Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Curbside collection of separated recyclables to resume Feb. 1. Does that mean recycling will be taking place?

by Rod Williams, Jan. 23, 2022 - Mayor John Cooper recently announced the collection of curbside recyclables will resume in Nashville on February 1. Not only will monthly collection of recyclables resume but Mayor Cooper says by the end of the year, collection of recyclables will increase to twice a month instead of once a month.

Collection of recyclables was temporarily halted on December 22.  This was due to Red River, a third-party contractor, filing for bankruptcy in October of last year and stopping operations in Nashville.  When that happened Metro had to collect the garbage that Red River had been collecting.  The city did not have the capacity to take on this new duty and continue collecting recyclables so it was necessary for Metro Waste Services to redirect efforts from recycling collection to trash collection for the health and safety of the community.

Many Nashvillians welcome the resumption of separated recyclables in Nashville.  I do too, except I doubt that recycling is even really taking place. If I was persuaded that the collection of separated recyclables was the same as recycling, I would be more pleased. I have no evidence that our separated recyclables are not in fact being recycled. I do have my serious doubts, however.  My doubt is based on knowing that the market for recyclables has changed.  China, which was the world's greatest purchaser of recyclables, has stopped almost all of such purchases and no other country has stepped up to fill the gap.  

Another reason to doubt that recycling is really taking place is that in other cities in cases where enterprising journalists investigated to see if separated recyclables were actually being recycled, the finding was often that they were not.  They were collected at the curb and then when there was no buyer for the stuff, it was dumped in the landfill. 

I wish we had some inquiring minds in Metro who were curious as to what happens to our recyclables once they are collected. I wish we had some enterprising journalist who would investigate. 

If you think it is baseless to have my concerns, please read the following stories. 

The Dirty Truth Is Your Recycling May Actually Go To Landfills

HuffPost- ... Two-thirds of U.S. states are facing a recycling crisis of our own making. ... Recyclables are ending up in landfills en masse. ... About a year ago, however, China abruptly announced its intention to close its borders to this trash influx. The country notified the World Trade Organization that it would be banning the import of 24 categories of solid waste, including several kinds of scrap plastic and mixed paper. It also demanded that other waste materials, like cardboard and scrap metal, have only 0.5 percent contamination from food and other sources ― a standard that American recyclers have said is “impossible” to meet. ... Prior to its new policy, China had been processing at least half of the world’s exports of waste plastic, paper and metals. ... “Overall, the value of a ton of recycling has declined by about 40 percent over the past year,

Some Inconvenient Truths About Recycling

Investor's Business Daily - ... evidence is piling up that recycling is a waste of time and money, and a bit of a fraud. ... Massachusetts has issued dozens of landfill waivers so recyclable material can be dumped in them. The Florida Sun Sentinel reports that in Broward County, Fla., up to 30% of the stuff residents put in recycling bins ends up in landfills. ... recycling is not only costly, but doesn't do much to help the environment. ... Since it costs far more to recycle trash than to bury it, governments are wasting money that could be more effectively spent elsewhere.

Your Recycling Gets Recycled, Right? Maybe, or Maybe Not

The New York Times - ... In recent months, in fact, thousands of tons of material left curbside for recycling in dozens of American cities and towns — including several in Oregon — have gone to landfills.

America Finally Admits Recycling Doesn’t Work

Foundation for Economic Education - ... the actions of hundreds of US cities suggest Americans are finally willing to entertain the idea that recycling is not a moral or legal imperative. 

How Useful Is Recycling, Really? The Atlantic - 

The Recycling Industry in America Is Broken EcoWatch ...The Reality: Most Recyclables Aren't Being Recycled 

What Percentage of Recycling Actually Gets Recycled? Green Matters - ...

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