Vinod Singh, outreach manager at Far West Recycling shows compressed blocks of plastics in Hillsboro, Oregon. For decades, shipping containers have been loaded with American scrap and waste and dispatched to China for recycling. But, the Chinese government is cracking down, and will no longer allow shipments of much of the mixed plastic  and paper Americans throw in to recycling bins. The shipments are too often contaminated with other waste like dirty diapers.

Vinod Singh, outreach manager at Far West Recycling shows compressed blocks of plastics in Hillsboro, Oregon. For decades, shipping containers have been loaded with American scrap and waste and dispatched to China for recycling. But, the Chinese government is cracking down, and will no longer allow shipments of much of the mixed plastic and paper Americans throw in to recycling bins. The shipments are too often contaminated with other waste like dirty diapers.

From its first spread in the 1970’s to today, municipal recycling has been a huge success in the United States. This is a recycling nation, and many Americans try to act on their concern for the environment.

Most Americans report concern for the environment; one-in-five try to act on that concern all the time

Two-thirds of Americans have recycling bins in their homes. According to the EPA, just over a third of Americans’ trash is recycled.

Most Americans have home recycling; fewer have a rain catch or compost pile

But what happens once you put your recyclables in the bin? Some of it used to go to China, but is now just piling up. And when waste is recycled, it takes time, money and energy.

When a reduction in consumption could have greater effect, is it worth it to bother with the blue bin?

Guests

  • Reid Lifset Research scholar and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Industrial Ecology, Yale University School of Forestry & Environmental Studies; @YaleFES
  • Monica Wilson Policy and research coordinator, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA); @monicazerowaste
  • David Biderman CEO, Solid Waste Association of North America; @biderman

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