Hey Czar, I want you to know that like a good American, I recycle. As a point of pride, I sort my recycling from trash, wash out my metal cans and glass bottles, and separate the plastics by their number. What do you think of the people who are too lazy to do that?
Actually, you are the idiot. Watch your trash guy some morning. He pulls up to your house, grabs your trash bins, and empties them into the compactor. Then he takes your recycling bins, with your nicely washed cans and bottles and perfectly sanitary and sorted plastics, and throws them right into the trash containers. Then he hurls your bins across your lawn, jumps into the truck, and repeats this miracle at your neighbors (although he is much nicer to your neighbors shit for some reason).
Separating your trash from your recycling only makes sense if you have two separate pickups (one for each), like the Czar does. If your trash and recycling are picked up together, you can bet they get dumped together at a waste management center. Know why? Money!
Here is what you are led to believe. Your trash is sent to a landfill, where it gets buried and pollutes the world for 200,000 years. Your recycled goods go to a shiny, clean, and unicorn-smelling facility where smiling, gloved and goggled workers cheerfully place your cans into a big masher, your bottles into a magic machine that separates them by type and then sends them to their respective manufacturers for sterilization and reuse in third-world countries. Your plastics are placed into bins marked 1 through 7, where they are quickly softened with non-cancer-causing heat, pelletized, and sold back to plastic companies for reuse in life-saving products. These companies write big checks to the recycling plant, which in turn takes a modest service fee and turns the bulk of the profits over to your municipality, who buys audiovisual gear for your middle school with it.
You know whats coming next, right? What really happens: the trash and recycling is taken to a processing facility, where it all gets dumped into a machine that rips open and rends the trash. All the nasty fluids drain out below to a cistern. The solids get chewed up and broken apart and flopped onto a conveyor belt. A handful of depressed and underpaid workers pick out the aluminum cans, copper wire, and the newspaper out of the foul-smelling slurry mixture of trash and recycling. Bigger, wealthier facilities use sophisticated scanners to find high density polyethylene products further down the conveyor belt and kick them out. The rest gets put into a landfill.
Less than 20% of your trash and recycling actually gets recycled. In fact, of that, only 80% of the newspaper and 70% of the corrugated carboard at the plant actually gets recycled. Less than 1% of plastic is recycled. Aluminum and copper, which are commodities that have higher value than the cost to sort them out, wind up getting recycled 99% of the time. All that glass, non-magnetic metal, copier paper, styrofoam, and other plastics? Pitched into a landfill.
But this actually makes sense. In a landfill, tightly packed trash tends to recycle itself into base compounds that are easier for companies to reprocess into new goods. Glass, for example, is cheaper to recycle once it has been in a landfill for years and accumulates. Paper products break down into a loamy kind of goo that actually results in good dirt. This dirt can be reprocessed into a variety of neat materials, from farming to industrial. Yes, there is even a dirt market to buy and sell the stuff. Landfills are a shockingly good way to handle trash.
And plastics? Well, this is the recycling industrys biggest pain. It costs recycling companies a fortune to recycle plastics. You have three choices: you hire a ton of expensive union workers to sift through that joyous melange of filth to find useable plastic and sort them by type, you have expensive and error-prone machines do it, or you simply dont bother. Guess which the industry usually chooses?
Here is a guide to your plastic recycling efforts:
|Polythylene Terephthalate||Generally only a third of PETE products get recycled; the majority winds up in landfills.|
|High Density Polyethylene||Most HDPE is recycled; if your local recycling plant is not recycling HDPE, they probably will be soon. HDPE may in fact be the bulk of plastics that do get recycled.|
|Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)||Almost never recycled.|
|Low Density Polyethylene||Almost never recycled.|
|Polypropylene||Incredibly rare for a plant to recycle this; even if your plant accepts it, they just chuck it.|
|Polystyrene||Rare. Most recycling actually takes place through reuse; that is, shipping companies will reuse packing peanuts and other chunks of styrofoam. Almost no one actually melts it down to make new polystyrene products, though.|
|Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) and others||Junk plastic, which is never recycled.|
But Czar, my recycling company does take plastics 1 through 6! So you are dead wrong that they just pitch it!
Sadly my gullible chap, there is a world of difference between taking it and recycling it. In most communities, your recycling company is required by law to take certain plastics. In Muscovy, for example, they purport to take 1 through 4. But although they are required to take it (what the industry calls acceptance), they aint required to recycle it. In fact, you may recall above that many recycling companies will accept 1 and 2. But if they dont have a buyer waiting for those plastics, those plastics just pile up and pile up until a buyer shows. If the buyers arent there, guess what happens? It gets pitched into a landfill. This is also very true of glass: bottles get piled up in a corner; if no buyer comes, the glass gets thrown out to make room for products that are selling.
So at the end of this process, the recycling company gets a small check from companies that purchase the good to melt them down or repelletize them or whatever. That vast majority of that check goes to pay the union workers. Another massive chunk goes to pay the leases on the scanning and automation equipment that the plant was required by your municipality to obtain. A small part of the remainder goes to overhead and profit, which is probably only about 5% of the total. And, if there is anything left at all, it goes to your municipality. If your municipality is a city, it winds up in some politicians pocket (likely the guy who set up the contract between the city and the recycler). If your municipality is a small village or hamlet, the administrative staff uses that money to purchase a roll of tape to patch up the gaping hole in the safety fencing around the toddler swing set at Tetanus Park.
So Czar, are you saying you shouldnt bother to recycle your trash?
Heck, you should absolutely recycle for two reasons: one, it is ultimately the right thing to do. Conservatives like yourself are good stewards for the environment. Let the liberals continue to pollute the air by forcing recyclers to melt down plastics no one is buying. Also, capitalism will win out, and as recycling becomes more economical to do, prices will drop for packaging. Second, recycling is a great way to break up the trash. The Czar puts out two full cans of trash and three full bins of recycling every week. If he did not recycle, he would have to pack all that stuff into two extremely heavy and overflowing cans. Nope…recycling is less work for the Czar.
But yeah, he mixes all his recycling together and does not bother to wash it out since it winds up in a slurry of nastiness anyway.
Note: the photographs are taken from a variety of sources. This is not imply or suggest that the actual companies shown in the photographs are doing anything improper or unsanitary. The Czar is frankly trying to defend the difficulties you all go through, so please dont write in to condemn our use of your corporate images. Even if you do smell like unicorns.
Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію Мы, Дима Грозный Императоръ и Самодержецъ Всероссiйскiй, цѣсарь Московскiй. The Czar was born in the steppes of Russia in 1267, and was cheated out of total control of all Russia upon the death of Boris Mikhailovich, who replaced Alexander Yaroslav Nevsky in 1263. However, in 1283, our Czar was passed over due to a clerical error and the rule of all Russia went to his second cousin Daniil (Даниил Александрович), whom Czar still resents. As a half-hearted apology, the Czar was awarded control over Muscovy, inconveniently located 5,000 miles away just outside Chicago. He now spends his time seething about this and writing about other stuff that bothers him.