office paper is easily sold, but messy household paper including cereal and pizza boxes is not. Locally, I know it's being handled about as well as it could be.
posted by dhartung at 9:22 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've wanted to make a sticker or T-shirt showing the Three Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), with Recycle being held aloft by people, while Reduce and Reuse look downcast in the back. I now have a second panel / back of the shirt logo: Recycle being tossed in the dump.

I recall hearing that some community in Colorado took an active role to ensure that people recycled, by sorting through random bags of trash and fining people who didn't recycle.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:24 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Doesn't really surprise me. The price for post-consumer recyclables plummeted from where it was a few years ago. A lot of stuff that might have been worth recycling a few years ago is now basically garbage, or will at least cost money to recycle. (I've been told this is the case with plastics, although newspaper and aluminum may still be break-even.)

As counterintuitive as it may seem, due to how difficult it is to get people to start recycling again once they stop, it might make sense to continue a recycling "program," and just trash all the recyclables, if you expect the price of materials to increase in the future.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:28 AM on November 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


I read this as "recycling heads".
posted by found missing at 9:31 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


This really makes me wonder what the recycling situation is here in Tucson. We have 2 bins: one for garbage and one for all recyclables. There's no sorting of paper, plastic, glass, aluminum, etc. -- just dump them into one can for pick up. They are picked up by 2 different trucks, but I wonder if the recycling truck just takes it all to the same dump.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:34 AM on November 9, 2009


If your garbageman gets his paycheck from the city, don’t panic about where your recycling is headed. While residents occasionally report missed pickups, the municipal trucks, by and large, do a faithful job of loading trash with other trash and recycling with other recycling.

This is what I would expect, and I hope it's fairly universal. I would never expect a private company to recycle things against their financial interest, but I would hope that a public utility would want to avoid the political fallout of scamming the citizenry in this way.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:34 AM on November 9, 2009


Seattle will supposedly fine you if you put recyclables in the landfill bin, though I don't know of any cases of this happening. It has more to do with trying to reduce the size of the solid-waste stream than anything else: the city is running out of landfill space; buying more is quite expensive; even a recycling operation that runs at a loss might be cheaper than more landfill.

(Pizza boxes have never been recyclable here— they go in the compost, which is also picked up by the city once a week…)
posted by hattifattener at 9:34 AM on November 9, 2009


It's not just recycling; according to that article DC's garbage laws are a mess in general. I wonder how they compare to the way it's done in other cities.
posted by mediareport at 9:34 AM on November 9, 2009


Tuscon apparantly uses the "Recycle America" program, which you can read about here. I can't find a list of their plant locations, though.
posted by muddgirl at 9:42 AM on November 9, 2009


>
The money gets cashed and sorted by denomination, and placed into separate clear plastic bags. Then, they are unceremoniously mixed with barbershop hair, incinerated, and the ashes are dumped down a rainwater collection grate.

You may complain about the practice, but it fights inflation, and all that money sorting and incineration creates jobs. Also, we'd be up to our necks in used hair if we didn't use fast-burning cash to start hair fires.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:45 AM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Your cafefully separated recycling heads to the dump.

For very limited values of "you". So DC has a problem with their (lack of a) recycling program. I hate seeing articles like this one, people use them as an excuse to be lazy, even though they seem to be the exception and not the rule. We had the exact opposite story in the paper here in Asheville a few years ago. People were pulling the 'it all goes to the dump' card, so they secretly followed the recycling trucks around for a few days. All that stuff got recycled.

There's no sorting of paper, plastic, glass, aluminum, etc.

I wouldn't worry about this. We used to have to sort everything, but apparently nobody could do it right. Since they're going to have to sort it at the center anyway, they decided that we don't have to bother pre-sorting.
posted by Who_Am_I at 9:46 AM on November 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


At work we have separate recycle bins (for paper) and garbage bins in our offices. I remember my horror as I noticed one day the cleaning lady duming the recycling bin into the same container as the trash. Apparently this is par for the course. Who's policy is this, I wonder? The cleaning staff are not hired or employed by the company -- I can only assume they're contracted by building management.
posted by aclevername at 9:48 AM on November 9, 2009


At my work all of the recycling was carted away with the trash, until a co-worker who wasn't getting enough money to suit him began hauling the recycling himself every day. Wonder if he's still doing it with the collapse of recycling prices.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:00 AM on November 9, 2009


For starters, the market for recyclables has tanked.

