Plastic Recycling Is a Dead-End Street

 

Many cities have mandated recycling. Recycling doesn’t save money, it costs money. If it saved money, a mandate wouldn’t be necessary. The recycled material is sold on the market, but certainly income from such sales doesn’t cover expenses. The reason for recycling is about “saving the planet.” Probably most of those cities mandating recycling include plastics.

Remember hearing in the news a few years ago that China, which recycled most of the world’s plastic, wasn’t going to do it anymore? What is happening to all that garbage material collected? It turns out that plastics can’t be recycled, at least in a manner that makes any sense, economic or otherwise. We would be better off landfilling or incinerating it. What earth-hating environment-raping nutjob is spewing this nonsense?

You’ll never guess. Greenpeace.

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  1. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member
    9thDistrictNeighbor
    @9thDistrictNeighbor

    Link to story here.

    • #1
  2. Al French Moderator
    Al French
    @AlFrench

    9thDistrictNeighbor (View Comment):

    Link to story here.

    Thanks. Fixed it.

    I found the story on Pipeline, a site which Steven Hayward and John O’Sullivan write for. That article is worth reading, too.

    • #2
  3. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Al French: Many cities have mandated recycling. Recycling doesn’t save money, it costs money. If it saved money a mandate wouldn’t be necessary.

    Hm.  Unless the individual customers get a check in the mail or something that more than covers their bother, it doesn’t “pay for itself” as far as the real customers are concerned.

    • #3
  4. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Keeping the plastics out of the oceans. Most plastic in the oceans comes from Asia and South America (anyone remember the garbage in the harbor of Rio De Janiero). None of those places recycles anything , do they?  More suckers, we. 

    • #4
  5. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Flash graphene is the answer.

    https://news.rice.edu/news/2020/rice-lab-turns-trash-valuable-graphene-flash

    • #5
  6. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Al French:

    Many cities have mandated recycling. Recycling doesn’t save money, it costs money. If it saved money a mandate wouldn’t be necessary. The recycled material is sold on the market, but certainly income from such sales doesn’t cover expenses. The reason for recycling is about “saving the planet”. Probably most of those cities mandating recycling include plastics.

    Remember hearing in the news a few years ago that China, which recycled most of the world’s plastic wasn’t going to do it any more? What is happening to all that garbage material collected? It turns out that plastics can’t be recycled, at least in a manner that makes any sense, economic or otherwise. We would be better off landfilling or incinerating it. What earth-hating environment-raping nutjob is spewing this nonsense?

    You’ll never guess. Greenpeace.

     

    They also recommend an international treaty that would have us using more glass and less plastic, to pick just one item I read at random in that paper. 

    • #6
  7. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    My next NR column is about this very subject, and the fact that the faithful will continue to recycle plastic despite the authoritative word of bloody GREENPEACE. They’ll make the Japanese soldiers who hid in the jungle for years after the war look like faithless quitters.

    • #7
  8. Al French Moderator
    Al French
    @AlFrench

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    My next NR column is about this very subject, and the fact that the faithful will continue to recycle plastic despite the authoritative word of bloody GREENPEACE. They’ll make the Japanese soldiers who hid in the jungle for years after the war look like faithless quitters.

    Not just the faithful. There is an entire industry built up around recycling which will resist. And the NGO-bureaucracy complex. In the big cities we’re talking union jobs. So, no. Yours is a good analogy. 

    • #8
  9. namlliT noD Member
    namlliT noD
    @DonTillman

    I think it has become abundantly clear that the “business model” for government programs is:

    1. Come up with a believable virtuous cause, to
    2. Drain the treasury, and
    3. Pocket a percentage, oh and
    4. As a side effect, make things worse.

    The MAGA platform should include an audit of all government programs with virtuous intent.

    • #9
  10. Al French Moderator
    Al French
    @AlFrench

    namlliT noD (View Comment):

    I think it has become abundantly clear that the “business model” for government programs is:

    1. Come up with a believable virtuous cause, to
    2. Drain the treasury, and
    3. Pocket a percentage, oh and
    4. As a side effect, make things worse.

    The MAGA platform should include an audit of all government programs with virtuous intent.

    5.  Expand the power of the state at the expense of the liberty of the people.

    • #10
  11. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    The Greenpeace report appears to advocate the virtual banning of plastics.  

    • #11
  12. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    Mike H (View Comment):

    Flash graphene is the answer.

    https://news.rice.edu/news/2020/rice-lab-turns-trash-valuable-graphene-flash

    Mike, it’s good to see you again!

    • #12
  13. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    Al French: Many cities have mandated recycling. Recycling doesn’t save money, it costs money. If it saved money a mandate wouldn’t be necessary.

    Correct.  Recycling metal is economically viable.  Industry has been melting down and recycling metal since long before there were any government mandates because it’s cheaper to do than refining it out of ore.  It costs more to make paper from recycled paper than from trees.

    Having said that, it is not my position that recycling plastic or other things will never be worth doing.  Just as fracking has made oil fields profitable that were thought to be played out decades ago, new technology may come along that brings the cost way down for recycling some things.  So let’s just do what makes economic sense, and if something comes along that makes even more sense, we can switch.

    • #13
  14. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    So what happens to all the stuff thrown in the recycling bin?

    • #14
  15. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    I like recycling in my city because it is free and plastic and aluminum and cardboard go away. All the same stuff in two bins. Two bins a week! It would be horrible to lose that, especially the broken down boxes. It is bad enough that glass does not go out anymore. 

    (free) Recycling today, (free) Recycling tomorrow, (free) Recycling forever. 

    Or, as Homer Simpson said “Can’t somebody else do it?”

    • #15
  16. Al French Moderator
    Al French
    @AlFrench

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    So what happens to all the stuff thrown in the recycling bin?

