Recycling conserves natural resources, strengthens our economy and creates jobs. Recycling is an essential part of sustainable materials management (SMM), an approach that emphasizes the productive and sustainable use of materials throughout their entire life cycle, while minimizing their environmental impacts. Many recyclable materials become contaminated when items are placed in the wrong bin or when a container of dirty food enters the recycle bin. Contamination can prevent large amounts of material from being recycled.
Other materials cannot be processed in certain facilities. Landfills emit carbon dioxide, methane, volatile organic compounds and other hazardous pollutants into the air. And our oceans are drowning in plastic waste. Without the Chinese market for plastic and some types of cardboard, paper and glass, the U.S.
UU. Municipalities that couldn't afford to pay more have reduced their recycling programs. More than 70 ended curbside recycling (although several have been reinstated following public protests) and many delivery sites closed; some programs increased costs for residents, while others limited the materials they would accept. Recycling was dependent on China for so many years, that our national recycling infrastructure was never developed, so there was no economic or efficient way to manage recycling when the market disappeared.
What further complicated the situation in the U.S. UU. It does not have a federal recycling program. That means companies are joining communities, recyclers, carriers, manufacturers and consumers to try to move forward together. 66 percent of discarded paper and cardboard was recycled, 27 percent of glass and 8 percent of plastics were recycled.
Glass and metal can be recycled indefinitely; paper can be recycled five to seven times before it degrades too much to become “new paper”; plastic can only be recycled once or twice and usually cannot be recycled in a food container, as polymers break down in the recycling process. Single-flow recycling, in which all recyclable materials are placed in the same container, has made recycling easier for consumers, but causes approximately a quarter of the material to become contaminated.
Plastic recyclingrepresents the biggest challenge because plastic is often contaminated by other materials and consumer goods companies are reluctant to buy recycled plastic unless it's as pure as virgin plastic. Food waste is, by tonnage, the most important source of waste, according to Mesa.
And while there are waste-to-energy facilities in the U.S. ,However, as technology advances and the search for green energy increases in U.S. cities. In the US, this may become a more attractive option for cities and regions in the future.
In fact, the global market for high-quality recycled materials is growing. Global demand for paper and cardboard is expected to grow 1.2 percent annually, mainly due to the growth of e-commerce and the need for packaging; recycled paper will be essential to meet this demand. The Key to Fixing Recycling in the U.S. This means improving technology for sorting and recovering materials, incorporating more recycled material into products, bringing these products to market and creating demand for them. If recycling processors have a market where they can sell their material, they will be motivated to invest in better equipment that can sort materials to minimize contamination, and expanding recycling programs will make economic sense.
Here are some places where recycling works relatively well. In Austin, Texas, whose goal is to divert 75 percent of their waste this year, all properties must provide recycling and composting to their tenants and employees. Large construction projects must reuse or recycle at least half of their waste. South Korea recycles about 54 percent of its garbage, including 95 percent of food waste. The country dramatically reduced food waste by providing containers for organic waste, which are weighed: the heavier they weigh, the more residents are charged. Recyclable materials are collected free of charge, but there is a charge for discarding the rest of the garbage, determined by its weight.
Other countries with good recycling rates include Wales, Switzerland, Austria, Japan and Taiwan. Japan requires residents to wash items, remove labels and fold boxes, and waste must be labeled to hold people to account. Residents of the small village of Kamikatsu classify their garbage into 34 categories, with the goal of achieving zero waste this year. Taiwan recycles 55 percent of its residential and commercial waste and 77 percent of its industrial waste.
Yellow trucks go around neighborhoods playing music to let residents know it's time to throw away the garbage; then come white trucks carrying 13 different containers in which residents sort their recyclable materials. The recyclable materials are then sent to companies such as Miniwiz, who transform them into building materials. In addition, smart recycling booths accept bottles and cans in exchange for adding value to the cards of transport. Minimizing the contamination of recyclable materials and the flow of recyclable items to landfills requires consumer awareness.
Community events, campaigns, and brochures are needed to educate residents about the importance of reuse, recycling, and composting, as well as how to properly recycle in their particular community. They must understand which items are actually recyclable and which are not. These can be used to promote recycling and waste reduction. For example, residents and businesses can be encouraged to reduce waste if they have to pay more to throw more away.
