Tech Tuesday: Re-Thinking Recycling

Oscar Gordon

A Navy Turbine Tech who learned to spin wrenches on old cars, Oscar has since been trained as an Engineer & Software Developer & now writes tools for other engineers. When not in his shop or at work, he can be found spending time with his family, gardening, hiking, kayaking, gaming, or whatever strikes his fancy & fits in the budget.

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12 Responses

  1. Michael Siegel
    Ignored
    says:

    Great post, Oscar!Report

  2. Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    The local college radio station has a Recycling How-To Public Service Announcement that is a *LONG* one.

    It explains how to properly recycle. Proper recycling, it seems, is very difficult. Like, if you buy a Coke from one of the machines and drink it and want to recycle it? It needs to be *EMPTY*. Like, if you don’t want to finish it, you should shake it out into the grass before recycling it. Oh, and get rid of the cap too. It’s a different kind of plastic. Any food waste at all can ruin an entire container of recycling, so don’t recycle a pizza box.

    And the rules go on for a while.

    There’s stuff in there that I knew (pizza boxes are bad!) and stuff that I didn’t know until I heard it (bottle caps are bad?) but, at the end of the message, I mostly thought “every single recycling box on campus is contaminated”.

    And I wonder if every single recycling container in front of everybody’s house is also contaminated.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      Yes, they are all effectively contaminated.

      And of course, even if they all aren’t, when the truck comes by to pick them up, if one is contaminated, as soon as it goes in the hopper with the rest, the whole truck is contaminated.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Oscar Gordon
        Ignored
        says:

        There’s now an automated glass recycler on the north side of Denver that doesn’t care about food residue or labels, but glass is a special case compared to paper and plastic. The processing plant has several steps that remove all of the contaminants and sterilize the remaining glass.Report

    • Philip H in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      I think it depends on the recycler, and the people involved. I suspect its more likely in single stream bins and contracts, unless there are human sorters in the plant (or some level of AI-driven automation).Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      At first, it was American or Taiwanese factories that used recycled materials, and labor was expensive enough that they couldn’t make money if they paid staff to sort and clean the intake. This was why you had recycle bins with six or seven different tubs.

      Then the factories moved to China, and for a while the labor was cheap enough that they could do the sorting and cleaning, which is why things turned to “single stream” (aka “throw everything in the same dumpster”.)

      Chinese labor has gotten more expensive (and the Chinese government has decided to stop subsidizing American recycled materials) and so the Chinese factories aren’t willing to do the sorting-and-cleaning anymore, so we’re going back to “consumer sorting and cleaning”.Report

  3. Michael Cain
    Ignored
    says:

    Does heat de-polymerization care about added color dyes? At least a couple of our local for-profit recyclers won’t take, for example, colored pop bottles because whoever they’re selling to can’t or doesn’t want to deal with the dyes.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain
      Ignored
      says:

      My guess is that it would depend on the dyes and will they decompose at the working temperature & pressure. My read is that the process doesn’t care. Either the dyes decompose, or they separate out, or they are also hydrocarbon based & just add to the end product.Report

  4. Pinky
    Ignored
    says:

    It seems inevitable to me that we’ll be mining landfills at some point. I think there are already cases where there’s more of a metal to be found in landfills than untouched in the earth.

    The problem is that there’s so much of other things that are also of value but toxic. That’s a problem both practically and legally. If I acquire a section of landfill and remove 20% of its contents for recycling, I’m dumping 80% of the contents of a landfill in another pile. Now I’m accountable for the carcinogens, medical waste, et cetera. I also have to figure out a way to dig through the contents without being covered in carcinogens, medical waste, et cetera. The plus side is, as technology advances, more materials will become more easily extractable, increasing the potential revenue streams.Report

  5. Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    Why not use more metal?Report

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