Where Has All the Recycling Gone?

Photo courtesy of Coral Mountain UK

Recently I read about how China no longer wants all our trash junk for “recycling.” This change came about almost a year ago. I wasn’t aware that we sent so, so much of our recycling to China. (So do the UK, Japan, and other European nations). The ban went into effect on January 1, 2018.

They said they “no longer wanted to be the “world’s garbage dump,'” according to The New York Times article. This has caused a huge shift in US recycling. Teetering towers of paper and other recyclables are growing at recycling plants. This is an incredible fire hazard, and some recycling plants have already suffered fires.

China’s ban means recycling is piling up at Rogue Waste System in southern Oregon. Employees Scott Fowler, Laura Leebrick and Garry Penning say their only option for now is to send it to a landfill. Jes Burns/OPB/EarthFix from this NPR article

They have had to dump their recyclables instead in the landfill. This is the worst, saddest news you could tell someone who is invested in recycling and the environment. Our mind jumps to thinking about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This makes us feel even sadder.

So, what do we do? Well, as suggested in a Forbes article, we innovate. We change how we use plastics. Or stop using plastics as much as possible. We need to adjust.

As I pull that last bit of toilet paper off the cardboard roll, or look at the stack of magazines and catalogs my family has enjoyed over the past couple of months, my heart sinks when I think I might as well throw it away instead of sending it to be recycled.

But I don’t. I don’t throw it away. I walk it down, along with plastics and metals and other paper products that I’ve rinsed, washed, and sorted as necessary, to our recycle bin. My kids will roll them to the curb on Monday nights (it’s one of their chores) for our local recycling pickup. But I feel more like I’m playing an old game than making a difference.

So I remember the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. And try the first two before I get to that third one.

Links to more articles in The Guardian and The USA Today. Brace yourself.

3 thoughts on “Where Has All the Recycling Gone?

Add yours

  1. Hang on, let me brush off my soap box. Ok, done. Stepping up…here I go…There are lots of websites out there on how to become 100% sustainable and it’s not completely crazy. Also buying more things made of recycled bottles will help increase recycling if it becomes lucrative. Bottles can be made into bags and clothes, nearly anything. It’s not that hard to reduce plastic consumption if you just try. Sadly, not too many people try. Convenience is always more important than pretty much everything…some day convenience will come back to bite us. Stepping down now and will put away the soap box for a bit. 🙂 Cool picture of the whale/trash/artwork!! Great blog!

      1. A smarter person than I will need to figure it out. Clearly soap box lecturing isn’t the answer. ;0

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