Where I live, the city government recently decided to eliminate curbside recycling. Like many people, I’ve just come to expect that recycling is a normal part of life. I’ve had the small bins into which we sorted the recycling—paper in one, glass in another, metal cans in a third. Most recently, we had the large bins—the same size as garbage cans—which accepted all recyclables. We faithfully tried to make sure that what went into the recycling bin was bona fide recyclable.
I remember being at Disney World years ago and being told that the park benches were made of recycled milk bottles. A while back, we were told that the cardboard that we put into the bin was sent to China and would return to the USA in 6-8 weeks later as boxes containing Chinese made televisions, computers, or other products. I took both these as encouraging statements.
Today, however, there are news stories reporting that most plastics have actually never been recyclable. The oil industry, which provides the raw materials for plastics, apparently has been lying for decades to increase their profits. Our recycler announced a while back that the Chinese needed us to be more careful with our paper recycling—too many pizza boxes covered with cheese and such. This, coming from the same people who sold us contaminated baby formula, children’s toys painted with lead paint, and laptop computers with built-in hardware hacks.
So, everything is going to the landfill. Add to that the clothing that is headed there as well. This is a significant amount because as people chase fashion, the lifespan of an article of clothing gets shorter as we make room for the latest style. There are so many discarded items of clothing that second-hand stores can’t accept them all, so they go to the dump.
The packaging for products is a major contributor. Marketing experts occasionally admit that “New and Improved” often refers to the package, not the actual product. I remember when milk and soda arrived in glass bottles with a deposit. Many times in grade school, I’d find enough bottles to buy a box of pumpkin seeds or even a candy bar.
I don’t know the real numbers, but my SWAG* is that around 10 percent is real recycling and 90 percent is smoke and mirrors. Oh, well.
Now, if I could only convince Louis De Joy to have all the junk mail I find in my mailbox delivered directly to the dump and leave me out of the process.
* SWAG – Scientific Wild Assed Guess