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Thread: Americans' plastic recycling is dumped in landfills, investigation shows

  1. #1
    Veteran Member grulla's Avatar
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    Default Americans' plastic recycling is dumped in landfills, investigation shows

    Erin McCormick
    June 2, 2019


    A sign on an upside-down dumpster spelled the end of Pearl Pai’s long romance with plastics recycling.
    For years, Pai and her family generated almost no trash. She carefully washed, sorted and bagged hard-to-recycle items and drove them two towns over from her home in Berkeley, California, to the area’s best recycling center.
    But on a gray morning in late May, when she pulled up with a bag of flimsy plastic clamshell-style containers, yogurt tubs and meat trays, the sign informed her that, “due to poor market conditions”, these items would no longer be accepted for recycling.

    Continue reading at: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/21/us-plastic-recycling-landfills

    Last edited by Islander; 4 Weeks Ago at 10:49 AM.

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    Veteran Member grulla's Avatar
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    Default Re: Americans' plastic recycling is dumped in landfills, investigation shows

    What brought this to my attention is that just yesterday, I brought 4 tall tubs of squished, recyclable plastic jars, bottles, etc. (appx 10 compressed cubic feet) to the outer recycle dumpster area of my local county landfill, only to find out that the recycle dumpster no longer accepts plastics. Last year, the landfill had already done the same with glass, so both are now considered normal garbage that is weighed on the way into the inner landfill area. The only items that are now recycled are metal cans and paper/cardboard.
    Last edited by grulla; 4 Weeks Ago at 09:16 AM.

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    Veteran Member Mr. Wizard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Americans' plastic recycling is dumped in landfills, investigation shows

    Recycling plastics is more difficult than I ever imagined. **Most plastic containers have a number on the bottom inside a three-arrowed triangle, which indicates the type of material used to make the plastic. This is important because not all plastics can be recycled, and not all plastics can be mixed together to be recycled. This fact, alone, makes recycling terribly expensive and serves as the biggest deterrent to recycling. The numbers range from 1 thru 7 and each number stands for a different resin (a different chemical). Different resins melt at different temperatures, and most recycling plants are set up to take only specific resin types. To exacerbate matters, the caps and lids on most plastic containers are made from different resins and must be recycled separately. Generally, plastics with numbers 1 or 2 on the bottom, with a neck smaller than the base, are most acceptable for recycling. Plastics with other numbers, especially #7, present special recycling challenges and are generally viewed as non-recyclable.
    Last edited by Mr. Wizard; 4 Weeks Ago at 02:34 PM.

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    Veteran Member Maurya's Avatar
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    Default Re: Americans' plastic recycling is dumped in landfills, investigation shows

    Not all recycling efforts pay attention to the numbering system, although they should do. Our local recycling drop off spot wants things sorted by color, although they do refer to the numbers whenever they feel like it. They have very little understanding of the nature of plastic production. Actually I do have some understanding, having worked in the plastic production industry (for example Dart Container which had twelve fire tube boilers, in addition to many chemical reactor pressure vessels; I was out there every two weeks.) The head honcho is an egomaniac who has fired most of her volunteers, and has alienated the public so that most of the plastics are once again being put straight into the trash. As our landfill is full, frequently catches on fire, shutting down the airport to which it is adjacent, it is hard to figure out what we will do next.

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    Veteran Member Mr. Wizard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Americans' plastic recycling is dumped in landfills, investigation shows

    Maurya, it's nice to have someone at HH who's actually worked in the plastic production industry. I was just recently educated on the meaning of the numbers at the bottom of plastic containers. I've noticed them for years, but didn't know their meaning. Sounds like your local recycling drop off spot is probably not doing much "real" recycling. Apparently, the process used to produce the plastic, the source of the plastic (oil, sugar, or corn based), and the materials mixed with the plastic all matter very much if true recycling is going to take place. This is true for paper too, like coffee cups at Starbucks--the cup is paper but insulated with a plastic lining. It's way too expensive to properly recycle a product like that. People throw the cups in a recycle bin, but those cups head straight to landfills.

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    Veteran Member grulla's Avatar
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    Default Re: Americans' plastic recycling is dumped in landfills, investigation shows

    "Maurya", "Not all recycling efforts pay attention to the numbering system, although they should do. Our local recycling drop off spot wants things sorted by color, although they do refer to the numbers whenever they feel like it. They have very little understanding of the nature of plastic production."

    It seems these recycle centers are not doing their jobs correctly, hence the above described suspension of plastic recycling. What's that young Dutch engineer, Boylan Slat,
    going to do with all his ocean recovered plastics, once his invention is perfected??? https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/y...-he-do-n882486

    ALSO: "...(for example Dart Container which had twelve fire tube boilers, in addition to many chemical reactor pressure vessels; I was out there every two weeks.)" Recalling our HH discussion from 11/2012,
    https://www.hawkeshealth.net/communi...iler+inspector, POSTS #34 & 35), and with so many steam locomotive preservations, resurrections, and reactivations going on all over the U.S., some with firebox conversions from coal to fuel oil, I'll bet you could make a good living traveling all over the country as a high pressure steam boiler inspector, independent private contractor. Here is one of the latest and greatest examples: https://www.up.com/heritage/steam/4014/index.htm

    That said, since (the above mentioned) plastics are a REFINED bi-product of coal, I wonder if all that waste plastic could be put to good use as CLEAN BURNING boiler fuel???
    Last edited by grulla; 2 Weeks Ago at 09:23 AM.

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    Administrator Islander's Avatar
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    Default Re: Americans' plastic recycling is dumped in landfills, investigation shows

    Another factor that contributes to the decline in available options for plastic recycling is that the operations that except plastic are full, they have no available space. My town recycles (it's a long history but each family has a big yellow bin with the town logo on it for holding our recyclables). I make a trip only once every six weeks or so because I generate so little waste. The cat food and coconut milk come in cans; nuts and dried fruit from the supermarket come in clamshell style containers. And those are about the only recyclables I have. I buy little that can be disposed of, because I can or freeze all of my homegrown food. I even re-use the Ziploc™ plastic bags that last year's vegetables and berries were frozen in. #farminglifestyle
    ➤ Happiness is the frosting on the cake of contentment.

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    Veteran Member Maurya's Avatar
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    Default Re: Americans' plastic recycling is dumped in landfills, investigation shows

    Great idea, Grulla, but no. The boilers in my example had been retrofitted to be fired on very inexpensive land fill gas. This can be piped in from a large land fill, but is a filthy fuel, requiring quite a bit of maintenance to the fire sides of the boilers. For example, when they tried running internal combustion engines on it, converted from Diesel engines, they found that it tore up the cylinder liners so badly that it had to be abandoned. Plastics indeed are flammable, and could be used along with some coal (to keep the BTUs high enough) and ground limestone in a fluidized bed combustor, which then fires a boiler, the steam from which powers a turbine hard coupled to a generator. These usually are called "trash to cash" plants in the US. There used to quite a few of them, but they were quite expensive to operate, and as we know $$ rule the world. I think that there is an improved Swedish technology that could be used if some clever municipality or government agency could do the right thing.

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