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Home > Garbage and Recycling > Assumptions And Myths  

Garbage and Recycling: Assumptions and Myths

assumptions
It is surprising what some people think about recycling. Let us try to gain some perspective.

 

It is too time consuming to recycle.

Myth: The act of throwing something into a garbage can takes a little bit of time. Recycling is very similar in that you are putting items in a location different than the garbage. Some items may require a quick rinse. However, you do not have to start with those items.
     An example of this is at a restaurant you may take your boxes out the back door, break them down and place them into the dumpster. If a cardboard dumpster where next to that, the effort is the same.
Many waste disposal companies can set up routes to your home or business that pick up your recyclables. If that is not available, many recyclers have massive recycle dumpsters in the parking lots of places you may drive by everyday. It does not take much time to load your recyclables in your vehicle every week or two and stop by those dumpsters on the way to work or the store.
     When you get into a routine, it is surprising just how little extra time (if any) you  are spending recycling. Also, the long term benefit of many people spending just a little extra time makes a big impact on reducing landfill waste.

Recycling is too smelly.

Myth: Garbage is smelly. Many people put their garbage into a can with a lid so it does not smell up the house. Most would also put a plastic garbage bag into that can so that they can capture the smelly liquids as they remove the garbage from the house. 
    The things that tend to be smelly in your garbage is left over food and drink. It smells because it is organic matter that is decaying. This would come from empty pop cans, glass jars and bottles and tin cans. Paper and cardboard is not smelly. You could start with just paper and cardboard.
The pop cans, glass, tin cans and plastic food/drink containers can get smelly. We do not suggest that you send them through the dish washer. A tiny amount of water does wonders for getting most of the smelly stuff out of your recyclables.
     Every once in a while you can spray out your recycle bins to keep the smell away. However, if you are giving a small rinse to your items, there should not be a smell from the bins.
     Most recyclers will accept your items even if they are not rinsed out.

Recycling takes up too much space.

Myth: You do not need a separate warehouse for your recyclables. Some bins for recycling are stackable so it need only take up a couple of square feet.
     Some, recyclable materials can also be compressed into a smaller form. Examples of this are: cardboard boxes can be broken down, aluminum and tin cans cans be crushed, plastic and paper milk cartons can be crushed.
Be aware that some recyclables will accumulate faster than others in your home. Assign smaller amount of space for those items.
    If your space is really small, assign a small bucket to collect all your recyclables. Then every few days to a week bring it to an area with separate bins. For some municipal recycle routes, all your recyclables go into one bin. When they dump the truck, the recyclables get separated.

It is not worth the effort.

Myth: As the 2010 EPA report on Municipal Solid waste points out, we diverted approximately 34% of our solid waste from landfills. If we did a 10% better job (37.4%) we would have diverted 8.5 million tons more from the land fills. That is 17,000,000,000 pounds less in the land fill in 2010.
     Our point is, every bit helps. When millions of people help just a little bit more we can move mountains. Your efforts are not wasted, they are added to everyone else's.
Also, the economics work better. If less goes to the landfills over time, the waste companies will expand slower keeping your waste costs stable for longer periods of time.
     We have researched the current advances in recycling and landfill technology and are excited about the innovations we see. We will discuss more about these advances later.
     Also, there is a market for some recyclables. In many cases, a trip to the recycler will pay for the trip and then some.

It is too complicated.

Myth: Well, it does not have to be. If you do not recycle, we ask you to just consider researching how to recycle one item. Perhaps something that you generate a lot of and is easy to separate and send to the recycler. For many people, recycling aluminum cans is the easiest and you can get money.
     For those of you who already recycle, consider looking at your waste stream to see if there is one more item that can be easily separated, processed and sent to the recycler.
Many people think recycling is complicated because there are so many recyclable things in their waste stream. Trying to recycle all of them from the beginning can get complicated.
     "Slow and steady wins the race." As you get in the routine of recycling, we believe, when you are ready, you will find ways to recycle (or divert) more and more of your waste stream without making it more complicated.

Everything is recyclable.

Assumption: We believe that if you have enough of some thing, another use can be found for it. This would apply to used tires, Styrofoam and many other things not considered "recyclable". 
     Many may compel an argument, at this time, for things like radioactive waste, Hydrofluoric acid, or old lead paint.  For most of these wastes, you can not accumulate "enough" into one place to create an economically feasible solution to "disposal".
There are many smart people working on alternatives to our waste problems. As solutions are created, tested and implemented, we can reduce the waste stream more and more.
     Perhaps in a few decade we will have a sustainable method of solid waste disposal. Garbage prices may stabilize or even go down.
     The industry is always looking for better solutions to its problems. It will take all of our creative effort to make them reality.

Everything that is recyclable, should be recycled.

