Over at Vice, one author asked a simple question: why don’t we make everything out of relayed plastic? The short answer is that oil is too cheap and companies don’t see benefits of recylcing plastics on their bottom line. Instead of championing for higher consumption taxes or waiting for oil to go up again some people are changing the technology behind recycling plastics. By making the process of recycling cheaper, consistent, and more efficient we can make recycling plastics a default decision for many companies (and leave that oil in the ground).
Garcia said researchers are now looking for new and more efficient ways to make, and break down, plastics. “Since we make plastics chemically, the way we treat them at end of life is also probably going to be chemical,” she said.
Garcia cited a number of examples, such as chemical recycling, where the plastic is exposed to a catalyst at a very high temperature, causing the underlying compounds to break down. It’s how scientists have been able to make fuel out of old water bottles. Garcia said this technique still requires a lot of energy, and is very expensive, but she believes scientists will eventually figure out how to use a similar process at a much lower temperature.
In Japan the town of Kamikatsu people there create zero-waste while living a modern life. The community has taken the idea of a plastic bag ban to the next level and have banned garbage outright.
The crazy part? Most locals actually seem to like the extreme recycling process. Kikue Nii, one resident, claims that the town’s no-waste policy makes her more mindful of what she’s using, and helps her to take advantage of every last scrap. “I think I produce less waste because I have to compost it,” she told BBC News.
“When I can’t use the whole vegetable or meat, I try to cook it again with wine and so on. It makes a very good soup. Everyone should have a composter if they can.”
In my head I just assumed that all Canadian cities had curbside recycling. Apparently I was wrong, and it’s not good that cities lack this program. It is good that Calgary is trying to remedy that problem and that despite the difficulty of recycling in Calgary, people overuse the system.
Moving to a new system is important, Magdich said. Calgary’s community recycling depots now operate at 150 per cent above intended capacity.
“Our community recycling depots have been in place for some time and they served us well for a number of years. But yeah, we’re definitely at capacity with them,” Magdich said Wednesday.
“We are excited about moving to blue-cart recycling. It will really help the city move forward in keeping more waste out of the landfill.”
Recycling is perhaps the easiest think one can do for the environment and it’s very very effective at reducing the amount of raw materials that get consumed.
Why is recycling so efficient? According to Alcoa, recycling a ton of aluminum uses just 5% of the energy required to make virgin metal. Every ton of recycled aluminum that Alcoa uses saves about 14,000 kilowatt hours of electricity. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that the average American household consumes 920 kilowatts of electricity per month. Consequently, using 1 ton of recycled aluminum as opposed to 1 ton of virgin aluminum would make enough conserved energy available to power an American household for over 15 months.
The Economist looks into the truth about recycling and they have discovered some neat things. Of course, there are some complications with recycling, and it’s important to remind ourselves that nothing is perfect, but it’s good that we aim for perfection. Recycling is a really really good thing to do.
Based on this study, WRAP calculated that Britain’s recycling efforts reduce its carbon-dioxide emissions by 10m-15m tonnes per year. That is equivalent to a 10% reduction in Britain’s annual carbon-dioxide emissions from transport, or roughly equivalent to taking 3.5m cars off the roads. Similarly, America’s Environmental Protection Agency estimates that recycling reduced the country’s carbon emissions by 49m tonnes in 2005.
Recycling has many other benefits, too. It conserves natural resources. It also reduces the amount of waste that is buried or burnt, hardly ideal ways to get rid of the stuff. (Landfills take up valuable space and emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas; and although incinerators are not as polluting as they once were, they still produce noxious emissions, so people dislike having them around.) But perhaps the most valuable benefit of recycling is the saving in energy and the reduction in greenhouse gases and pollution that result when scrap materials are substituted for virgin feedstock. “If you can use recycled materials, you don’t have to mine ores, cut trees and drill for oil as much,” says Jeffrey Morris of Sound Resource Management, a consulting firm based in Olympia, Washington.