RECYCLING: HOW WE CAN CLEAN UP, GREEN UP AND MAKE MONEY

RECYCLING: HOW WE CAN CLEAN UP, GREEN UP AND MAKE MONEY

(Photo) Daby B.Carreras

Ken Gibson

NYC 2020

New York City every day makes tons of garbage. Over the years, various recycling methods have been implemented, and so we separate paper from plastics and metals and put the rest in what we call garbage.

All of which tends to still make a big mess and stink.

While paper makes it to recycling facilities, most of what we throw away becomes a mess. Somewhere in the ocean, it accumulates into islands.

Not only is this bad, but in the process, raw materials, which could serve as the basis of local industry, are discarded.

Ideally, all rubbish ought to be separated into the following categories:

Glass

Wood

Paper

Cotton and other cellulose-based clothing

Synthetic clothing

Plastic

Organic material

Metal

At this time we already struggle with the three basic separations: trash, paper and metal, plastic and glass. As ideal as further separation is, reality must be employed by lawmakers or else the laws they make, however well-intentioned, become a burden. Daby is careful not to insist with a heavy hand that changes be forced upon us suddenly.

However, for the sake of research and exploring what our options are, let us take a look at how further separation can benefit us.

The list above starts with glass, which is a simple category. It is ubiquitous, being made from sand, and having been a part of human history for millenia. The Phoenicians are believed to have discovered the art of glass making, and ever since, man has not only used this substance, silicon dioxide, to his advantage for both form and function.

Glass can be recycled easily, melted down with high heat. It is not rocket science, thus glass can be dealt with on a local level providing jobs almost everywhere. It also makes rubbish collection a lot safer, as it is the material the most likely to cause cuts and accidents for sanitation workers.

Wood comes next on the list, and is again a material with which all humans have been familiar since the dawn of history. It needs more thought than glass, as, depending on its thickness, it could be used for paper, further wood products, or as fuel. Additionally, certain types of finishes could make it unsuitable for fuel as the chemicals could be toxic when burned.

Often we see entire pieces of furniture hauled off the street by a dealer who knows how to refinish them; which serves a purpose in the cycle, saving the dump truck time and space.  If we could expand this so that no wood makes it to the back of a trash compactor, we are streamlining our society. Glass, then wood, both of which account for a good percentage of the weight of out trash, are an asset rather than a liability.

After wood, and often made from wood, thus the same substance, cellulose, is paper. The average American uses 200 lbs. of paper every year, and in this city, one might expect a bit more to be used. It too accounts for a lot of weight. Recycling it saves many trees and forests from destruction, in turn adding to the quality of the earth’s atmosphere.

Paper cannot just be eternally recycled, new pulp must be added to the mix. For this we can appropriate all clothing material made from cellulose, which is just about any plant material. Cellulose is the most common plant material on earth. Using clothes for paper is not a new idea, the term ‘rag paper’ exists in English because paper was once made from just that. Today, however, rags are thrown away, adding to the weight in the dump trucks and in the floating islands of rubbish which foul our oceans.

Having specified clothing made from cellulose, which is silk, hemp, cotton, jute, bamboo, ramie and most other plant based material, we need then to take into account a certain amount of synthetic textiles which would get in the way of a paper pulper. These need to be set aside along with plastics, which is the next item on the list.

Plastics are actually of different origins, some petroleum based, some plant based. It could be that the separation of these at some point will be expedient, but at this stage I would limit the discussion to a more practical call for plastics to be placed as one category.

This brings us to organic material, which is not only heavy, but is the source of unpleasant smells. Like other substances, it too can be turned from a liability into an asset. Organic material includes all food wastes, and some related wastes, that could be put into a compost heap. Some of this, such as starch items, will be of limited value, as carbohydrates, containing carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, are abundant. They are the elements in cellulose, which, as already mentioned, is the most abundant material in plants.

Of more value are those discarded items that contain some protein or trace elements such as calcium. Coffee grounds, rich in phosphorous and nitrogen, are sought after by most gardeners, including mushroom growers. Why throw away such a substance, why should it add weight and stench to the discards when it is of use to agriculture? Eggshells, bones, stockpot leftovers, these all could either weigh down the cycle, mixing with other substances and making a mess that is hard to sort out, or be sorted out right from the start and provide an industry in every community.

Metal also needs to be looked at. As with plastics, but even more so, further separation is needed, but is too much to discuss or attempt at this point. Some metals, such as mercury, which became more of a problem as mercury bulbs, allegedly environmentally superior to tungsten bulbs, became popular recently, are very toxic. Batteries and other sources of toxic metals in some countries must not be mixed with general rubbish but rather turned in at a chemists’ shop or pharmacy.

This is a good idea, but even if we do not implement it yet, having a bin reserved for metals that could go to a facility where trained personnel then dissect the different material and send them on their way to more specific facilities is a goal we ought not to miss.

Last on this list is rubbish, that is, things that are not in any of the categories. Having dealt with so many substances already, this would leave a very small portion for general rubbish removal. Less smell, less bulk, but more work.

Work is a bad word in many fields, politics is no exception. People like politicians who tell them things are free. Hitler knew this. Some serving politicians, whose names I will not mention, know this too. Broad arguments, general rants about saving the planets, green new deals and other vague constructs litter the internet like the rubbish we throw into the ocean.

It is time for a real, focused approach. Which means work. And which means finding the right approach to introduce these ideas so they are brought about gradually enough to be accepted, yet with the right authority behind them so they are not just ignored.

This is part of the challenge that Daby Carreras faces, one that he is aware of, and that he will address with the realism that is needed.

Vote for Daby Carreras for a more environmentally friendly city and state in this upcoming election on 3 November and join him to help implement the needed changes.

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