Additional payments or an extension of the contract may encourage waste contractors to divert more waste. Senator Tom Udall (Democrat from New Mexico) and Congressman Alan Lowenthal (Democrat from Long Beach) recently introduced the Plastic Free Act to Congress. The bill includes a ban on single-use plastic bags and polystyrene; requirements for companies that manufacture packaging or food items to be responsible for waste collection; a national container deposit system that would charge a refundable deposit for all single-use beverage bottles; the standardized labeling of recycling containers; and the suspension of permits for the construction of new plastic production plants. Container deposit laws, or “bottle bills that charge a refundable deposit on all single-use beverage bottles, whether plastic, metal or glass,” are the most effective means of boosting recycling, according to the Sierra Club. Ten states already have bottle bills, and six more are considering them.
Many companies are trying to find better ways to manage waste, from chemical recycling, which uses chemicals or high temperatures to turn plastic into its original components for reuse, to new ways to simplify recycling. Oregon-based Agilyx breaks down contaminated and hard-to-recycle plastics to their molecular level; then, they can be converted into high-quality synthetic oils, chemicals and other plastics. The company claims that all recycled plastic can be reused an infinite number of times. PureCycle Technologies has patented a process to remove color, odor and contaminants from polypropylene plastic (used for bottle caps) and turn it into a “virgin” resin.
Until now, only one percent of polypropylene has been recycled, even though it's the second most common plastic in the world. It has mostly been recycled to obtain black or gray products, such as benches or car parts, but once purified, it has the potential for many more applications. Loop creates reusable and returnable packaging for consumer products. Items from the Loop store are shipped to shoppers in containers for which they pay a deposit; when the containers are returned to Loop in the reusable shipping box, shoppers receive a full refund.
Carrefour supermarkets use Loop in France and Kroger's and Walgreen's in the US. Here are some more tips from the Natural Resources Defense Council. I agree that the feds are incompetent, the oil and gas companies that manufacture them have an obligation to make plastic bags that swirl around in the South Pacific. The solution is, in part, the mandatory return of paper and cardboard (biodegradable) containers.
In addition, a few years ago I read that a biodegradable plastic (made from living plants, I think) had been developed in Japan. I'm not sure, but I think the use of biodegradable plastic is currently limited. There could be more research to develop a biodegradable plastic equivalent to some of the petrochemical plastic that is overwhelmingly used today. Good luck getting the plastics industry to do this instead of doing what is probably most profitable for it. Biodegradable plastic is justified as a bad solution, among other things, because of the energy needed to produce it, the unfavorable environmental effects of production and the large carbon footprint.
Experts reject the use of biodegradable plastic: “It might be reasonable to even prohibit its use by consumers. If anything were to change with regard to plastics markets, Urbana residents would be notified. I appreciate you taking the time to ask these questions. Thank you for pointing that out, Jon.
We have updated the story accordingly. However, many places don't recycle those types of plastics, and adding them to the bin would be counterproductive to recycling. It's best to check with your local recycling center to see what they recommend. The problem is the small resale market for properly classified items, not the question of classification. Companies don't buy as many recycled materials, especially recycled plastics.
I've seen most of the information in a long time and I really hope we can get rid of that Plastic Monkey. It hurts to say it, but my son worked in restaurant kitchens in San Francisco before the pandemic and saw the implementation of the “3-container system”. The carriers arrived, took each container and threw them in the same container as the truck. This happened every time I followed him to watch.
So everyone above thinks they're doing the right thing, but this sample of 1 suggests that it's a farce. The problem is, in part, that perfection is the enemy of good. Where is the research and data on how to clean landfills and which ones are doing so? We can eliminate a lot of things from wastewater, but what's the incentive if you consider that burning is bad? We should develop a government initiative to offer incentives to companies that use biodegradable and hemp packaging. Let's take advantage of this progress in the legalization of marijuana and use the plant for all its beneficial properties, including the replacement of plastic, cotton, wood, etc.
