Letter: Those Oceans of Plastic? Look at the sources first.

Letter to the Editor,
Those Oceans of Plastic?

We are being lambasted for polluting the World with plastic. But in the same breath we learn that 90% of the plastic in the sea comes from 10 rivers in Asia and Africa, the 3rd World.

80% of the petroleum crude that we extract from the earth today is burnt, as LPG, petrol, diesel and JP1, to fly our planes. And where people have cars, nobody, not even Al Gore, will give up on Jumbos and 787s. So, why don’t we also burn the other 20% that goes into plastic and rubber, and let it all add to the greening of the globe? Burnt in high temperature clean combustion boilers in the centre of every city it could generate electricity. That would be very efficient localised electricity that could cut the top off peak loading prices, would not lose 10% in those overly long transmission lines that spoil the view, and doesn’t get to dam up the biology of all our river systems.

We, the developed half of the world. need plastic like never before, and it is us who have the methodology to gather up so much rubbish, and sort it for baby nappies, green waste and food scraps, that could be processed for natural biogas to energy. And, we too can corral all that plastic, all our mixed packaging, our rubber tyres, wood and paper that could be efficiently burnt close to every city.

Doesn’t more CO2 grow more trees? By the time we run out of crude and frack, we may well continue to use coal by Sasol processes to make petroleum fuels and allow us time to fully depreciate our present transport systems as we slowly reinvest in new ones. By the time we have burnt up all the coal, probably long before that, we will be generating all our base load 24/7 energy from oh so safe 4th generation nuclear, with enough surplus electricity to either charge up all those Tesla3s that have yet to be built, without spoiling their emissions with present CO2 carbon based power.

Or else, recycle enough carbon dioxide and water back into hydrocarbons to keep the worlds multi billion dollar auto industry huffing and puffing, at least for long distance heavy haulage, until technology catches up.

We could even go one step further, we are still heaping up equally un-recyclable glass, particularly wine bottles. We buy our cheapest plonk in casks, those plastic bags in boxes. Has anyone complained about the taste? If plastic is able to put cheap glass out of business, why not the expensive as well?

Why don’t we shape and colour it to every producers unique requirement, and so that we don’t see the dregs in the bottom, make it strong enough to hold up on all the fizz in champagne, and do away with those mountains of glass? That would be really saving the planet.

Ken Calvert www.coffee.20m.com

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122 thoughts on “Letter: Those Oceans of Plastic? Look at the sources first.

  1. Absolutely. RDF – refuse derived fuel, is already a well established technology fueling power generators in Scandinavia and elsewhere, eg Vancouver BC. The main driver is probably diversion of waste from landfills due to high ‘tipping’ costs. The main impediment seems to be the NIMBY phenomenon.

    • And I really don’t see any need to separate out the various types of trash. If it burns, it burns…if it doesn’t then it’s slag and can be further dealt with.

      • so how are you going to separate melted glass, steel , aluminium and other useful material from your “slag” ? Just saying “can be further dealt with” is not an answer. