This blog is for those people who like to think beyond the recycle bin. I want to start with the hot topic of Single Stream collection and the Chinese ban of America’s trashed recycling. The final destination of your collected recyclables probably depends on the collection method used.

With single stream, residents toss glass, plastic, paper, and metal all together in a trash can, renamed a “recycle” bin. A mechanical arm on the “recycle” truck dumps all the contents into a single compartment. Glass shatters and ends up in the bales of other materials, destroying equipment in re-manufacturing paper and plastic facilities. Liquids dripping from containers cause paper to stick to everything.

A reporter from The Chattanooga Times Free Press discovered last summer that the Orange Grove materials recovery facility (MRF) was not recycling glass, but rather sending it to the landfill.

If you have ever worked a sort line this news would not surprise you, but if you are like most recycling Americans, after leaving your recyclables at the curb you don’t give them a second thought. Herein lies the problem, we have become way too disconnected from the recycling process. This disconnect leads to other problems besides material contamination.

It means we don’t think about the workers who have to handle our materials once they hit the sort line. We don’t think about what it’s like to have smelly milk jugs 18 inches from your face or soiled food containers that gets misplaced in recycle bins. We’ve been lead to believe that if we recycle it’s okay to continue mindlessly consuming. We forget that recycling requires HUGE amounts of energy, in collection, sorting, transporting, re-manufacturing, and transporting again. Single stream is the icing on the cake when it comes to faux sustainability efforts.

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