This is really the most important issue. Recycling was never about saving the earth, it was about recovering a resource that could be sold by municipalities for a profit, which helped to offset the trash-collection budget.

The problem is that the recovered materials were sold to companies who used the material to make more stuff. Mixed paper, for instance, was shipped in bulk to China where it was remanufactured into cardboard packaging boxes to hold the consumer goods that they were making to ship back to the U.S. (or wherever). As the market for the consumer goods slips, there is less need for the boxes, so the market for the raw materials to make the boxes slips, too. The same is true for scrap metals, especially recycled steel (which is in a lot of our cars), and for plastics (also in a lot of our cars and home appliances).

Rather than being a failure of a single city (though this could perhaps be handled better in DC), it's part of a much much bigger story about what recycling really is and the interconnectedness of the world economy. What we suffer from when recycling drops is the recognition that we rely on overconsumption to make recycling work in the first place. In order to force recycling to be an economic boon, we have to buy ever more new stuff containing, or using, recycled materials...and invariably new materials as well. The planned obsolescence of our goods contributes to the problem by requiring a need to replace items all the time, and many items made out of recycled products don't break back down into components easily. Even if they did, the price is probably too low to pay someone to, say, strip a metal clip out of the inside of hundreds of thousands of coffeemakers.

It took me much too long in life to learn that the good ol' green motto "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" is in that order for a reason - recycling is, or should be, the last resort. Reducing overall consumption of resources is preferable from an environmental standpoint. Longer product life is also a strategy to keep landfills low. But recycling is a desperate measure, not really oriented to protecting scarce natural resources, but to recover anything in the waste we generate that might still be worth cash.

In the Economic Downward Spiral, Recycling Goes Down as Well.

Recycling Goes from Boom to Bust as the Economy Stalls
posted by Miko at 10:03 AM on November 9, 2009 [24 favorites]


> There's no sorting of paper, plastic, glass, aluminum, etc. -- just dump them into one can for pick up. They are picked up by 2 different trucks, but I wonder if the recycling truck just takes it all to the same dump.

My local public access tv channel occasionally shows this inexplicably fascinating (to me at least) piece about the zero-sort recycling plant we recently started using. It's able to differentiate between the different types of materials fed into it and sort them appropriately, or toss out anything it can't handle.
posted by xbonesgt at 10:13 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Suck it, DC. Ours actually gets recycled.

Your NPR station and City Paper is still better though, dammit
posted by electroboy at 10:19 AM on November 9, 2009


Also, I generally kinda dislike pieces like this, because they're mostly used as proof-of-rightness by people who can't be bothered to recycle. "See hippies? nothing we do matters."

DC government is generally notorious for fucking things up. The fact that they don't have a handle on their recycling program is not surprising to me.
posted by electroboy at 10:21 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I remember seeing something about this on the local news a few months ago. (I live in MD, so it's not entirely surprising.)

My parents didn't have curbside pickup (and still don't because my father thinks it's a big ripoff) and so I have many fond memories of going to the Shady Grove Trash transfer station where you get to throw stuff into the big honking dumpsters. They have separate sides for recycling (of all sorts of stuff--electronics, mattresses, different colors of glass, tree brush/grass clippings) and for normal trash (which also has the fun used motor oil tank). There's also the 'big house' which is where all the dump trucks as well as anyone driving a pickup truck get directed to, which is basically a lower circle of hell that has slimy concrete floors, unbreathably dusty air, and massive piles of trash on either side of the building. There's a front end loader that kinda hangs out in the building that just drives up to the walls of trash and pushes it over the edge of the floor into waiting dumpsters below.

In my condo, we have little separate recycling bins but it seems that everyone just throws their trash and doesn't bother to sort things at all, into every single bin. No fucking wonder the trash guys just mix it all together--the constituents don't give a fuck.
posted by sperose at 10:22 AM on November 9, 2009


We separate that way in my town in Maine, sperose. In addition, there's a wonderful little shed where you can drop off things that are still good for 'freecycling.' On Saturdays, a lot of people show up there after yard sales with everything they didn't sell. It's a real boon for low-income people, and really fun hunting no matter who you are - books, CDs, tools, you name it.
posted by Miko at 10:29 AM on November 9, 2009


Why does USA in general find this so fucking difficult?
posted by adamvasco at 10:30 AM on November 9, 2009


Our HOA just recently joined up with RecycleBank. They use a single-stream process, so everything goes into one large bin that's almost as large as the garbage can. So far it's going over pretty well, especially since we opted for points based on the entire community's haul each week, instead of individuals. (The last thing we need is people stealing other people's recycling in the middle of the night to get the most points.)
posted by candyland at 10:33 AM on November 9, 2009


I don't bother. Now I am vindicated.

