Recycling: Part Two

I was perplexed when our town instituted single stream recycling.

It felt we had finally figured how to separate our recyclables, and had incorporated the chore into our routine. The reward was handing over a tiny bag of actual landfill garbage at the end of the week, and it felt good to make the effort for the sake of our environment.

We had developed a habit.
If we didn’t want to drop off the recycling ourselves, the town collected it from separate bins at our homes every two weeks.
But we were willing to do the work…a kind of atonement for our society living so lavishly.

I enjoyed dropping off our recycling. I felt a regular visit to the town refuse center was the slap in the face I needed to rein in my profligate use of resources.

Our town threw us a curve ball a year ago when they switched to Single Stream Recycling- tossing all our recyclables together, willy-nilly, in one giant container.
I couldn’t figure out how this could possibly be a step forward.
If all the recyclables are mixed together, what could possibly be the cost benefit, and who are the people with the awful task of sorting through this mess?

Searching online, I discovered this new method utilized ingenious technologies to separate recyclables.
Magnets, electric currents and infrared lasers were doing a lot of the sorting.
I’ve also seen videos of people working like maniacs, sorting the trash as it flies by on a conveyer belt.

All this seems very expensive, but apparently our garbage, if cleanly sorted, has value and is sold like a commodity.
The cleaner it is, the greater the price per ton.

Evidently, the mixed paper garners the least dollar amount because of glass particles trapped in the waste, harming the machinery at the paper mills where it’s remade into new products.
I found the following website to be helpful:
http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/conservation/issues/recycling-reality.htm

Towns seem to like the single stream method because of greater household participation, and cheaper hauling costs.
I don’t understand why glass isn’t collected separately, so our recycled paper could be a more valuable resource.

In my opinion, the jury is still out on the feasibility of single stream. I’m wondering how much of the junk tossed into the recycling stew is contaminated, and ultimately finds it’s way to the landfill. This new technology potentially breeds carelessness and contamination from unwashed food containers, and paper peppered with glass particles ending up in the landfill…

I’m thrilled more people are recycling.
I want be more resourceful and figure out how, in this era of convenience, to add as little garbage to the stream as possible.

Plastics have taken over the packaging industry, a material that takes forever to break down.
Dense islands of plastic refuse float on the currents of the ocean.

How can we turn this beautiful ship around? Oh my goodness…

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