Millions of individuals carry out their day-to-day lives not knowing what recycling really is. They see the bins or boxes that have the word “recycle” written on them, but they are unaware of the overall goal behind using those recycle bins.
Additionally, they are unsure where the contents of those bins end up. That is a rather disconcerting fact because it is projected that two trillion pounds of trash will be produced this year and at least a third of that trash will consist of recyclable materials. All-in-all that means the goal is to educate more people. The knowledge they accrue will undoubtedly inspire them to start recycling and being aware of the dramatic impact their waste disposal actions have in relation to the world’s condition.
The Age Old Fight (Waste vs Mankind) The first recorded example of dictated waste disposal is seen by looking at Athens around 500 B.C. They made a mandatory law that stated waste had to be disposed of at least one mile away from the city. Fast forward all the way to 1031 one can see Japan reusing paper by re-pulping it and selling it at local mom and pop shops.
A little bit over half a millennium later the “Rittenhouse mill” is introduced to Philadelphia, which marks the beginning of cotton and linen rags being used to reformat paper. A little less than a century later recycling became a tactic employed by the rebels in order to concern the necessary materials for the War of Independence.
About another century transpired and the newly-formed Salvation Army in London, England started hiring the poor members of society to scavenge the area to find discarded materials. About three decades later that program was formatted in the U.S and came to fruition in New York city when paper, metals, rubber, twine, horsehair and burlap bags were sorted in “picking yards.”
Following that, recycling advocates coined the term “waste as wealth” to promote the idea of improving the world by sorting materials and reselling them. From 1904-1940 the first aluminum can facility came to fruition, the federal government formatted the term “don’t waste waste- save it,” scrap metal was peddled during the great depression, and materials for the war (nylon, rubber, and various metals) were recycled.
1955 is when the “throwaway living” concept came to fruition. It essentially stated that single-use items were necessary because they were convenient and easy to use. The unequivocal evidence shows this caused a dramatic increase in terms of the amount of garbage on highways, parks, and forests. The decade and a half that transpired following that is when the first all-aluminum can is introduced, the Moebius loop is created (reduce, reuse, recycle), and earth day is founded by Gaylord Nelson. Overall one could argue that those three advancements were a reaction to the “throwaway living” concept.
1971-1981 can be identified as the time when recycling actually became serious. Oregon introduced the first “bottle bill” that handed out money in exchange for recyclable products, the department of environment was established by the Canadian government, the first recycle mill was formatted in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, Alberta Canada was introduced to the first recycling regulations, University City, Missouri became the first city to offer curbside recycling, the organization “In Five” became the first multi-material pickup service in Canada, the federal conservation/recovery act tightened all laws for waste management, and Woodbury, New Jersey established the first city to demand individuals recycle.
Lastly, the years 1981-2016 show that Canada implemented the “blue box” recycling project to reach 1,500 new residents, the U.S’s sense of the waste problem was increased, the curbside programs formatted for recycling purposes increase to roughly 5,000, McDonald’s vowed to no longer use Styrofoam cups,
Germany started developing the first sorting machine intended to use infrared technology, the EPA confirmed global warming is associated with excessive waste, dell computer companies started offering free recycling for their products, five states formatted a law that states that computers must be recycled, scientists speculated about a type of waste management technique where a product would “self-heal” for later use, and California issued the first statewide ban that stated plastic bags at grocery stores and convenience stores would no longer be acceptable.
The Perspective: After reading all of that information that highlights the evolution of recycling one should be able to conclude at least three things. First, waste management has become much easier through years of hard work and dedication. Secondly, waste management is most definitely an important aspect of preserving the world. Lastly, one should be able to conclude that proper waste management is in no way, shape, or form a small concern that is only applicable to one particular ideology.
In a perfect world, the following recycle processes would occur.
An individual would recycle their paper, steel, aluminum, glass, and cardboard.
Those items would be taken to one of the two material recovery facilities (MRFs). Those two facilities are known as single system recycling plants and dual stream recycling plants. The dual stream plants would take the recyclables and sort them into 2 categories, which are “mixed paper” and “everything else.” Those would be kept in 2 separate categories in the truck, dumped into two separate piles, and placed on two separate conveyor belts. The other option would be the single stream plant, which would take those recyclables and place them in one pile that would be sorted by a combination of people and robots. The overall point is that they are taken to one of the two MRFs.
At that point, the items would go through a series of sorting machines. The first machine would be the rotary screen separators, which would sort the paper and cardboard. This machine would achieve this by forcing the cardboard and paper onto the top of the rotary screen separators. The 3-dimensional objects that weighed more would drop onto a lower area. The paper would then be separated by workers. They would remove any remaining contaminants or stray plastics. Additionally, they would sort the paper into bins for mixed paper, corrugated cardboard, and newspaper. The paper would be compacted, baled, and sent to a mill, which would proceed to place it in a hot water bath. At that point, the paper would become pulp. It would still contain unsafe substances such as bits of plastic or glue. This is why specific screens would filter that out. The last step would be to send the paper to another bath that would remove ink with surfactants. That paper would then be able to form new paper products.