So it's complete FAIL up and down the line! Your government lies to you, your sanitation department steals from you, and you are enmired in apathy!

I separate, recycle, compost. It doesn't even take me an hour a week. It's pretty astonishing how small my main "garbage" is. I know that some of my recycling is recycled and I'm sure some of it isn't but I have some sort of standing to complain at least.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:36 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would much rather we spent the time developing ways to reduce the amount of waste we generate than developing things to do with the waste we planned to have.
posted by Miko at 10:37 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


We just started single-stream recycling at work - refuse goes in to your can at your desk, recyclables all go into large bins by the loading dock. At home, I think we have something similar - the municipal waste department asks you to put all your paper in a brown bag, but you can put the bag into the big blue bin with your cans and bottles, and it all gets taken at once. Bizarre.

When we lived in Germany, they took recycling very seriously. They had side-loading garbage trucks that had metal detectors on them, and if it went off they wouldn't take your garbage. Couple that with biweekly pickup (we were used to weekly before we moved there) and very high fees for extra garbage cans, and you were very careful about sorting your trash.

One of the biggest arguments that my mother had for hating living there was that they rejected our trash one week for (supposedly) a staple in a teabag that wasn't removed.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:43 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


At work I get the 'Where's the recycle bin?' question a lot, and it's always a joy to explain single-stream MRFs (murphs).
posted by carsonb at 10:48 AM on November 9, 2009


I saw the "Trash and recycling go in same truck" happen at Hampshire, of all places. Oh, the irony. All the hippies dutifully separating their recycling and lovingly hauling it all out separately, only to have it trashed.

At least the compost really did go to the farm. Too bad this meant that sometimes, you had to live in a house with someone who was really gung-ho about the compost, but not so gung-ho about taking it to the farm. Oi.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:55 AM on November 9, 2009


Heh.
posted by Dali Atomicus at 11:31 AM on November 9, 2009


My apartment building just now got recycling bins, and after I brought down a load of stuff that was cluttering up my apartment (cardboard, styrofoam, plastic bags, and other things I can't get money for), I saw one of my neighbors dump what appeared to be his car ashtray into the bin.

Generally, I take my own stuff to the recycling center on Saturdays and get paid for it. It's only enough for a load of laundry, but I'm glad I do it. I'm not sure what happens to the contaminated containers.
posted by hifiparasol at 12:09 PM on November 9, 2009


That's really a shame, but as so many others have pointed out, DC has so many issues.

Just outside DC I literally get paid to recycle through a company called RecycleBank. (It works, too. I've eaten out three times on redeeming my points there since the program started). Based on what everyone is saying about the recycling industry tanking, should I expect that to end soon?
posted by jermsplan at 12:12 PM on November 9, 2009


Our recycling program here in Taos is budgeted from the sale of the recycled materials it recovers, and this year was the first year it paid for itself. So, no, this doesn't happen everywhere, unless the people who are buying it are in on some scam with the city.

I worked a few days at a recycling yard in LA. It was very real and very nasty, but they separated all the recyclables through a conveyor system with workers, sort of old-style but they didn't throw recyclables into the landfill.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:47 PM on November 9, 2009


Good. Somebody has to try to counter-balance all of the eco-freaks.
posted by davidmsc at 12:54 PM on November 9, 2009


Based on what everyone is saying about the recycling industry tanking, should I expect that to end soon?

Commodity prices are down compared to the peak, but this is the way of that side of things. Anyone starting a recycling business has to understand commodity prices and seasonal cycles which affect it, as well as how inflation can affect cash flow. You can still make money selling scrap metal out of a junkyard, but anything more than that requires knowing the industry and others which need the materials.

