Thursday, March 31, 2011

Recycling Symbol Confusion

Plastics News has an article this week about confusion over the numbered recycling codes that are used on many plastic items, such as you see over on the right. To me, the codes are very simple and easy to understand, but reading the article is enough to make my head spin. Apparently I have an overly simplistic view of the world.

The article is more or less a laundry list of findings in a recent survey; I find it impossible to summarize the results succinctly. Part of the challenge is that the survey included many different groups - recyclers, consumers, government officials, consultants...and since recycling is strictly a local effort, the results vary greatly. So consider some of these results:
  • "77 percent said that they get phone calls and emails from people saying they don’t understand the codes."(???? Somehow these people are smart enough to dial numbers on a phone but don't understand numbers on a bottle????)
  • "74 percent said the codes are used today primarily for education and that they want the codes to be strengthened so that they can be better used for that purpose." (Education? What kind of education can a person get from the bottom of a bottle?)
  • "40 percent said that the chasing arrows should be removed (Why?), with others suggesting that the recycling arrows only be used on items that can be recycled" (That is impractical since what can be recycled varies across the country)
  • "One-third recommended that a code be added for the type of molding method used to make the plastic" (Again, why?)
This could end up being even worse, since the ASTM is thinking about expanding the number of codes to include PLA and other plastics.

I really like what I have in my hometown. The recycling bin is a mixed bin. Everything - plastics, papers, cardboard, glass - all goes in it. I assume that only some of it is recycled, but the balance is then taken and burned to produce electricity. Pretty simple huh?


notmedchem said...

people are generally dumb...and think that scientific stuff just happens.

And yes your town is doing it right.

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