We’ve all been there at some point, sitting at our kitchen counter with two garbage bags attempting to separate the “good trash” from the “bad trash.”
Certainly, those faceless bureaucrats within those local municipalities know exactly what is recyclable and what is not or at least that’s what we’ve been told.
However, a new report now claims that recycling programs may actually be a big waste of time and money within many communities because of the high costs, and inefficiencies associated with recycling.
Currently, there are stockpiles of aluminum cans, scrap paper and plastics piling up at plants all across the country that are simply sitting there because there’s no longer a worthwhile profit-margin in processing them for export or domestic markets.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the cost of recycling aluminum cans has plummeted over 30% since the summer of 2018.
Moreover, the slowdown in recycling aluminum cans comes at a time when the entire recycling market is experiencing a universal slowdown within the waste management industry.
Lancaster County, Penn., Solid Waste Management Authority chief James Warner told the Wall Street Journal in March 2018. “Recycling as we know it isn’t working.”
Adding, “There’s always been ups and downs in the market, but this is the biggest disruption that I can recall.”
For example, aluminum cans are limited in their capacity regarding the type of aluminum products they end up as. Auto and plane manufacturers shy away from reconstituted aluminum from recycled cans. Moreover social and economic pressure from environmentalists regarding the issue of recycling aluminum products has become less important within a depleting market.
According to NPR, China has for years been the main player within the recycling chain taking an estimated 70% of the world’s plastic waste before lowering its capacity in 2018. To make matters even more problematic, no other country has the infrastructure and capacity to process recycled goods like China,
Prior to 2018, the United States took advantage of China’s massive market for recyclables. The country used cheap labor to sort through the millions upon millions of recycled materials, picking out the most profitable materials; something that America’s recycling plants couldn’t financially afford to do.
Moreover, the link between what takes place at our local municipal recycling plants and landfills and what occurs thousands of miles away in places like China eventually affects us here at home.
In the 1990s America’s recycling program and the demand for less trash in landfills along with China’s need for materials such as corrugated cardboard to feed its economic boom served a dual purpose for both countries. Soon shipping lines that normally brought manufactured goods to America from China were also filling those same containers in America with paper, scrap metal and plastic bottles for the return voyage back to China.
However, in 2018 China set a new standard regarding the quality of the recyclables coming into their country. Before the new ruling, as much as 20% of the recyclables sent to China was waste. Now just 0.5% of waste products are allowed within each shipment of recyclables, a standard far too strict for American scrap companies to meet and also maintain a profit.
That domino effect has finally come to American cities and municipalities. Consequently, some municipalities are sending recyclables directly to landfills.
Also according to the Atlantic, waste-management firm’s claim, there’s no longer a market for recyclables, leaving many communities with only two choices either paying more for recycling or simply throwing it away as garbage.
Journalist John Tierney penned an op-ed article in the New York Times in 2015 regarding how environmental advocates have successfully brainwashed Americans for years regarding the myth of recycling stating, “relentlessly promoted as a goal in and of itself: an unalloyed public good and private virtue that is indoctrinated in students from Kindergarten through college.”
Tierney actually foretold as early as 1996 the limitations of recycling in another New York Times piece writing at the time, “the most wasteful activity in modern America: a waste of time and money, a waste of human and natural resources.”