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wild_turkey

Plastic waste in the environment

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1 hour ago, atomheartbevo said:

That's the thing.  If the cities actually discussed and put it on full blast to where folks couldn't miss it, and explained just what can be recycled (and what they actually recycle), it might shock a few people.

For example, it's game day.  There's going to be a shitload of pizza ordered and delivered.  You will see plenty of pizza boxes being tossed into recycling bins, when they can't be recycled, and everybody throwing them in there will be unaware of that fact.

Yep.  I've been trying to teach my wife what is recyclable and what isn't for YEARS.  She's better, but still can't get it through her head about food-soiled paper.

ETA: she grew up in a small town and just wasn't taught about it from a young age, so it's been a very hard transition, even though she has lived in Austin for 20 years now.

Edited by Biff Tannen

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9 minutes ago, atomheartbevo said:

That's the thing.  If the cities actually discussed and put it on full blast to where folks couldn't miss it, and explained just what can be recycled (and what they actually recycle), it might shock a few people.

For example, it's game day.  There's going to be a shitload of pizza ordered and delivered.  You will see plenty of pizza boxes being tossed into recycling bins, when they can't be recycled, and everybody throwing them in there will be unaware of that fact.

 the mayor wants everyone thinking that almost everything can be recycled. You are a happy citizen, blissfully ignorant of the problems you create.

i don’t even know how you could fully educate citizens. I suppose a mailer will adjust some people’s behavior. I bet your post will educate someone here that pizza boxes aren’t recyclable.

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More of my plastic is going into the trash these days.  I sleep better knowing that it's being buried in the ground than getting chewed to bits and strewn in the ocean.  I also try to burn all my paper in the chiminea.  Our hands are really tied as a consumer....you don't get to vote on tighter corporate regulations.

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16 minutes ago, Biff Tannen said:

Yep.  I've been trying to teach my wife what is recyclable and what isn't for YEARS.  She's better, but still can't get it through her head about food-soiled paper.

I've won that battle, but it was tough.  Also, toss in waxed cardboard/paper products, which is an ongoing thing - if you can separate that layer from the cardboard, it can be recycled, but otherwise, it gets tossed.

10 minutes ago, Nice Guy Eddie said:

i don’t even know how you could fully educate citizens. I suppose a mailer will adjust some people’s behavior. I bet your post will educate someone here that pizza boxes aren’t recyclable.

I don't know how you educate people, short of something ridiculous like having somebody come around on trash day, and dumping their recycling bin out on their lawn and pointing out what can be recycled and what can't.

And I only learned about this stuff because of a relative who was a chem grad, and ended up with a job at a recycling company.  It was eye opening how much stuff people think is being recycled, when it isn't.

 

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7 minutes ago, freyguy said:

Our hands are really tied as a consumer....you don't get to vote on tighter corporate regulations.

You kinda do though. Vote for people who have that as part of their platform. 

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1 hour ago, High Plains Drifter said:

 

Does anybody know if plastic recycling was part of the Green New Deal?

I don’t recall that. Also, I read somewhere we ingest a credit card’s worth of plastic every year. So we have that going for us, which is nice. 

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1 hour ago, High Plains Drifter said:

 

Does anybody know if plastic recycling was part of the Green New Deal?

Ironically, if we're talking about green misconceptions people willfully believe, I would add people thinking solar panels and wind turbines are going to save our power generation issues with global warming. The Green New Deal is all sorts of fucked up.

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9 minutes ago, Schulz2.0 said:

Ironically, if we're talking about green misconceptions people willfully believe, I would add people thinking solar panels and wind turbines are going to save our power generation issues with global warming. The Green New Deal is all sorts of fucked up.

Well they certainly will be a part of the solution. Do you dispute that?

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23 minutes ago, Biff Tannen said:

Well they certainly will be a part of the solution. Do you dispute that?

Sure, a part. Without massive leaps in storage technology, that are likely several decades away, you need fossil fuel plants or nuclear to fill in the big gaps. The people writing the GND legislation are staunchly anti-nuclear.

I'm arguing people are being sold solar and wind as the sole solution while glossing over their drawbacks and limitations.

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4 hours ago, Armybrat said:

I do not plan to recycle my plastic have to bring up my penis extenders in an unreleated thread to show how tough I am.
 