We have to do much more, we must all participate. I think our governments love to pressure consumers to recycle as long as consumers pay for it. Every small bottle I buy I have to pay five cents as a deposit, but when I go to recycle it I only receive 2 cents. And when I take a lot of them, it never fails me, they always scam you in these recycling centers. The government always presents these programs to dispose of recyclable materials, as long as the consumer pays for them.
All of these programs are just more tax money for governments, you go to the market and you have to pay ten cents for every bag you receive, unless you have your own, but then, guess what, you have to pack your own food. I think they don't give a shit if you recycle or not, they just want the tax money they get from it. Recycling is really crucial for the environment. Recycling=Good Not Recycling=It's bad for me, I don't like junk water. I sincerely believe that we need to fix pollution in the United States.
The earth is dying and we act like it's no big deal every day, since I ride the bus to school, I see garbage everywhere or I see people throwing garbage in lakes, on the street, on lawns and on state property in the city and I live in a small town and every day it seems like it's getting smaller. The federal government needs to invest in realistic recycling programs and ban most plastics that aren't recyclable. I've done my research and the problem is that oil companies realize that fossil fuels being used as energy will soon be a thing of the past. They have invested heavily in the plastics business as a way to diversify and keep demand for fossil fuels real. Fossil fuel (energy) is needed to make or recycle every plastic bottle or container.
The federal government must implement sustainable and cost-effective business plans for the plastics recycling industry. Other countries have done it and it's been proven to work. Cities, towns and states must also redouble their recycling efforts. Is there anything I can do besides recycling? I want to help in every way possible. When I tour my neighborhood on recycling day, I realize that 100% of my neighbors have included items that will “contaminate the entire load.” I've seen everything from fans to glass bottles, paper plates with food everywhere and a million other things.
I have no choice but to assume that all of this goes directly to the landfill, so I honestly don't know why I should keep wasting my time trying to do the right thing. This is the best and most comprehensive article I have read about recycling. It presents the problem and then the methods and solutions implemented by other countries. It should be required reading for everyone responsible for waste disposal systems.
Less oil to make glass products, which is 100 percent recyclable, bothers me that this country doesn't promote the glass industry. Would it be possible for larger countries to recycle their own garbage instead of sending it abroad? Maybe people would be more attentive and the statistics on recycling would improve. One thing I've heard from several generally reliable resources is that glass isn't recyclable, it's just reusable. Do you know anything about that? I think people should be able to throw garbage out of landfills because that reduces waste and helps to recycle.
We need to try to prevent recycled materials from reaching the trash. It is clear that we must try to prevent recyclable materials from ending up in the garbage. Stop sending garbage abroad and making us pay for not doing the right thing and taking care of it at home. Many people, due to lack of sensitivity and lack of care for others or for the community, take the easy path and, in the end, it costs everyone more.
The industry that created single-use items must be responsible for recycling them. I didn't know much about this, so I'm glad I had the chance to read it. I also agree with Judith Piazza, nice last name. California Management Review is a major academic management journal published at the University of California at Berkeley By Christian Blanco, Calvin Spanbauer and Sara Stienecker America's outdated approach to recycling is also bad for the environment.
Approximately 1.8 million acres of land in the U.S. Recycling diverts waste from these landfills, but currently only 32.1% of U.S. waste is recycled or composted.4 The recycling market has many opportunities to create more financial value and conserve our natural resources. The recycling market has five critical deficiencies.
Before delving into the details of these deficiencies, it's helpful to see a quick overview of how the industry works. The waste management process begins when a municipality selects a material recovery facility to serve its region. The material recovery facility is a public or private company that classifies recyclable materials into clean streams of products that can be sold for remanufacturing. The recovery facility makes decisions about what products it will accept based on (the recyclable materials market), the equipment and labor it has and (the scale) of the potential materials that can be collected.
A logistics company (sometimes owned by the same parent company as the material recovery facility) is responsible for collecting waste on the sidewalk. The logistics company collects household recyclable materials and delivers the loaded trucks to a material recovery facility to be sorted into individual groups. Processing unprocessed recyclable waste that comes from logistics companies will cost less if there is little or no pollution. 5 At the recovery facility, the logistics vehicle is weighed on a scale and a visual inspection is performed.
