Recycling 101

Today my company has a presentation on recycling from our recycling company.  It’s part customer education and part customer relationship.  I learned many interesting fact about recycling, not just for environmental protection but also understand recycling as a business.  I won a green company logo hat for asking the best question!

I always complain recycling is too much work, you have sort the bottoms and paper into different recycling bin.  It is easier to throw them into the garbage.  It turns out in some cities, they already have single stream recycling.  People put everything recyclable into the blue box, the recycling company will use machine to sort out different material.  The recycling rate goes up a lot because it is much more convenient.  A realistic goal is recycle over 70% of domestic waste.  Almost every garbage we produce is recyclable, maybe except baby diapers and Styrofoam cups.   No one want to recycle baby diapers is obviously.  Styrofoam cup is non biodegradable and it’s too light, so it does not justify the recycling cost.

Well, actually for those who just throw away things to the garbage should not feel too guilty for our deeds.  The garbage goes to landfill, but that’s not the end of the story.  The guy from recycling company estimate within the next 50 years, technology will be available to recycle materials from old landfill.  Old landfill will turns into a material gold mine.  Therefore, don’t burn the garbage, just dump them to the landfill and wait for the time to come.

I am the one in the company use most paper because I like read a hard copy of all my documents and I am too lazy to wash my own coffee mug.  It turns out I am not very environmental unfriendly after all.  Paper is a very recyclable product.  A printer paper can recycle almost 100% over 20 times.  Used paper can made into cardboard boxes.  The yellower the cardboard box is, the more time the fiber is recycled.  At the end of the life time, the paper fiber is all broken up and degrade into residues that goes to landfill.  Since paper fiber is very biodegradable, it decompose fairly soon and does not harm the environment.  Paper cup is 100% recyclable as long as they go back to the green box.

I asked the best question in the presentation.  The presenter talked about it is hard to find site to build recycling facilities, because no one want to built a garbage dump at their backyard.  I asked why don’t we outsource recycling to third world countries?  Ship over the garbage and let them do the dirty work and ship us back the clean recycled material.  Actually they are already doing it but China is tightening the law and forbid the import untreated garbage.  I commented that we should go to poorer countries in Africa.  Other than foreign issues, there are political reason for the government not to outsource recycling.  Recycling create lots of jobs and it’s a big business.  Although they are garbage jobs, but the government don’t want to upset the unions by moving the jobs overseas.  My friends are ealous of me getting the hat and said it is unfair for the most un-environmental person in the company to get the eco-friendly hat!

3 thoughts on “Recycling 101”

  1. using more paper is just not producing too much waste. but it still wastes a lot of energy to recycle, think about how much oil needs to be burnt to produce the electricity. and then also the time it takes to grow a tree…

  2. I saw a report on TV that recycling isn’t enviornment friendly afterall. You need to use a lot of electricity for all the recycling processes. And in fact, just a small portion of what being recycled is in fact usable.

    On the other hand, if you dump everything in the landfill, while the garbage is decomposing, it’ll emit a lot of methonal or some sort of gas, and that can be used to generate electricity. They claim there are cases where the landfill can generate enough power for a small town. They argue that dumping in landfill has more benefits, save money and waste less resource than the energy needed to do the sorting and processing of all the recycling materials.

    I don’t know who’s right and who’s wrong. But at home, we have to sort garbage anyway because we need to use different garbage containers for different types of garbage. If garbage ends up in the wrong container, the city won’t pick it up.

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