 

A972107C-10DC-4A9F-8A8C-E8074AD3789A.jpeg

 

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34 minutes ago, Schulz2.0 said:

Sure, a part. Without massive leaps in storage technology, that are likely several decades away, you need fossil fuel plants or nuclear to fill in the big gaps. The people writing the GND legislation are staunchly anti-nuclear.

I'm arguing people are being sold solar and wind as the sole solution while glossing over their drawbacks and limitations.

Fair. Just clarifying. 

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Glad this thread got bumped. It’s a topic that bothers me regularly but I don’t know the solution. I’ll look for that Planet Money podcast soon.

Since my OP a year ago, I completely quit buying any single serve drinks in plastic bottles. We were going through a Costco case of 24 Propels about once a week. Switched to the powder packets we mix into reusable water bottles. Don’t buy water in plastic bottles hardly ever. I reluctantly drink it if I’m somewhere that provides it.

I drink a shitload of sparkling water in aluminum cans and Topo Chico in the glass bottles. I worry about the environmental impact of those types of materials. And of course beer and wine in aluminum and glass.

And I drink 2 large plastic bottles of orange juice a week. I feel shitty about that but there are no good alternatives that I’ve found.

My concern is that the oceans will become a landfill during our lifetime and it will be incredibly difficult for future generations to undo that damage. Not sure how to prevent this. It seems unlikely that the U.S. would ever pass legislation to restrict plastic waste because the plastic companies and the Coca-Colas of the world have too much at stake to allow that to occur. And even if we did, a majority of the developed world would need to reach similar agreements for any significant progress to occur.

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My water comes from water coolers at home or at office and is drunk from a reusable container of some sort.  Alcohol comes from glass bottles (booze, wine, and beers, though some aluminum cans for pool nourishment).  My daughter and I split a paperboard half gallon of milk each week for cereal (granted, it is coated with a polyethylene layer).  Some iced tea peppered in there, also drank from reusable containers or glassware.  

I don't get who is drinking all these beverages from plastic containers.  Children? 

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1 hour ago, Schulz2.0 said:

Sure, a part. Without massive leaps in storage technology, that are likely several decades away, you need fossil fuel plants or nuclear to fill in the big gaps. The people writing the GND legislation are staunchly anti-nuclear.

And they need to loosen up on that, because otherwise there won't be much change to fill those gaps for several decades.  

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2 minutes ago, Lobo said:

I don't get who is drinking all these beverages from plastic containers.  Children? 

1234.  We are guilty of loading up on that stuff for various activities.  The amount of packaging that goes into filling up our kids with food and drinks is not good.

But, I have a confession to make.  When I shower, I use beverages in containers that are not recyclable.  Here's a shot of me at the gym.

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14 minutes ago, wild_turkey said:

Glad this thread got bumped. It’s a topic that bothers me regularly but I don’t know the solution. I’ll look for that Planet Money podcast soon.

Since my OP a year ago, I completely quit buying any single serve drinks in plastic bottles. We were going through a Costco case of 24 Propels about once a week. Switched to the powder packets we mix into reusable water bottles. Don’t buy water in plastic bottles hardly ever. I reluctantly drink it if I’m somewhere that provides it.

I drink a shitload of sparkling water in aluminum cans and Topo Chico in the glass bottles. I worry about the environmental impact of those types of materials. And of course beer and wine in aluminum and glass.

And I drink 2 large plastic bottles of orange juice a week. I feel shitty about that but there are no good alternatives that I’ve found.

My concern is that the oceans will become a landfill during our lifetime and it will be incredibly difficult for future generations to undo that damage. Not sure how to prevent this. It seems unlikely that the U.S. would ever pass legislation to restrict plastic waste because the plastic companies and the Coca-Colas of the world have too much at stake to allow that to occur. And even if we did, a majority of the developed world would need to reach similar agreements for any significant progress to occur.

Your grocery store doesn't have an OJ pressing machine?

Or press your own juice at home.  (With oranges imported from Spain and Mexico, of course...)

 

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I don’t see anyone going plastic free but it would be nice if the public knew that recycling alone isn’t good enough. You need to find ways to reduce plastic usage where possible. 

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5 hours ago, Nice Guy Eddie said:

I don’t see anyone going plastic free but it would be nice if the public knew that recycling alone isn’t good enough. You need to find ways to reduce plastic usage where possible. 

