Recycling programs still can’t recycle every consumer good, which means that we still need to think about what we put in the blue box (or whatever colour it is where you live). Some plastics are too hard to recycle and some containers too hard to clean. The CBC recently ran a live Q&A (video above) on common concerns around recyclables and what to do about it. Of course, the best thing you can do as a consumer is just buy less stuff and reuse what you can. Reduce, reuse, and recycle are in that order for a reason.
Why they’re a problem
These contain many parts with different materials that need to be separated. In some places, like B.C., the plastic from plastic pods can be recycled when separated. But in other recycling programs, because the pods are small, pieces of them can drop through mechanical screens at recycling plants and contaminate other streams, especially glass.
What are the options?
The plastic parts can be theoretically recovered, provided everything else is separated out. Some brands let you return these. There are also private programs that recycle them.
The European Union’s newest mining project focuses on urban areas throughout the continent. Their ProSUM project built a database of metals, chemicals, and materials brought into the EU market over the last ten plus years; the idea is that the produced goods can be “mined” again. It’s a really novel way to approach recycle by positioning the recycling process as a mining opportunity. To help companies and organizations understand the plentitude of materials available in existing products (most of which are in landfills or recycling centres) they launched a website the Urban Mine Platform.
The project outcomes are embedded in the European Commission’s (EC) Raw Materials Information System (RMIS) in order to create a more comprehensive and structured repository of knowledge related to primary and secondary sources consumed in the EU, relevant for many stakeholders:
Manufacturers can gain confidence about future recycled raw material supplies.
Recyclers will have better intelligence about the changes in product types and material content which impact on their business and provide future recovery potential.
The mining industry will have greater certainty about the quantities and types of materials needed in the marketplace, mitigating risk and improving profitability.
Policymakers will be better informed on raw material supplies, which affect jobs and financial institutions, and how materials are linked to energy consumption.
Researchers will have better data quantity, quality, completeness and reliability.
Reduce, reuse, and recycle is a mantra heard time and time again. Yet, not everyone follows it (remember that they are in that order for a reason: reduce what you consume in the first place, then reuse what you can, and recycle the rest). It can be easy though. When you do buy stuff (remember that you should try not to buy things – reduce) buy recycled because there are a ton of reasons from energy consumption to sending a message. Over at Grist they compiled a compendium of reasons to buy recycled.
Still, I’d encourage you to continue buying the 100-percent recycled stuff if you can — for foil as well as any other product — for so many reasons. Recycled content saves natural resources, so we can mine fewer metals, cut down fewer trees, and tap less petroleum. It uses less energy to produce, sometimes dramatically so; recycled aluminum can be whipped up with 95 percent less power than virgin aluminum. Recycled material slashes pollution and saves water, too. And let’s not forget it prevents our consumer castoffs from languishing away in a landfill.
Researchers at UBC have studied the recycling behaviour of people who work in green buildings to those who don’t and found that – regardless of their past habits – people in green buildings recycle more. This is really nifty because it proves that design of an interior space alone can impact how people recycle and the efficiency of waste management.
“Design can absolutely influence people,” Susan Gushe, a principal with the firm, told CBC News.
She says there are several things designers take into consideration when integrating recycling and garbage receptacles into buildings, such as:
Locating them in areas where people are likely to use them, such as the CIRS’s kitchenettes.
Making bins easy to access for patrons and maintenance staff.
Clearly labelling bins.
It’s also important to make the recycling hubs look good, she said.
“Do you want to see great big bins out in the corridor? No, not really,” says Gushe. “You want to integrate the utilitarian things in a building into the fabric of the building, so that you don’t have this really ugly stuff sitting out there.”
People like to stay healthy and clean, well most people anyway, and the act of cleaning oneself can end up consuming a lot of resources. Showering and bathing can use up a lot of deliciously potable water and be quite wasteful in the process. There is tons of room for improvement in how these cleaning facilities use water, now a solution from Australia we have a shower that recycles water.
A person taking a 10-minute shower uses anywhere from 20 to 50 gallons of water, at the use of 2 to 5 gallons per minute.
Australian engineering firm CINTEP has developed a product that cuts that number by more than half. The Water Recycling Shower looks and feels like an ordinary shower, but is able to slash water consumption by 70 percent. It does this by automatically cleaning, filtering and pasteurizing used water. The shower then recirculates and reuses 70 percent of that clean water.