The purpose of the inspection is to evaluate the quality of unprocessed recyclable waste and to determine if the contamination will affect the processing capabilities of the recovery facility. If the contamination exceeds the tolerable threshold, the cargo is rejected and taken to the landfill. Once the recyclable materials are sorted, individual products can be sold for remanufacturing. The material recovery market is divided into six U.S.
regions. The market is similar to that of other commodity markets, where the price is determined by a system of offers. There are also 6 long-term contracts, although less popular because they can be more expensive for the processor. The cost that a material recovery facility pays to collect, sort, compact and rescue recyclable materials is still fixed, but the demand and price they can charge for their products fluctuate.
This means that sometimes recovery facilities are cost-effective and sometimes they are not. 7 Manufacturers interested in closing the circle can commit to using non-virgin materials as inputs for their production. However, they will only do so if they find that buying recycled material is more cost-effective or cost-effective. To close the circle, the recycling industry needs to scale and be more efficient in collecting, segregating and reselling recycled material.
We included 25 items in our survey. We purposely chose some products that were deposited in landfills in the nine cities, others that were recycled in the nine cities and others with municipal variations in terms of practices at the end of their useful life. The following sections use the results of our survey to characterize the five major deficiencies of the U.S. Some products, such as corrugated cardboard and rinsed plastic jars, have predictable processing costs, stable demand from manufacturers, and a stable supply from waste streams of consumers.
This is good for all companies in the recycling supply chain. These products provide a consistent return on investment for processing facilities and reliable availability for manufacturers. Unfortunately, market stability is not the reality for most recycled products. The volatility of supply is due to the fact that recycling practices vary widely from region to region and over time. For example, our study included nine products that were accepted in some cities and not in others, including glass jars, plastic shells, and laminated cartons.
This variation is due to regional recovery facilities making autonomous decisions about which products to accept based on the expected return on investment, introducing geographical differences in the availability of supplies. Processing facilities can also change the products they accept over time, introducing temporary volatility in supply. There are also inconsistencies in the classification of grade or quality. A manufacturer can pay for non-virgin material of a certain quality, measured taking into account the weight of the recyclable content relative to the total weight of the bale, but receive lower quality material.
In some cases, the quality of a bale isn't guaranteed before shipping, and buyers are aware of these risks when buying from processors. When manufacturers buy in batches, demand volatility can occur in the short term. For example, if a paper manufacturer commits to using 50% recycled paper in its products, that 50% is an annual average. This means they can choose not to buy recycled material when prices are high and buy in bulk later in the year if prices go down.
Consumers who participate in recycling play the critical role of sorting recyclable materials at the point of disposal. The accuracy of consumer decisions about waste disposal directly influences the performance of the recycling system. In a survey, 94% of AmericansResidents said they supported recycling8, reflecting a strong will to participate, but a surprising mismatch with the actual recycling rate, which is 32 to 34%. In another study, approximately one in four items (or 25%) is incorrectly placed in the recycle bin 10. The findings of this study indicate that the error rate in recycling is even higher than these two studies suggest.
The precision with which consumers correctly dispose of items that are recycled has a dramatic impact on the efficiency and cost of the recycling system. When it comes to waste disposal, not all errors are the same. There are two types of errors that consumers can make when classifying their waste: false negatives and false positives. A false negative refers to the situation in which a consumer throws a recyclable product in the trash. This represents another leak in the recycling system, so an item that could have been recycled is not recycled.
A false positive, also called “contamination”, occurs when a consumer places a non-recyclable product in their recycle bin. The cost of pollution is much greater than the cost of throwing recyclable material in the trash. We will return to this cost argument in the next subsection. The geographical consistency of recycling practices helps consumers to know with greater certainty which products are recyclable.
Our results show that geographical consistency in which products are accepted for recycling is a key factor in improving classification accuracy. Our data shows that recyclable products in all nine cities had a very low error rate of 8%. Products that were not accepted in any of the nine cities had a higher elimination error rate of 33.7%, but it was still lower than the 52% error rate of products that were accepted in some cities but not in others (see figure). In addition, our study shows that the more cities recycle a particular item, the lower the error rate.
