NEW ERA IN RECYCLING AS MARKETS FOR DISPOSAL DISAPPEAR
By Edie Johnson
No more glass in Blooming Grove Recyclable Bins, Other towns hand sorting and washing cans, Cornwall hires separate hauler, people shaking their heads as the recycling rules they spent a decade to learn once again have to change.
“Back in the day”, trash was trash. And it went in a garbage container. Then population growth started causing environmental concerns, and we began separating things that could be recycled: glass, cans, paper, plastics. Haulers were particular for awhile, requiring that glass and cans be thoroughly washed and all labels removed. It was complicated and many did not participate. Keeping those items separate, along with some innovated programs to clean and reuse some of them was successful for awhile. But as “use and then throw out” mentality and amounts have grown, and those in other countries have become as aware of sustainability issues, a new trash era is causing big consternation. Trash in America has gone from being a problem, to a challenge, and is now at the verge of collapse unless we become innovate and mend our ways. What was sent to China for profit is no longer accepted. Where will all this trash end up going?
This month Blooming Grove Supervisor, Rob Jeroloman, assembled an impressive list of research resources when the area waste companies declared a change in procedure, saying that they can no longer accept glass in recyclable bins. Unlike some other towns in our area, Blooming Grove residents may consider themselves lucky, at least for now. Interstate Waste, which is the designated waste carrier for the town, is going to allow glass to go in the “regular trash” bin. Other towns are doing sorting themselves, requiring that bottles and cans be thoroughly scrubbed, or hauled away by a separate hauler (at additional cost). But as at least a temporary measure, IWS says that while they encourage reuse, combining any necessary glass with the rest of trash is the reasonable alternative . It just hasn’t been able to be kept clean enough for sale since it’s relatively easy to be contaminated by any other products it comes near. The only trash China will now accept has to have a maximum of .5 contaminant. When glass breaks, as it often does during transport, it grabs all kinds of contaminants.
But while the new process of tossing glass in with regular trash may be easier for residents, it is not environmentally sustainable. But Marissa Kellerhouse, the NY Area Sales Manager for Interstate Waste told the Orange County Post “Recycling is not going away, it’s just going to change.” She says she hopes that the piles of trash mounting up across the country and in landfills (because of lack of places to ship it overseas) will cause big business to redesign packaging and invent safer, more environmentally sustainable containers. Other experts agree, pointing the obvious fact that shipping our waste overseas was never a sustainable policy. Meanwhile IWS has an active education program in area schools. She added that now we will have to put more emphasis on the other 2 parts of the 3 R’s……Reduce and Reuse.
Meanwhile, if waste company costs go up we can probably expect disposal costs to go up as well., unless some innovative alternatives come quickly. Tipping costs have already been significantly raised in Orange County. The Town of Cornwall said that with tipping costs being hiked they are hiring a separate hauler for their recyclables, one of the few that still handles glass. In the long run, since glass is heavier than most other trash, it may cause towns to exceed their overall poundage rates.
The problem also hits towns at an unfortunate time, right at the head of the holiday season. This year the UPS expects 800 million packages will be sent out during the holidays. Along with egg cartons they may in many towns end up going to landfills because their density no longer qualifies as a recyclable.
Will the future bring us bamboo drinking vessels that can decompose in the garden, will we go back to milk bottles that are cleaned or refilled, or will a biofuel company convince the public that the trash can all be thrown together and incinerated to become energy. Sustainability may end up having many new faces.