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Old 2021-02-11, 15:29   #1
storm5510
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Default Plastic Recycling. Why Bother?

Greetings!

I have been seeing ads on TV and other sources which say that only 9% of new plastic gets recycled. Of this 9%, only 9% of it gets recycled again. If my math is correct, then 0.008% of it gets to the third recycle. (0.09 * 0.09). I have a covered pickup-truck bed full of large contractor-grade bags full of plastic. The only grades accepted in my area are 1 and 2, the numbers inside the little triangles. Just these two grades make up the vast majority of what I save vs. what I put in the garbage.

If the numbers are so bad then why should I, or anyone else, bother with doing it? Nearly all of it will eventually end up in a landfill...
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Old 2021-02-11, 16:19   #2
tServo
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by storm5510 View Post
Greetings!

I have been seeing ads on TV and other sources which say that only 9% of new plastic gets recycled. Of this 9%, only 9% of it gets recycled again. If my math is correct, then 0.008% of it gets to the third recycle. (0.09 * 0.09). I have a covered pickup-truck bed full of large contractor-grade bags full of plastic. The only grades accepted in my area are 1 and 2, the numbers inside the little triangles. Just these two grades make up the vast majority of what I save vs. what I put in the garbage.

If the numbers are so bad then why should I, or anyone else, bother with doing it? Nearly all of it will eventually end up in a landfill...
I, too, have wondered about this.
Recently, in the past year or 2. I have read some articles, most by respected environmental advocates and groups, that totally berate plastic recycling, especially with the much higher percentages bring commonly circulated than the ones you've stated. Most authors claim the plastic producers themselves are pumping out these lies in order to lull the public into thinking that "it's ok if I use plastic stuff since I will recycle it and everything will be peachy."
Actually, we're probably lucky if this junk "just" goes to a landfill. An enormous percentage wind up in rivers, lakes, and the ocean. The giant garbage island ( continent ? } floating in the pacific is composed mostly of plastic
The only sane solution is to stop using plastic, tax it heavily, and start switching to something less obnoxious.
It makes me think fondly of glass containers of old.
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Old 2021-02-11, 16:48   #3
xilman
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Recycling rates are very location dependent. I believe Europe is markedly better than the US in this respect. Here in the UK we can recycle markedly more than 2 types of plastic.

Further, the term "recycling" is much wider than "re-using as plastic". For instance, plastics are being used for road resurfacing mixtures. There is no good reason I can see why their energy content can't be partially recycled through burning and electricity generation, though I do not yet know whether that occurs in practice.
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Old 2021-02-11, 16:49   #4
LaurV
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Quote:
Originally Posted by storm5510 View Post
If my math is correct,
it is not, you are off by two orders of magnitude.
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Old 2021-02-11, 17:50   #5
storm5510
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LaurV View Post
it is not, you are off by two orders of magnitude.
Then correct me...

Quote:
Originally Posted by tServo
The only sane solution is to stop using plastic, tax it heavily, and start switching to something less obnoxious. It makes me think fondly of glass containers of old.
Some small companies here in the U.S. are marketing their liquid products in glass bottles. I clearly remember the 16 ounce returnable soda bottles. Many grocery items now in plastic started in glass. Milk was in waxed paper containers for a long time. These things should make a return, IMO.
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Old 2021-02-11, 17:56   #6
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Code:
   0  100.00%
   1  9.00%
   2  0.81%
   3  0.07%
   4  0.01%
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Old 2021-02-11, 19:02   #7
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Reuse is better than recycle.
I have a collection of 1 and 5 gallon plastic pails, and gallon and smaller plastic bottles, used for carrying or storing or transporting water, sand, sawdust, kindling, ash, other recyclables, garden produce, etc. Such repurposed containers can last many years if mostly kept out of sunlight.

I refill pint size water or soda bottles with drinking water until they eventually mechanically fail, or get something growing in them (mold, algae) that's too hard to clean out.

A gallon pail from sherbet or ice cream makes a handy carrier for 7 such water bottles; very easy to put in or out of the truck or carry to a sink for rinsing and refilling.
I often see people leaving grocery stores with cases of relatively expensive bottled water. Those are probably thrown out a car window or into the trash after emptying once.
Polyethylene gallon milk bottles can be repeatedly rinsed and then refilled with water. Eventually the blow-molded seams develop leaks. Store in an area that won't be damaged by getting wet. These are for backup for when the power fails or our well does, or refilling humidifiers, birdbath, etc.
Pringles can lids make fine coasters. The cans can be converted to directional WIFI antennas, or used to store fireplace matches, short welding rods, pencils, etc. Or popcorn. The metallized cardboard walls are probably not recyclable, but the steel bottoms are.