Yep, going plastic free should not be the goal (full disclaimer, I make plastic for a living).

From a medical perspective, you need good clean virgin plastic for stuff like syringes, IV's, and whatever tubing is associated with all that. You also need the same for any protective packaging it comes in to ensure that it has not been contaminated in any way that can harm you. To make that grade of plastic is tough enough that sometimes shipments get downgraded because they don't meet the standards. Luckily enough we have enough other pressing needs for plastic that there are plenty of other markets to absorb that. 

From a food packaging perspective, I will be the first to admit that we use way to much just because it is easy and convenient. However, plastics have radically improved our lives in that area in ways that are also more sustainable. Take a paper milk carton that has a plastic coating on the inside. The amount of plastic used is very minimal, and yes it probably prevents that object from being recycled. However, the wood used to make that carton can be grown sustainably. And if you bury it in a landfill that is done properly, the carbon from both the plastic and the paper is effectively sequestered for a long, long time. Of course, if you toss it in a recycle bin and it gets sent to some third world country where it ends up in the ocean then we have a problem. 

We really need to work on educating our country and world about responsible recycling to prevent our trash from ending up in places it shouldn't. And we also need to work to not have so much trash in the first place. I'm often amazed at the amount of trash my wife and two kids can generate. Some of it is preventable (do you really need to use that much toilet paper or half a roll of paper towels to clean the kitchen?), but some of it is unavoidable as long as we allow manufacturers to use a bunch of plastic packaging that really isn't completely necessary. 

One big upside of the recycling movement is that despite people throwing unrecycleables in the recycle bin it puts pressure on manufacturers to try and at least make a show at being more sustainable.

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On 9/6/2019 at 7:29 AM, Not that Bob said:

I see your point, but the shift from returnable to plastic was not a "slow shift". It happened in a time span of about 50 years, a rapid shift in terms of something this pervasive. Prior to that shift, all countries, first world and developing, lived without plastic containers. I do understand that "forcing" that shift, back to returnables,  would be darn near impossible...here and abroad. The big picture is that there are too many people on this earth. We need a good plague, and I say that knowing that the olds, like me, would be some of the first to go. 

Started reading this thread from page 1 and run across this. Fuck man...

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11 hours ago, NotActuallyALonghorn said:

Of course, if you toss it in a recycle bin and it gets sent to some third world country where it ends up in the ocean then we have a problem. 

We really need to work on educating our country and world about responsible recycling to prevent our trash from ending up in places it shouldn't.

This is a huge part of it to me.  There have to be regulations put in place to stop sending this shit to 3rd world countries that just chunk it in the ocean.  That's unbelievably irresponsible.

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10 hours ago, NotActuallyALonghorn said:

Yep, going plastic free should not be the goal (full disclaimer, I make plastic for a living).

From a medical perspective, you need good clean virgin plastic for stuff like syringes, IV's, and whatever tubing is associated with all that. You also need the same for any protective packaging it comes in to ensure that it has not been contaminated in any way that can harm you. To make that grade of plastic is tough enough that sometimes shipments get downgraded because they don't meet the standards. Luckily enough we have enough other pressing needs for plastic that there are plenty of other markets to absorb that. 

From a food packaging perspective, I will be the first to admit that we use way to much just because it is easy and convenient. However, plastics have radically improved our lives in that area in ways that are also more sustainable. Take a paper milk carton that has a plastic coating on the inside. The amount of plastic used is very minimal, and yes it probably prevents that object from being recycled. However, the wood used to make that carton can be grown sustainably. And if you bury it in a landfill that is done properly, the carbon from both the plastic and the paper is effectively sequestered for a long, long time. Of course, if you toss it in a recycle bin and it gets sent to some third world country where it ends up in the ocean then we have a problem. 

We really need to work on educating our country and world about responsible recycling to prevent our trash from ending up in places it shouldn't. And we also need to work to not have so much trash in the first place. I'm often amazed at the amount of trash my wife and two kids can generate. Some of it is preventable (do you really need to use that much toilet paper or half a roll of paper towels to clean the kitchen?), but some of it is unavoidable as long as we allow manufacturers to use a bunch of plastic packaging that really isn't completely necessary. 

