Newsletter note from a neighbor who moved to the US from China:
“Hi neighbors, I know lots of you have heard of the recycling crisis in the US since China’s ban on importing foreign garbage in 2017. There are many articles about this issue, such as this one from the guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/21/us-plastic-recycling-landfills. It says: “As municipalities are forced to deal with their own trash instead of exporting it, they are discovering a dismaying fact: much of this plastic is completely unrecyclable.
“The issue is with a popular class of plastics that people have traditionally been told to put into their recycling bins – a hodgepodge of items such as clamshell-style food packaging, black plastic trays, take-out containers and cold drink cups, which the industry dubs “mixed plastic”. It has become clear that there are virtually no domestic manufacturers that want to buy this waste in order to turn it into something else.
“Take Los Angeles county. The Guardian reports that recycling facilities are separating “mixed plastics” from those plastics which still retain value – such as water bottles, laundry detergent bottles and milk jugs – and, contrary to what customers expect, sending them directly to a landfill or incinerator.
”I also want to add that the process of recycling is super-polluting. My hometown in China is not far from a processing center that used to accept plastic recycling from the US. The cancer rate there skyrocketed and the groundwater is now no longer drinkable.” (Name withheld)
I once went round a recycling plant with my wife. Most plastics, we were told, were being recycled. At that time we had to separate out different types of plastic, ready for collection. What I didn’t take on board is that the (mostly Asian) countries that took the recycling were stopping doing so. It now seems that most of it now goes into landfills – not a happy situation, to say the least.
What is nor explained is why the plastics have to be used in the first place (cost, presumably). Salad, for instance, comes in large, clumsy clear plastic boxes. Why is it impossible to produce mass recyclable plastics, or similar materials that are transportable, light and hygienic? This would be welcomed by everyone, or at least all those who would welcome reducing the role of oil-producing companies.