Myth: There we said it. This is a myth. We have seen too many examples of what we call "over recycling". Don't get us wrong, we believe that recycling is great for the planet but for some situations, recycling is a detriment.
     First, let us define "over recycling". Over recycling is the act of recovering a material for recycling while creating more waste than the original material. This new waste is usually a combination of burning fossil fuels, solid waste, time and space.
     Recycling is about more than just reducing the load on the land fill. It is also about reducing the energy requirements to make products. For many products, there is a great reduction of costs and energy associated recovering recycled material verses using virgin materials. 
Over recycling can be mandated by law. Governments may ban the dumping of specific materials due to the threat of human safety or because it takes up a lot of space. Therefore, these materials would accumulate in areas outside the landfill. As this waste piles up, there would be a need to extract usable materials from this waste to reduce the size of the waste. It may not be cost effective, but it reduces the waste.
     On a personal level, Many times we will face the decision of throwing something into the trash or going a long ways out of our way to make sure it gets recycled. Sometimes, you need to let it go.
      That does not mean you should give up completely. See if you can think of ways to not let it happen or make suggestions to people for the future.

It is too inconvenient to recycle.

Myth: As habits form, convenience is set. Sometimes recycling is thought of as "going out of your way" to put that item in the recycle bin. Or a business is "going out of their way" putting recycling bins around the company.
     Billions of dollars are being spent by waste companies and governments to make recycling as convenient as possible. You may even see the result. There are recycle bins, cans and dumpsters everywhere in a city. There are centralized deposit stations in the smaller towns.
It is slowly becoming inconvenient to throw stuff into the trash.

Garbage companies do not care about recycling.

Myth: Checking on this one.

I can burn my garbage.

Myth: Well, somewhat. It is not a great idea to burn "everything".
     We know from our research that there are garbage-to-energy incinerators out there. They burn garbage as a heat source for creating electricity. We are not going to comment here on how "clean" that process is but, they have filters on the smoke generated and much of the pollution from the process is collected and sent to the landfill.
     A burn barrel in the back yard is very different. Some areas regulate or ban the use of burn barrels. The reason is that most people do not know what is safe to burn and what will cause toxic pollution. 
Burning garbage in the back yard has it's advantages. You can reduce the amount of materials thrown into the land fill. If you live in remote locations, it may require a lot of energy to transport the garbage to the nearest transfer station.
     For most situations it is best not to burn in a barrel. However, if you do, try to get a barrel designed to burn trash. There are some models with vents to help the trash burn hotter and therefore more completely.
     For more information the EPA has some suggestions. Check out the paper burner at our store.

We are running out of landfill space.

Myth: Well, mostly. Even though the number of landfills has shrunk in the last 25 years (8,000 to 2,000) the capacity has not shrunk. These landfills are very massive with a much higher capacity for garbage. It looks like this capacity will not run out for 100's of years.
     The landfills of today are not just the "dry tombs" of yesterday. Many have linings on the bottom to prevent toxic leachate from getting into the ground water. They have systems for collecting and burning the methane gas being created. We are further excited by the prospect of bioreactor landfills increasing our capacity.
     However, it is still in our best interests to divert as much stuff from the landfills as possible.
The picture is not as upbeat as we have painted it so far. The added capacity only means they have allotted more land for each landfill (horizontal and vertical). The garbage has to travel greater distances creating more transportation waste.
     Regulations also ban more materials from the landfills. This can include: batteries, anti-freeze, appliances, cfl's, old computers, used oil, used tires, and the list goes on. Those materials would need special "disposal or recycling" facilities (and land). Some of this land could be around the corner or around the world.
 

Recycling recovers 100% of the material.

Myth: There is almost always loss when recycling materials. When you send something off to the recycler, it is up to them where and how it is sent. Yes, the material will be repurposed but it may not be the form you think.
     For example. 1 gallon of used oil will make 2 1/2 quarts of new usable oil. The other 1 1/2 quarts is waste.
    Some materials are obviously going to be made into the same materials, like aluminum cans and used oil. While other materials may require too much energy to be made into the same materials.
     An example, could be glass bottles. In some areas the glass is crushed and used as aggregate for road construction or in composites for counter tops. This recovers nearly 100% of the glass but the final use is not glass bottles.
Paper made from virgin fiber (wood) sources could potentially be recycled 4 to 6 times. Each time it is recycled will degrade the fibers a little until it is no longer usable for paper products.
     Many plastics can not be cleaned and remolded into new plastic shapes. However, they may find new life in construction materials and playground equipment. The number 1 and 2 plastics have the most potential of being reformed into 1 and 2 plastic, but that does not mean it will.
     Our point is, recycling will also create some new waste but in the long run will save a lot of energy (and material) verses creating products from virgin materials. Do not be disappointed if the packaging does not say "made of 100% post consumer ..." . People are continually making advances in these areas.

References:

https://apps.asce.org/reportcard/2005/page.cfm?id=33 , Solid waste, ASCE, taken 12/12/12.

http://www.bioreactor.org/ , Bioreactor.org, taken 12/12/12.

http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/ecycling/ , eCycling, taken 12/12/12.

 

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