One big upside of the recycling movement is that despite people throwing unrecycleables in the recycle bin it puts pressure on manufacturers to try and at least make a show at being more sustainable.

I’m not attacking you but the plastic industry needs to lead the charge. Insiders admit that the original recycling program and marketing campaigns were about image and not recycling.  Plastic needs to stop labeling items that can’t be recycled as recyclable. Just because something can be recycled in a lab, but no where else, doesn’t make it recyclable.

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Credit to Nice Guy Eddie - I listened to the Planet Money podcast that you referenced. They actually have 3 episodes related to this topic and they are all fairly short and informative.

9/11/20 - Waste Land
9/10/19 - A Mob Boss, A Garbage Boat, and Why We Recycle
9/12/19 - So, Should We Recycle?

I highly recommend them for anyone interested. My take home points would be:

Plastic manufactures and oil companies don’t care about recycling. Even worse, the oil companies would prefer no recycling because recycled plastic becomes a competitor to their virgin product. These companies only care about their image so that consumers will continue to buy plastic. The recycling logo is stamped onto all plastic to allow consumers to feel less guilty about plastic consumption, even though most of this plastic cannot be recycled economically.

Plastic recycling was somewhat successful up until about 2 years ago when China decided to quit recycling the world’s plastic. Now there is nowhere to send it that can reliably recycle it, so the chances are higher that it could simply end up in the ocean. This was the same message reported by 60 Minutes in the OP.

At this point, it’s probably better to throw all plastic into our garbage bins and not our blue recycling bins. At least this way, it can be landfilled close to home, rather than shipping it to a 3rd world country to landfill it, or worse, dump it in the ocean. There needs to be a massive American re-education campaign on this, but I’m sure plastic manufacturers would try to suppress this because they want people to keep believing the lie. Even if landfilling plastic is a better environmental decision, if this were to become common knowledge, then consumers would likely feel more guilty about plastic consumption and make efforts to reduce it.

Tin and aluminum should always be recycled. Glass is debatable.

Perhaps if we invest in our recycling infrastructure, we could improve plastic recycling in our own country to the point that the environmental and economic cost-benefit equation makes sense in the future. It seems like a long shot because it’s cheaper to just keep making new plastic, which is profitable for plastic companies and cheaper for consumers.

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4 hours ago, wild_turkey said:

At this point, it’s probably better to throw all plastic into our garbage bins and not our blue recycling bins. At least this way, it can be landfilled close to home, rather than shipping it to a 3rd world country to landfill it, or worse, dump it in the ocean. There needs to be a massive American re-education campaign on this, but I’m sure plastic manufacturers would try to suppress this because they want people to keep believing the lie. Even if landfilling plastic is a better environmental decision, if this were to become common knowledge, then consumers would likely feel more guilty about plastic consumption and make efforts to reduce it.

good info. I wonder if there is a middle ground that could be easy to communicate to people. Instead of telling people to use the recycle number to decide what to throw away, keep it simple for plastic: soft drink bottles and milk jugs. Everything else: landfill bin.

You will still have people that toss in anything plastic into the bin, including bags, but educating those residents will be a challenge. They effectively don't care enough to learn. A city could periodically add educational stickers to bins in neighborhoods that are bad with unrecyclable items. Or mailers. Regardless, it's not cheap to educate people.

However mayors and city council members also want the consumer/constituents to think they can recycle everything. Houston removed glass from curbside recycling for a couple of years for some reason. You had to take glass to a recycling center or drop boxes. I bet the city had complaints about when they stopped curbside glass pickup. Some people just want to believe that everything is recyclable.

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On 9/12/2020 at 5:05 PM, wild_turkey said:

And I drink 2 large plastic bottles of orange juice a week. I feel shitty about that but there are no good alternatives that I’ve found.

orange juice is basically no better than coke so just stop drinking it.  you'll also help reduce deforestation!

Edited by elfenix

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Negative. You have to have very low gel counts for a lot of those grades. Any impurities would cause gels to form. Also, you would have to have the correct Melt Index or Melt Flow Rate for making whatever product you need. That is basically determined by the size of the molecules in the plastic. Random bits of recycled plastic are not going to have a uniform molecular weight distribution much less the correct average molecular weight for precise processing.

