Monday, November 15, 2021

NPR, PBS, and the New York Times ask how to fix recycling for America Recycles Day 2021

Happy America Recycles Day! My catchphrase for today is "America doesn't just need to recycle more, it needs to recycle better." To that end, I'm sharing three videos, beginning with NPR asking and answering Is Recycling Worth It Anymore? The Truth Is Complicated.

America produces more waste per capita than any other country in the world. And recycling, which was once considered the solution to that problem, isn’t really working anymore.

Recycling works, but it’s not magic. As America continues to lead the world in per capita waste production, it’s becoming more and more clear that everybody-- manufacturer and consumers-- “over-believe” in recycling.

This film is based in part on Throughline's podcast episode "The Litter Myth".
Just like I pointed out yesterday on World Diabetes Day, the issues with recycling serve as examples for Commoner's Laws, particularly everything must go somewhere; there is no "away," despite what consumers think. The other three laws apply, too: everything is connected to everything else, there is no free lunch, and nature knows best, which recycling attempts to imitate. The imitation is not perfect, as "there is no waste in nature" but there is still plenty of waste in recycling. PBS shows how humans may better mimic natural processes, at least in terms of the outcome, when it posed the question Recycling plastic has been an uphill challenge. Could chemical recycling change that?

Plastic pollution is a global threat on our lands and seas. Since World War II, we have created over 9 billion cubic tons of it, yet its recycling remains extremely limited. As part of our "Breakthroughs" series, Miles O'Brien looks at new ideas and innovations, such as chemical recycling and urban mining, that may enable better recycling in the future.
Chemical recycling and urban mining are technological solutions. The New York Times has a legal/governmental solution as the answer to Is Your Plastic Actually Being Recycled?

The greatest trick corporations ever played was making us think we could recycle their products.

In the Video Op-Ed above, we debunk a recycling myth that has lulled us into guilt-free consumption for decades.

This holiday season, the United States Postal Service expects to ship almost one billion packages — cardboard boxes full of electronics and fabric and plastic galore. And the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans generate 25 percent more waste in the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s than during the rest of the year, an additional one million tons per week.

But hey, most of it is recyclable, right?

Well, not really.
While the NPR video pointed out that regulations governing recycling differ from state to state. The New York Times has a national solution for labeling products to show how recyclable they really are, a form of producer responsibility. That definitely will change what goes into recycling bins, but I don't know if the federal government has the power to decide what gets recycled once consumers put items into them. The FTA certainly doesn't. Maybe the EPA has that power, but I don't know. Anyone, anyone, Bueller, anyone?

In the meantime, pay attention to what your local recycling facility actually takes, put that in your recyling bins, and stop "wish-cycling." That doesn't help anyone, including the planet.

I'll return with non-holiday programming tomorrow, unless I succumb to National Fast Food Day. Stay tuned and, unironically, happy America Recycles Day!

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