But not everything is straightforward when it comes to recycling. For instance, I discovered that earthworm farms tend to like shredded paper, such as from offices. They turn it into casings, which is valuable as fertilizer and in general soil use. This paper isn't always easy to recycle into new office paper, because it tends to be several different types of paper going through the shredder and so the fibers aren't usually consistently long and strong enough, but it's great for feeding earthworms. And our glass we recover at the center is recycled here and used for road work, mixing in with the asphalt and gravel, not used to make new bottles, but it doesn't have to travel and melted down elsewhere to be re-used and so recycling glass here is very efficient for this reason.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:55 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


The thing about our refuse service that gets me is that yard waste must be bagged in specially marketed yard waste bags or stuffed into a more permanent bin marked as "Yard Waste". Which, you know, is all good. I can get behind that. Theoretically, then, they come through and pick up yard waste separately and this gets composted on a large scale and sold as organic fertilizer to earnest hippies like myself.

Our service provider always picks up yard waste and the regular trash in the same run, dumping it all into the same truck. What's even dumber than that, though, is that if you put your yard waste out in a non-approved container, they'll still refuse to pick it up. *This* is what pushed me over the edge so that a significant plot of the back yard is now devoted to composting my yard waste. I guess it's for the best though since I save on fuel costs and no longer have to worry about finding high-quality fertilizer and mulch for the garden.
posted by Fezboy! at 12:57 PM on November 9, 2009


Good. Somebody has to try to counter-balance all of the eco-freaks.

I dunno. I see this as a problem of public officials lying as well as corruption at the local level. On top of that a lot of recyclable material is ending up in the landfill, which is also funded by taxpayers, so you pay for it either way. I'm not sure why that's good. Is being wasteful and corrupt a good counterbalance to public policy you don't like?
posted by krinklyfig at 1:00 PM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


But recycling is a desperate measure, not really oriented to protecting scarce natural resources, but to recover anything in the waste we generate that might still be worth cash.

This is not so much the case in places which require recycling, such as Japan, which doesn't have much land for landfills and has to import quite a lot. There it's something of a necessity, and I think gradually it will become so for most of us, for various reasons.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:12 PM on November 9, 2009


"But recycling is a desperate measure..."

I know many people who've poured aluminum. I know no one who's done so starting with bauxite. Why do you think that is?

I dare say this is just the home grown version of using melamine to make it look like there's more protein in your baby formula / pet food / whatever.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:52 PM on November 9, 2009


There it's something of a necessity, and I think gradually it will become so for most of us, for various reasons.

Good point, and a good argument for maintaining the infrastructure. But even so, wouldn't a waste-reduction program be in Japan's (or anyone's) best interest? So much of our waste is product packaging, and also convenience products that could be replaced by reusable materials (such as paper towels).
posted by Miko at 2:01 PM on November 9, 2009


The City of Stirling over here in Perth doesn't have recycling bins. They pay a fairly hefty premium to the refuse company to sort the trash before dumping unrecyclables into the landfill. Of course this means you don't get a second bin for otherwise recyclable things either.
posted by Talez at 2:26 PM on November 9, 2009


Really, the goal of recycling seems to be not to save materials or conserve in any way. It is to make wasteful people feel that they are offsetting the harm their throwaway lifestyle produces.

Buy bottled water, its OK because you put the plastic in the right bin.

Print that 300 page report, its OK because the paper gets recycled.

What we need is to be more careful to eat at restaurants that use reusable dishes, to drink water out of reusable bottles, etc. Recycling has to take previously manufactured materials and recover them, that takes much more energy than not making the item in the first place.

Recycling is a panacea. Our current lifestyle is unsustainable no matter how much we recycle, recycling just gives us an excuse not to change anything that would be incovenient.

So, in a sense, it doesn't matter a bit if the recycling actually gets recycled. If putting it in the proper tub made you feel better and has thus given you a pass to buy more over-packaged crap free from guilt, the recycling service has done its real job.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 2:37 PM on November 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


The NY Post today reports that NYC Parks aren't recycling properly... Heck, if the parks can't get it right...
posted by Jahaza at 3:02 PM on November 9, 2009


Good point, and a good argument for maintaining the infrastructure. But even so, wouldn't a waste-reduction program be in Japan's (or anyone's) best interest?

Not until the cost of raw materials approaches the costs of recycled. Unfortunately the environmental costs of extraction and all the externalities like pollution, landfill space and carbon emissions aren't usually accounted for in the upfront costs.
posted by electroboy at 3:08 PM on November 9, 2009


Penn and Teller on recycling
posted by olya at 3:12 PM on November 9, 2009


Huh, I didn't know I was living in a model community.