Per https://www.thebalancesmb.com/plasti...igures-2877886 it's 9% of all plastic in the US municipal waste stream recycled, but almost 27% of bottles, while 16% gets used as fuel.
That 9% per generation gives 100% first use, 9% first recycling generation, 0.81% second, 0.073% third, but for bottles, 100% first use, 26.8% first recycling generation, 7.2% second, 1.9% third, 0.5% fourth.

It's hard for a consumer to reuse a lot of it, like that blasted hard plastic blow molded shell so many small things are packaged in, that almost requires a tin snip or aviation snip to open. Burning those shells seems like karma fulfilled.
One of the barriers to recycling of plastic is that the end products are sometimes laminated composites of different chemistries for different properties and functions.

Glass recycling in the US is also low, at 33% https://cen.acs.org/materials/inorga...S-broken/97/i6
Glass outlasts plastic in landfills or in the sun.
In my area, recycling is single-bin at the curb, for steel, aluminum, copper, brass, zinc, magnesium, glass of all colors, clean cardboard (no pizza grease), all paper types, and plastics 1 thru 7. That creates lower recycle rates than multiple-stream. Some minor change could make pizza boxes recyclable or reusable, such as a separate thin true biodegradeable plastic liner.

Why not dispense with some of the nonreusable containers entirely, and sell more items sans packaging, from bulk dispensers into consumer owned reusable containers? Scenes like this are the exception in the US. https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/departments/bulk
In one local store, part of their Covid19 program is to ban use of reusable shopping bags!

We don't generally buy motor fuel in single-use packaging. But that's the only way motor lubricants are sold to consumers. I repurposed several old metal oil containers (1-2.5 gallon) as gas cans, with overall red paint and black labeling paint.

This history looks interesting. https://disposableamerica.org/course...manufacturing/

Last fiddled with by kriesel on 2021-02-11 at 19:17
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Old 2021-02-11, 20:06   #8
Viliam Furik
 
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If you get a bit bored while waiting for your next prime test to finish, you can recycle some of it yourself:



Last fiddled with by Viliam Furik on 2021-02-11 at 20:07
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Old 2021-02-11, 20:53   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by storm5510 View Post
Then correct me...
"To express a fraction as a percentage, multiply by 100."

.09 or 9/100 is 9/100 * 100 = 9%

.09 * .09 = 9/100 * 9/100 = 81/10000 is 81/10000 * 100 = 82/100% or 0.81%

My diagnosis: You forgot to multiply by 100.
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Old 2021-02-11, 21:21   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kriesel View Post
It's hard for a consumer to reuse a lot of it, like that blasted hard plastic blow molded shell so many small things are packaged in, that almost requires a tin snip or aviation snip to open.
I hate those things!

Quote:
In my area, recycling is single-bin at the curb, for steel, aluminum, copper, brass, zinc, magnesium, glass of all colors, clean cardboard (no pizza grease), all paper types, and plastics 1 thru 7. That creates lower recycle rates than multiple-stream. Some minor change could make pizza boxes recyclable or reusable, such as a separate thin true biodegradeable plastic liner.
I have seen instructions on "single stream recycling" bins that they will not take plastic bags. The reason I heard for this was, that the machinery can separate paper, different types of plastic, different kinds of metal, and glass. But plastic bags, being flexible, stretchy, and fairly strong, tend to gum up the works.
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Old 2021-02-11, 23:17   #11
chalsall
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Quote:
Originally Posted by storm5510 View Post
Nearly all of it will eventually end up in a landfill...
At the end of the day, it all comes down to a cost-benefit analysis. Economic cross-overs of curves of importance.

I agree with the above in this thread that the sane order is Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

Plastic can't be recycled unless it is clean (how expensive is water at the source?).

And the need to be separate out for processing based on each plastics' chemistry. And is transported to where actual recycling can take place.

So long as the complex hydrocarbons do actually end in a landfill (and not in the rivers, seas, and oceans) this can be modeled as a reasonably sane form of carbon sequestering.

Just don't burn it to extract energy (unless under extremely well-controlled environments, and at extremely high temperature).

Thoughts on this domain welcomed.
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