The other recyclables that are still at the MURF would be transported to another sorting line. That sorting line would include a cross-belt magnet, which would attract metal that contained iron. That metal would then be crushed, baled, and shipped to factories. At that point, it would be able to be melted down and mixed with new steel.
The remaining things on the conveyer belt are glass, aluminum, and plastic. These items would be separated using an air classifier. Air pushes lighter items toward a conveyer belt that is higher up. That allows the glass to fall onto a lower conveyor belt. The glass is then taken through a rolling drum, shattered into little pieces, and filtered through screens that ensure it does not have any pieces that are over 5cm wide. The glass is then sorted by color, which would be green, clear, and brown. The clear glass represents nearly two-thirds of all the glass and is easy to deal with because it is made from silica, limestone, and soda ash. All of those pieces of glass are sorted and are belted at a lower temperature than normal because they were initially mixed with other substances.
The aluminum and plastic are the only things that remain. The aluminum is separated from the plastic by using a machine that is known as an “Eddy current separator.” This machine is essentially a big drum with a spinning rotor that contains magnetic poles, which creates an abnormally strong magnetic field called an induction field. This induction field allows electrons in the conductor (aluminum) to create their own magnetic field. The two fields repel each other and the aluminum is pushed away to a different conveyor belt. The aluminum is then shredded, washed, and turned into chips. Those chips are then melted and poured into molds that are shipped to manufacturers. The manufactures melt them again and shape them into long sheets that have the potential to create new products.
The plastic that is left is 1 of 6 different chemicals, which correspond with the numbers that are on each piece of plastic. There is a 7th number, which means the product is unidentifiable. All of these types of plastics are different and each one has to go through a different process. This leads to either humans or robots sorting the plastic.
The Current Situation The failure to enact one of these 7 processes is what is preventing all trash from being recycled. That one thing is the very first goal on the list, which is to sort recyclables and give them to the men and women that ensure they are taken care of. The question one might ask is something along the lines of “what is so bad about not recycling?” Well, all pieces of trash that are not recycled continue to occupy more space on the planet and continue to pollute the environment. Overall this can be put into perspective by looking at the impact the millions of plastic bottles have in relation to the environment.
If one were to throw their bottle in the trash it could end up going to two locations. The first is a landfill where the bottle would likely be with hundreds of thousands of other bottles. At that point, rainwater would flow through the bottles. That rainwater would bind with the toxic materials in the bottle and all the other bottles to form a toxic stew that is known as leachate. That leachate would soak into soil or flow into streams. That would infringe upon the well-being of wildlife and plant life. That bottle could take 1,000 years to fully decompose in that landfill, which means that process would only continue.
The other option for the plastic bottle would be to get into a stream. That stream would float into a river, which would flow into the ocean. At that point, that plastic would end up going to the “Great Pacific garbage patch.” The location would be able to suck in the bottle because the oceans currents have a tendency to trap floating debris. There are 5 of these locations in the world. After being trapped in that area the bottle would begin to turn the water into a cloudy soup, which would inspire animals to mistakenly believe the brightly colored items are food. They would eat that food and then proceed to starve to death because they would feel full. Additionally, that would cause a major impact on the food chain because a small animal could be eaten by bigger animals until we become the one eating the plastic. For example, the plastic could be eaten by a lanternfish, which would be eaten by a squid. That squid would be eaten by a tuna and that tuna would be eaten by a human. This plastic is just like the other bottle that was trapped in a landfill because it will take nearly a century to deteriorate.
The Future: If more people continue to not recycle trash there will most definitely be a problem. The problems that form will essentially be a repeat of the process that was just described except to a much larger scale. Those animals that are dying would continue to die until the food chain was extinct. For example, the previously mentioned larger fish would die because their food would die. That would be hazardous to all aspects of the globe.
Additionally, all the toxins that soak into the soil would cause plant life to die and the soil would also not be able to provide a plant with the proper condition to grow. This would be a huge problem because CO2 levels would increase dramatically. As those trees died CO2 levels would increase to levels that would infringe upon the world's well-being. In other words, the lack of recycling would cause the nation to form the largest self-induced disease to ever come to fruition.
It may be hard to put this into perspective, which is why one of the very few vivid depictions of this tragedy will be discussed. This particular film depicts a world where life is no longer present. Mankind was forced to leave the planet in a space shuttle because all the plant life died, which left the entire planet with excessive amounts of CO2. Additionally, the non-recycled substances piled up to the point that they killed all wildlife and plant life. The only things that remain are the robots that were built to handle the trash and trash that will not decompose for thousands of years.
In this rosy depiction, mankind was able to overcome all these terrible problems by formatting a spaceship that provided all the necessary needs. In the end, they up coming to the realization that they were so foolish and lazy. All they had to do was put more effort toward recyclables and they would have been able to stay on the planet comfortably.
Preventing Premature Demise At this point, the entirety of the nation's relationship with waste has been depicted. The nation has slowly but surely advanced in terms of waste disposal. However, chemical refinement and the addition of billions of extra inhabitants has allowed that to be counteracted. The deciding factor is the choices every single person makes. Will they choose to throw the bottle in the bin or will they choose to slowly kill everyone? Hopefully, they will express enough passion and generativity to just recycle.
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