The correlation between disposal accuracy and the number of cities that recycle an item is 0.63, supporting the idea that there is a more uniform recycling practice in the United States. It could reduce deletion errors. When a consumer throws a recyclable item in the trash, it translates into an opportunity cost: an item whose value could have been captured through recycling and will instead end up in a landfill. Discarding recyclable materials also involves landfill costs, but landfill costs are considerably lower than the cost of processing a contaminated recycling supply chain.
The cost of pollution is the cost that occurs when a consumer throws away a non-recyclable material to your recycle bin. The cost of pollution is greater than the opportunity cost and the cost of the landfill combined. Pollution is costly for logistics companies. Recycled materials collected on the sidewalk are examined at the recovery facility.
If the inspection reveals excessive contamination, the entire cargo is sent to the landfill. This creates another leak in the recycling system, so large volumes of recyclable materials are not recycled. Unfortunately, previous research shows that contamination (false positives) is a much more common removal error than false negatives. This is due to the “wish cycle”, a phenomenon in which well-intentioned consumers find an item that they don't know how to classify and end up throwing it in the recycle bin in the hope that it can be recycled.
In our study, within the group of recyclable items accepted in some cities but not in others, the overall error rate was 52% (the central bar graph in the figure). Of those errors, 87% were false positives (or contamination). When people aren't sure how to dispose of something, they usually try to recycle it. Our study also sheds light on a possible solution to pollution.
Although there are still many elimination errors among products that are not recycled in any of the cities, the false positive rate for this product category is 12% lower than the false positive rate among products that are accepted in some cities and not in others (see the product group located further to the right and in the center).). This finding suggests that more uniform policies with respect to what is accepted and what is not accepted could reduce pollution costs. Contaminated and low-quality recycling materials are pre-competitive challenges. These problems affect the profitability of all companies in the recycling industry, including logistics companies, material recovery facilities and manufacturers, and reduce the competitiveness of the U.S.
recycling industry on an international scale. However, very little data is available and the sharing of best practices to improve collective performance is minimal. During our study, our team discovered an extreme lack of data on fundamental issues, such as what products are accepted in each municipality. The only way to find this data was to examine each municipality's website individually.
There is even less data available related to contamination rates of raw or processed materials. Reporting and accessing these data is the first step in understanding what processes cause and prevent pollution and in disseminating these best practices nationwide. Cost estimates, the volume of recyclable materials traded, and contamination rates are difficult to compare, making it very difficult to conclude what works and what doesn't. These leaks are so important that currently only 32.1% of U.S. waste is recycled or converted to compost 18. These leaks are financially hurting the U.S.
In the United States, as companies lose the opportunity to obtain financial value from waste. Other hidden costs of landfills are difficult to quantify, such as greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, the release of toxic and eternal chemicals that pose health problems, and the deterioration of property and land values, 19,20 Leaks also harm the United States environmentally, as recyclable materials end up unnecessarily in landfills. There are so many opportunities to repair leaks in the American recycling system, so that we can create value and conserve our natural resources. To correct the leaks, a market will be needed that is able to carefully and efficiently balance supply and demand and radically reduce the costs of pollution.
In the second article, we analyze the possible role of a national recycling standard in strengthening American strategies for reconfiguring value on online platforms. Berkeley-Haas's leading management magazine published at Berkeley Haas for more than sixty years, California Management Review seeks to share knowledge that challenges convention and shows a better way of doing business. Haas Business School at the University of California, Berkeley. California Management Review is a major academic management journal published at the University of California at Berkeley By Christian Blanco, Calvin Spanbauer and Sara Stienecker The United States' outdated approach to recycling is also bad for the environment.
Less oil to make glass products and it's 100 percent recyclable, it bothers me that this country doesn't promote the glass industry. The mixing and compaction of various types of recyclable materials, together with the inevitable mixing of non-recyclable materials, make the separation into quality materials that factories need, making final products difficult and expensive. They throw them in recycling bins every day, hurting the recycling economy and preventing manufacturers from being able to reuse recycled materials. They really want and need high-quality, competitively priced recycled products to advance their sustainable manufacturing goals and start closing the circle.