Not only do we have recycled materials in recycle bins actually being recycled, but our yard waste program is great. You can either put your yard waste out weekly in your own garbage cans ( cans that you were using before the city issued trash bins) or in clear plastic yard waste bags, or you can wait and pile it high along the front of your house for "unprepared yard waste" pick-up twice a year, or you can drive it yourself to the yard waste plant. Then once you drop off your unwanted yard waste, you can buy mulch (made from shredded wood collected) or compost. It's not the best stuff in the world-- there are often small bits of plastic accidentally shredded in and I am always leery of the compost being made with clippings that have been sprayed with non-organic compounds, but it is cheap and handy for anyone driving a pick-up truck.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:57 PM on November 9, 2009


Penn and Teller on recycling

Penn and Teller (mostly Penn I gather) are full of shit. Their show could not have been more aptly named.
posted by Who_Am_I at 4:50 PM on November 9, 2009


Our town uses a single truck to collect waste and recyclables. But we have two bins to keep them separate and the truck has two bins. The driver switches between the two with a power door.
posted by Mitheral at 5:32 PM on November 9, 2009


Not until the cost of raw materials approaches the costs of recycled.

I could see that for steel, but when you recycle paper and plastic you actually get a different product (in terms of its attributes).
posted by Miko at 5:35 PM on November 9, 2009


...or "downcycling," as this good article reminded me:

Is Recycling Worth It?

Also, Recycling By the Numbers (interesting, but also pre-economic collapse)

I think the point is good that it can sometimes be more damaging to extract new raw materials than to recover a resource. However, in order to create a resource to recover we also have to create vast amounts of ancillary waste. What if we didn't use disposable aluminum cans at all? There would be less aluminum available for recovery, but we might also be using far less aluminum across the board. What if we reused all glass bottles?

The problem still has its roots in overconsumption. We might think we "need" X amount of aluminum, but I think that "use" and "need" are two different things. If we don't put a product into the consumption stream in the first place, we never have to recycle it, and that's the most efficient thing of all. Our habits with regard to the amount of waste we tolerate are shockingly egregious.
posted by Miko at 5:47 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have come to greatly appreciate my local dump. They have a recycling center, and they are using giant dumpster bins as sorted tips. At the very least, our waste is being sorted fairly well and buried with some thought for keeping the waste pure and organized until its worth mining.

Once or twice a year there's a toxic wastes round-up. Twice a year the city (pop. 40k) picks up leaf bags and comes around with a woodchipper rig to collect branches. Paper, plastics, and metals are picked up biweekly (weekly?); household waste picked up weekly. Glass, alas, has to go to a separate facility. Every couple years the city sells composting bins for cheap. And come to think of it, I suppose it sponsors toilet upgrades on the alternate years.

The local sewage goes through bioprocessing, getting digested by aerobic and anaerobic bacteria; it is then pumped up into the hillsides, where it waters/fertilizes ranch and golf land.

In the city south of us (100k pop) the sewage is processed to the point of being pure when it comes out the outflow pipe; claimed to be potable, it goes right back into the lake from which they take their drinking water. Their city garbage site is also methodical about sorting and recycling.

In between our cities is a new experiment in composting. Because we've got a huge amount of both agriculture and construction, there is a lot of plant-matter waste (and gyproc). So they're trying to turn it into soil. Which, if nothing else, can go back to the orchards and ranches.

There used to be a rendering plant out in the near farmlands area (and oh god was it awful so awful oh gods), but it shut down a decade or so ago. But now there's talk of a … I shudder at the thought … er, meat composting facility. The neighbouring properties are very strongly opposed.

I thought this level of recycling awareness was more advanced than most places seem to have, but I didn't think it was anything particularly unusual. I've been sorting my waste stream for a couple of decades. I've always figured that if the sorted materials weren't valuable enough to sell again, at least they could be mapped when buried so that we can reclaim them when they are valuable.

Indeed, I'm a little stunned at the idea that there are people who don't sort their waste. It just makes no sense to mash it all together.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:06 PM on November 9, 2009


What we need is to be more careful to eat at restaurants that use reusable dishes, to drink water out of reusable bottles, etc. Recycling has to take previously manufactured materials and recover them, that takes much more energy than not making the item in the first place.

