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Recycling skepticism: Does the NW recycle anymore?

Yesterday I confessed that I’m not religious about my recycling. Sometimes I’ll take the extra effort to sort my stuff, sometimes I don’t. I know that amounts to a cardinal sin for many people in Seattle. Here’s my very simple reason. I’m not confident that my sorted materials are actually recycled. But I’m not sure.

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So I first went to the City of Seattle reports page. They just give you a bar graph of what percentage of solid waste is recycled. And by recycled, they mean stuff that was put in a recycling bin.

I’m still not convinced that’s it actually recycled. Why?

I have a clear memory of a story about garbage, barges, and China. So I did a little searching on my Google machine and resurrected the article from October 30, 2017. It’s entitled “Chinese crackdown may send more recycling to Northwest landfills.” When I see the word “may” in a story associated with city government, that means it’s 100 percent being sent to Northwest landfills.

The basic line of the story is that China is cracking down on what it will accept for “low-value materials.” These include paper and plastic. That’s 95 percent of what I would sort and contribute. Sometimes glass and aluminum, but mostly paper and plastic. After reading that report, I’m still not convinced that Seattle’s materials are actually being recycled.

Next, I came across a piece by National Geographic. They are on my list of reputable sources. The title of this July 19, 2017 article: “A Whopping 91 percent of Plastic Isn’t Recycled.”

The article explains that “The new study … in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances, is the first global analysis of all plastics ever made … Of the 8.3 billion metric tons that has been produced, 6.3 billion metric tons has become plastic waste. Of that, only nine percent has been recycled. The vast majority—79 percent—is accumulating in landfills.”

Not good.

Recycling conclusions

In conclusion, I still am not convinced that materials I sort into all the bins will actually be recycled. Sounds like glass is a different animal, so I’m going to make sure I put that in the proper bin.

I’ll try to pay a little closer attention to paper and plastic, but I can’t guarantee it until there’s a follow up to that Chinese crackdown story.

What’s happening to Northwest garbage? Are we still in Chinese crackdown mode?

What’s really going on with the paper and plastic? I want to know!

I do know that garbage collection is very expensive here. It would be a shame if the stuff in the blue bin just ends up in the landfill anyway.

You can hear “What are we talking about here?” everyday at 4:45 p.m. on 97.3 FM.

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