We’ve had a busy few months setting up REDO in Salt Lake City. A lot of our time has gone into design and program development, but we’ve also attended several events that I wanted to highlight here.
On October 17th, we toured Waste Management’s Material Recovery Facility (MRF) in West Jordan. Roger Horne, the plant supervisor, led us through a maze of machines and conveyor belts to see what happens to everyday items after they leave the comfort of people’s homes. The results were impressive! They process 4000 tons of material (mostly plastic bottles, tin cans and cardboard) every month. They have some real challenges though, because unfortunately the average customer doesn’t know how to recycle right. In fact, 20 to 40 percent of the things that come through their facility are taken to the landfill. This was really unsettling to me, and very motivating to my team! After the tour, we decided that we would create a video to help educate the public so that Waste Management and other material recovery facilities (or MRFs) can be more efficient and effective.
Then, for November 15th (National Recycling Day) we attended the Recycling Coalition of Utah’s conference event and listened to guest speakers discuss different aspects to recycling in Utah. There was one topic that stood out to me the most, and that was the background about the global recycling economy. I knew that China had tightened the restrictions on recyclables, but I didn’t know why. I learned that before 2018, any Chinese citizen could sign up to process bales of plastic, paper, or other material into shredded mulch, and send it back companies to be turned into other material. People thought they could get rich quick, but these schemes mostly left people with polluted soil, air and water. And the amount of material they had to process didn’t get them out of poverty. The decision for China to stop this reckless practice was a good one, but now America doesn’t know what to do with all of the materials we collect and bale. Many MRFs are raising prices, taking more material to the dump, or just shutting down. If we want to process our own materials locally, we’re going to have to raise our standards as well.
That same day we went to the Utah Recycling Alliance’s awards ceremony and film screening. A lot of the people I’d seen at the conference earlier in the day attended this one as well. We gathered together to enjoy appetizers and watch Slowing Down Fast Fashion. The documentary followed Alex James (bassist in The Blur) on his journey to uncover problems in the fashion industry, and advocate for solutions. This topic is not REDO’s primary focus, however I did feel very confident about my second hand dress pants that I wore for the evening. Shopping at thrift stores and investing in locally sourced, high quality clothing were two of the biggest lessons on how to buy apparel responsibly. This was a wonderful way to wrap up the day, socialize with like-minded people, and further contemplate the challenges of single-use society.