Ecocentricity Blog: The Not-So-Easy Button

Ecocentricity Blog: The Not-So-Easy Button

By: John A. Lanier
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In this week's #Ecocentricity blog, @johnalanierRCAF points out some of the disturbing statistics surrounding single stream #recycling, but he also provides some good suggestions.

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An average of 25% of single-stream recycling material is too contaminated to actually be recycled, compared to about 7% a decade ago. That’s a troubling trend, and this article does a good job of explaining why.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019 - 9:30am

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I’m not a loyal watcher of Jeopardy!, but every once in a while my wife and I will flip it on. Invariably, she gets more answers correct than I do. I don’t mind – it just reminds me of the trivia night when we first met, and her skills impressed the heck out of me.

When I do watch the show, I often pause and reflect on the ridiculousness of the format. I’m sure you remember it – Alex Trebek gives the answer to a question first and the contestants then give the question that corresponds to it. It makes for a great game show, but just imagine if it were flipped….

Suppose you asked, “What is green?” Now suppose I answered, “The color that, when spoken in French and combined with the French word for ‘mountain,’ gives name to the 14th state to join the United States.” You would look at me like I was a lunatic.

Anywho, here comes my blog’s typical 90-degree left turn to a relevant topic. Answer: The number of electors in the Electoral College, and also the name of one of John’s favorite websites. Question: What is 538?
The good folks at FiveThirtyEight do a tremendous job of providing data-centric analysis of sports, politics, and several other topics. I check it daily to see what they think is worth covering, and I listen to their weekly politics podcast. If you like data and these topics, I suggest giving them a try.
I was surprised about a month ago when my daily-perusal of the site led to an article titled, “The Era Of Easy Recycling May Be Coming To An End.” Hmmmmmmm…you have my attention. Click!
You should give it a read, but I’ll pull out one bit of the data they shared and then give my own thought. They focused on the practice of single-stream recycling, where people toss together all of their recyclable items into one bin, with those recyclables then later sorted at a processing facility. The convenience of it has made the practice common in America, but the trade-off is the risk of contamination it brings.
According to the article (and the National Waste and Recycling Association), an average of 25% of single-stream recycling material is too contaminated to actually be recycled, compared to about 7% a decade ago. That’s a troubling trend, and the article does a good job of explaining why.
Here’s my thought about it, and it’s really a request. Please, please, please consider self-sorting your recycling and then taking it to a facility that accepts sorted materials. If you live in Atlanta like I do, the Center for Hard to Recycle Materials is a great place! I bet there are also places near you. It’s a lot harder than single-stream recycling, but doing so means there is a much higher chance that all your material will actually end up recycled instead of in a landfill.

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Valerie Bennett
+1 (770) 317-5858
Ray C. Anderson Foundation
CATEGORY: Environment