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2 hours ago, NotActuallyALonghorn said:

Negative. You have to have very low gel counts for a lot of those grades. Any impurities would cause gels to form. Also, you would have to have the correct Melt Index or Melt Flow Rate for making whatever product you need. That is basically determined by the size of the molecules in the plastic. Random bits of recycled plastic are not going to have a uniform molecular weight distribution much less the correct average molecular weight for precise processing.

It would be like trying to build Mt.Rushmore with bricks, and expecting it to have the same durability as solid granite. 

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You need to really visualize this to comprehend how much goes into landfills.

In the 1980's I worked for one of the largest Coca Cola production plants in the US. There were two can lines, each filling 1800 cans per minute, 24 hours a day, 6 days a week. It was a blur watching them fly by. I used to do the math and knew how many the shipped. Probably 99% of them wound up in landfills. This was just one plant serving a small part of the US.

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1 hour ago, freyguy said:

It would be like trying to build Mt.Rushmore with bricks, and expecting it to have the same durability as solid granite. 

That's a pretty good analogy. For those who are unaware, plastic is made up of long chains of molecules with varying amount of branching. Regular low density polyethylene for example has a lot of branches. It's molecules would look something like a tree branch, with lots of branches sticking out every which way. Linear low density polyethylene, on the other hand, has a more linear form with smaller branches sticking out from the main part of the molecule. These molecules are basically tangled up together not unlike the wool or fur in felt is tangled up. The length or size of the molecules (usually referred to as molecular weight) is what determines how hard or soft it is.

At work if I am trying to see if what we are making is soft enough I will often bite one of the pellets I am making. Really low molecular weight stuff can be as soft as chewing gum, while the harder high molecular weight stuff you can hardly dent.

Melt Index or Melt Flow Rate or one of the various other terms used in the industry is the most common way to measure a plastic's hardness or softness. Basically, plastic is loaded into a vertical cylinder with a small hole at the bottom, melted, and then a piston with a weight or weights on it is used to force the plastic out of the die hole at the bottom. How much time it takes the piston to move a certain distance is then used to calculate the Melt Index. Softer stuff takes less time, while harder stuff takes more time. This gives manufacturers and idea of how it will perform in their processing equipment. In general, the average molecular weight determines this number.

But average molecular weight is only one factor in this. The distribution of molecular weight is also important for many processes. If you plot out a bell curve of molecular weight distribution for any given plastic sample, some might have a really wide distribution with lots of higher and lower molecular weight molecules, while others might have a a really narrow distribution.

Another factor to consider is additives. Many applications for plastics have additives in them to get certain properties. Diatomaceous Earth might be added as an anti antiblock agent to keep films of plastic from sticking to itself (think trying to seperate shopping bags, this would prevent them from sticking together and make it much easier). Other applications might have a specified amount of slip additive, which is basically fatty acids, to reduce friction. For example the screw top nipples that go on paper orange juice cartons might need a certain amount of slip to help the plastic fall off the mold during manufacturing, but if there is too much then the cap will not stay screwed on tightly enough to reliably seal.

So, with this huge range of additives used and differing hardness and softness, there really isn't a way to sort and control for these factors in the recycling stream. And that is without considering the different dyes and other contaminants that would be present. Even something as seemingly innocent as having consistently sized pellets makes a big difference in how well and consistent the raw material performs in the manufacturers processing machinery.

This limits recycled plastics from being used in many different applications. Fortunately, there are plenty of applications where they perform just fine.

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On 9/12/2020 at 1:37 PM, freyguy said:

More of my plastic is going into the trash these days.  I sleep better knowing that it's being buried in the ground than getting chewed to bits and strewn in the ocean.  I also try to burn all my paper in the chiminea.  Our hands are really tied as a consumer....you don't get to vote on tighter corporate regulations.

Inhaling burning ink isn’t too healthy, so be carful there. Lots of toxins put out into the air. 

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New neighbors moved in next door over the weekend. Today was trash/recycle day.  I saw all of the furniture wrapping plastic in the recycle bin. All of the cardboard in the regular trash.  Dammit. I’m sure there was a pizza box in the recycle as well.

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43 minutes ago, Nice Guy Eddie said:

New neighbors moved in next door over the weekend. Today was trash/recycle day.  I saw all of the furniture wrapping plastic in the recycle bin. All of the cardboard in the regular trash.  Dammit. I’m sure there was a pizza box in the recycle as well.

Facepalm

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