Adventures in Office Greening, Volume 1, Issue 1
My name is Cheryl, and I’m a recovering non-recycler.
There were a number of dark years spent belligerently throwing glass, plastic and paper right into the trash can. It’s not that I didn’t give a damn. I did. I had.
As a member of the environmental awareness commission at my university, I had explained to over 200 dorm rooms how to recycle. I had been on two horrible public access call-in shows about the topic. I wrote a paper about the economics of recycling in graduate school. But in the end I felt like I was shouting into the wind. Articles were showing that recyclers often dumped the items into landfills because they were losing money on the whole thing. The system wasn’t working.
But that is all behind me now. I am living in a city with a priority of tackling the solid waste issue. And I am working at a company that is working towards a goal of minimal net waste.
You would think that we could then just stick all of the plastic, glass and paper waste into the bin and call it a day. But you’d be wrong.
In the realm of plastics, it is not that simple. They come with different numbers (located on bottom within a triangle), of which some can be recycled, some can’t. Sometimes the same number can or can’t be recycled depending on their shape. Some don’t even have numbers. Thin plastic bags? Well you need to gather them and take them to a grocery store that will accept them. And all of this can vary depending on which city or part of the country you live in.
But where do they go after that? Apparently in San Francisco, all of the plastics are separated, processed, and then shipped to China to be used as raw materials in new products. And those non-recyclable plastics? They end up in landfills.
So, oil is used for two-way international shipping as well as making the plastic in the first place. Then there is the whole paper vs plastic debate…
Confused about what to do? Me too.
An alternative for a surprisingly large segment of the waste stream will be covered next in, “Recycle me not… Composting!”