Is Recycling Dead? NO! An Optimist’s View

Ooho capsules containing an electrolyte beverage. Photo credit to Charlie Crowhurst, 4/27/2019, CBS News. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/london-marathon-thousands-of-seaweed-pods-will-replace-single-use-plastics/

There have been a lot of articles lately asking whether or not this is the end of recycling. China told the US that we can’t send them anymore contaminated bales of recycling, so now the market is suffering. MRFs (Material Recovery Facilities) have been sending recyclables to the dump or shutting down altogether. 

Here’s the thing though. I think that the U.S. is experiencing growing pains. We need to take responsibility for our consumer goods and put some new systems in place. Many companies are producing innovative solutions around the traditional mantra, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” Here are just a few examples:

REDUCE

One way we can reduce our impact is by using water packets made from seaweed! This new packaging by Ooho was tested at the London Marathon, and because of it, over 40,000 athletes had another option over water bottles! In fact, it reduced bottled water at the event by over 200,000 water bottles. There may always be situations where you can’t bring your Nalgene with you where you go, you need water to be contained and distributed, but you don’t need the bottle! You just need a vessel! So, boom, seaweed pods. Done.

REUSE

Loop is a service offered by TerraCycle. Honestly, as if TerraCycle wasn’t awesome enough ( they take hard to recycle packaging and they recycle it. If you haven’t check them out, visit their website), they had to go and unearth a system that society is familiar with. A way of life that we thought we had seen the last of: The milkman delivery system. Loop is launching in 2019 in London, as well as four states in the US this year. If all goes well, you may soon get your groceries delivered to your door in REUSABLE containers. When you’re done with them, the company retrieves the containers from your doorstep, cleans them, and refills them! That’s right, you don’t even have to clean them, and you can finally say goodbye to all the single use packaging that you once had to fret over. #TheFutureIsReusable

RECYCLE

There are a lot of challenges confronting the world of recycling. One challenge is that products with multiple layers of resources need more special care in recycling than simple paper or plastic products. Take electronics, for example. They have plastic, metal, and heavy metals, and they are the fastest growing waste stream in the US. But innovations are happening. Apple is opening up a recovery facility in Texas so that their products can be properly recycled. Apple already has a robot named Daisy that can pull apart and recycle over a million iPhones per year. With smarter robots and machine learning, technology could transform our waste stream in a few short years. The recycling industry needs companies like Apple – innovators that can transform and redesign recycling systems.

Recycling is not a dying industry. We are faced with challenges spurred by global markets changing their standards, but we can overcome these challenges. Ultimately, we will be better off than when we started.   

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