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Where Does Your Trash Recycling Go?

Recycling can be complicated, and the rules governing how to do it differ from city to city, which could be one of the reasons why only about 32% of our trash is recycled. Some plastic items are designed in such a way that they are difficult to recycle, or recyclers struggle to find buyers for recycled material.

Selling recycled material is one way communities offset the cost of collecting, sorting, and processing recycling—finding a buyer for recycling material is therefore an important part of successful recycling. However, demand for that material varies, which is why not all types of recycling are accepted in all communities. Aluminum is valuable because it can be recycled repeatedly without degrading, unlike plastic, which is frequently converted into lower-quality material and used to make new products such as carpet or lumber.

However, in general, recyclers have a more difficult time finding buyers for plastic. The same additives and dyes that produce different shapes, textures, and colors of plastic also make producing a material worth purchasing difficult. Marti Matsch, deputy director of Eco-Cycle, a recycler based in Denver, Colorado, stated that with all of that variation, it’s difficult to find buyers to take that material and turn it into something new because they’re looking for a simple recipe, not something so complicated.

Read also : 3 Simple Ways to Reduce Food Waste

For decades, the primary buyer was China, which imported millions of tons of used US plastic. However, in 2017, China raised its standards for the plastic it was willing to buy, leaving US recyclers without a buyer. Some of it ended up in other countries like Indonesia and Mexico, while others ended up in a landfill. However, some companies, such as Target, are pledging to use more recycled materials from recycling plants.

Source: National Geographic


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