Recycling seems like a seamless solution to the plastic waste issue plaguing our oceans, air, and soil. However, there are many challenges faced by the recycling industry that individual consumers can alleviate.
Poor Recycling Quality Due to Lack of Education
Most people know that recycling is a good habit for the environment, but are often unsure of what goes into the recycling bin. This leads to:
Non-recyclable materials being put in the recycling stream (such as liquids or plastic bags) that contaminate recyclable materials and compromise recycling machinery.
Consumers turning to the trash bin in defeat.
Safety for Workers
Working in the waste/recycling industry comes with many safety risks including:
combustible dust explosions
machine guarding hazards
exposure to powerful equipment with moving parts
These risks turn many workers away from the industry.
Expensive or Inadequate Services
In order for a city to have an effective recycling system, adequate services (like separate bins and safe recycling centers) are needed.
Some cities just don’t have these resources or the government support to have adequate recycling services.
Low Market Demand for Recycled Materials
For businesses, buying recycled materials is like buying second-hand at full. Especially during the COVID-induced decrease in oil prices, the price of “virgin” plastics is much lower than the price of post-consumer plastics.
However, the industry is seeing a rebound in the value for recycled content in produciton and packaging. With supply chain shortages, virgin materials are harder and more costly to acquire. Multiple global economic factors are supporting a rise in demand for recycled feed stock, leading to a larger need to capture quality materails and put them back into the circular economy.
Is Recycling Worth it?
YES.. it is!
Recycling is still playing a role in solving the plastic issue. These challenges to recycling can be alleviated if we buy products that are made of recycled materials, educate ourselves on what goes into the recycling bin, and go the extra mile to make sure that recyclable materials aren't going to the landfill.
See Ecocycle’s A-Z recycling guide.
If you do not have curbside recycling, check out earth911.com to find a recycling facility near you.
Follow @cuzerowaste on Instagram to learn more about recycling and reducing waste in your everyday life!