    That is a good question to ask your local recycling agency. And your question prompts me to ask. I will email the local agency the Greenpeace article and ask them what they are doing with the plastic, and report back any response. (I will be shocked if I get one, but that is another post.) I suggest readers do the same. I will also ask the local taxpayer association which I help support financially.

    Further response in a later comment.

     

    • #16
  17. DonG (CAGW is a Scam) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a Scam)
    @DonG

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    My next NR column is about this very subject, and the fact that the faithful will continue to recycle plastic despite the authoritative word of bloody GREENPEACE. They’ll make the Japanese soldiers who hid in the jungle for years after the war look like faithless quitters.

    But, Greenpeace wants you to just consume less stuff and use glass and wood materials. 

    Speaking of plastic, why is that nobody has ever released a photograph of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?   Because it is a hoax! 

    • #17
  18. James Salerno Coolidge
    James Salerno
    @JamesSalerno

    I live by a simple motto: everything comes from the earth, everything goes back to the earth. 

    • #18
  19. Al French Moderator
    Al French
    @AlFrench

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    I like recycling in my city because it is free and plastic and aluminum and cardboard go away. All the same stuff in two bins. Two bins a week! It would be horrible to lose that, especially the broken down boxes. It is bad enough that glass does not go out anymore.

    (free) Recycling today, (free) Recycling tomorrow, (free) Recycling forever.

    Or, as Homer Simpson said “Can’t somebody else do it?”

    “free”

    • #19
  20. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Back in the 90s and 00s I worked in paper recycling.  It was known then that the entire industry was mostly a scam.  The amount of energy and cost to recycle were prohibitive and would only work with government support and forced legal restrictions.  The recycle paper mills only existed because under Clinton the government and whoever they could force had to buy paper with a certain percentage of recycle.  Even then the chemicals and energy to create it was prohibitive, expensive and extremely dangerous.  Example one of the chemicals we used for whitening of the paper was in powder form.  It would cake in the auger and if heated at a relatively low level turned into a gas that would kill you fairly quickly.  It almost killed me one day I was on the floor.   We regularly used acids that were fairly strong.  Lost more than one pair of shoes / boots to them over those years as they would come apart while you were walking a bit later.  

    Metal is a bit more viable but not by much.  Plastics were almost impossible.  It was understood that all this was government supported scams and frankly everybody that ran the industry were a bit shady.  Ended up in court a couple of times as some of these were jailed.  One of the reasons I have very little respect for the government.  

    • #20
  21. Misthiocracy has never Member
    Misthiocracy has never
    @Misthiocracy

    Al French: We would be better off landfilling or incinerating it.

    I don’t really care if the plastic is all shipped to a landfill in China. I recycle because I know that once my city’s current landfill reaches capacity it will be next to impossible to expand it or to get a new landfill or incinerator approved. 

     

    • #21
  22. Misthiocracy has never Member
    Misthiocracy has never
    @Misthiocracy

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):
    Example one of the chemicals we used for whitening of the paper was in powder form.  It would cake in the auger and if heated at a relatively low level turned into a gas that would kill you fairly quickly.  It almost killed me one day I was on the floor.   We regularly used acids that were fairly strong.  Lost more than one pair of shoes / boots to them over those years as they would come apart while you were walking a bit later.  

    Are such bleaching agents and acids not required when making paper from wood pulp?

    • #22
  23. Misthiocracy has never Member
    Misthiocracy has never
    @Misthiocracy

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):
    Metal is a bit more viable but not by much.  Plastics were almost impossible.  It was understood that all this was government supported scams and frankly everybody that ran the industry were a bit shady.  Ended up in court a couple of times as some of these were jailed.  One of the reasons I have very little respect for the government.  

    My favourite post-Fleming James Bond novel is Carte Blanche.  The villain is a recycling tycoon.

    • #23
  24. Misthiocracy has never Member
    Misthiocracy has never
    @Misthiocracy

    James Salerno (View Comment):

    I live by a simple motto: everything comes from the earth, everything goes back to the earth.

    Yabbut, often at different depths.

    • #24
  25. Misthiocracy has never Member
    Misthiocracy has never
    @Misthiocracy

    DonG (CAGW is a Scam) (View Comment):
    But, Greenpeace wants you to just consume less stuff and use glass and wood materials. 

    Except when they don’t.

    https://duckduckgo.com/?q=greenpeace+protest+timber+logging+industry

    • #25
  26. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    I don’t understand being against lumber industry. Trees are a renewable resource. 

    • #26
  27. Al French Moderator
    Al French
    @AlFrench

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    I don’t understand being against lumber industry. Trees are a renewable resource.

    Short answer: they’re Luddites.

    • #27
  28. Misthiocracy has never Member
    Misthiocracy has never
    @Misthiocracy

    In my city we also have curbside composting pick-up.

    In theory this should be the most profitable of the “waste diversion” programs, because the composting can be done locally and the product can be sold locally.

    Instead, the city pays a company to do the composting, and the company then gets to sell the product.

    So, it’s incredibly profitable for the company, but not so much for the city.

    • #28
  29. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Misthiocracy has never (View Comment):

    In my city we also have curbside composting pick-up.

    In theory this should be the most profitable of the “waste diversion” programs, because the composting can be done locally and the product can be sold locally.

    Instead, the city pays a company to do the composting, and the company then gets to sell the product.

    So, it’s incredibly profitable for the company, but not so much for the city.

    Could the city do it profitably if they had to hire city-union workers etc?

    • #29
  30. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Al French (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    I don’t understand being against lumber industry. Trees are a renewable resource.

    Short answer: they’re Luddites.

    Worse than Luddites. 

    The Luddites had a point. They did lose jobs.

    • #30
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