Rumor has it that it’s not worth recycling any plastics as they end up in the landfill. Are what Republic picks up at the curb every other week actually being made into a new product? While I can’t proclaim what occurs in other communities, I can say what occurs in Summit County. What is happening to our plastics… and more? Is it worth the effort to recycle?
Most recyclables, at this time, are not profitable except metals (a crime to see in the trash!). Glass is very recyclable and like metal, never degrades in quality, while paper and plastic weaken a bit each time. Glass, after transport, rarely pays back. Cardboard and paper are critical to recycle with fluctuating markets (often related to online orders) but they’re important to recycle due to released methane when landfilled.
Plastic is complicated. While there is seldom a payback, it’s the right thing to do. Most #1 and #2 plastics have a market; they are chipped and recycled into fleece, decking, carpet, etc. Everything else (#3 – #7) is now often used as ‘waste to energy’ to make cement at a local plant in Morgan, Utah. At least 30% of fossil fuels are avoided in the process, replaced by petroleum-based products like used plastics and tires.
We’ve learned that at least 80% of what is going into our curbside recycling bins is being recycled (it used to be 65%) – that’s great! Plastic bags, glass, Styrofoam, and food are the biggest contamination culprits. One bad egg doesn’t make a difference, but many making bad do. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
By Mary Closser