Given that we're not at the ideal end, we can certainly do both in the meantime. I do my best not to create extra waste but sometimes can't avoid it, particularly when it comes to ordering stuff for my job.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:21 PM on November 9, 2009


If we don't put a product into the consumption stream in the first place, we never have to recycle it, and that's the most efficient thing of all. Our habits with regard to the amount of waste we tolerate are shockingly egregious.

Yes. However, I've done enough formal advocacy and fundraising for it that I have come to accept that solving the problems which lead to this won't happen all at once, unless there is a dire need. Yes, we need to cut way down, but it's probably not a good idea to make people feel guilty about recycling. Public policy has to guide the outcome, because people won't do it on their own, but they won't get there if they barely get started in recycling and you tell people that's wrong. I agree with you, but since we don't have a dire need at the moment, we have to convince people that policy with waste reduction as the goal is a good idea. Economic hardship can count as a dire need, but not sure if the policy will follow at the moment to do what you'd like. Right now the US policy is still to buy as much as we can from China as cheaply as possible while they continue to buy US treasuries, so we won't go under. I don't think that will last forever, or even much longer, fwiw.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:28 PM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't bother. Now I am vindicated.

Allow me to join others in saying: no, if you don't bother you're a lazy ass.

How we live matters. Someday, not more than a generation or two away, in a climate-shifted and radically more resource-poor future, we'll be savagely judged for how we decided to live, and we will deserve it.
posted by namasaya at 11:35 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I live in what it claims to be a very GREEN AND PROUD OF IT town. However, I live in an apartment complex with no availability of recycling. We ask. Management and the city say it isn't practical for us to put out recycle bins. We have our dumpsters and we should be happy for that. This a largely Section 8 subsidized complex in a university-fueled town.

What also isn't practical, though, is if you try to do your own reasonable recycling. Because they do apartment inspections, either every apartment or random apartments, about 4 times a year. Even if you are super tidy with your recycling, and I mean rinse out all of your beer cans, squish them, and keep them in a neat container, you'll get written up as a lease violation. Same with any glass. This is no matter what size of recycling container you might have in your home. Even if it is in a closet. Keep in mind, too, that some folks have a HUGE trash can in their home and never get in trouble, even if it's really gross and not separated, but they won't get in trouble as long as it's empty upon inspection day.

It makes no sense.
GRAR.
posted by lilywing13 at 1:06 AM on November 10, 2009


lilywing13: Um... not trying to make waves with your living situation... but I would never submit to living in an apartment complex where the landlord held inspection rights over my dwelling. In some states, that isn't even legal.

At the very least, in WA state where I live, landlords are required to give 48 hours' written notice before they can enter an apartment. Surely, if a similar law were in place in your state, that would give you the time needed to get your recycling to the proper place... Even if that proper place is the dumpster downstairs. Having to trash the recycling 4x a year is better than trashing it every week.
posted by hippybear at 7:24 AM on November 10, 2009


krinklyfig: I see your point and I think we agree. What I would wish to see is that we look at present recycling methods as a start on a more holistic waste-management strategy that looks at the complete life cycle for consumer goods, including our definition of 'need' and standards for manufacturing and trade (which is another place the public policy gets into it). Recycling has been promoted with such feel-good strategies that people seem to overstate its value relative to other strategies for reducing harm to the resources of the planet, to health, and to our immediate surroundings. I wish it could be considered and discussed more often one element of a total approach, rather than what many people think it is - an earth-saving action in itself. of course I think we should continue to recycle where we can, but I'm concerned about depending on the manufacturing market in the long-term to make it profitable, and about generally reducing consumption.
posted by Miko at 8:11 AM on November 10, 2009


hippybear, we do get advanced notice, and we do get the recycling to the proper place ahead of time.

It's the difference of our having 3 small tidy containers against one wall versus other households that have a single trashcan that's large enough that it's obviously meant to be outside. For some reason, the folks doing the inspecting don't object to the big can, as long as it's empty and clean on that day, but they don't like a few small containers that take up less overall volume. We end up just nesting them and putting them away for the day.
posted by lilywing13 at 12:44 PM on November 10, 2009


I know this has almost nothing to do with the story, but <3 politics & prose. The hours I used to spend there when I lived outside of DC... I wonder if they still have the excellent black bean veggie burger?
posted by mincus at 11:40 AM on November 13, 2009


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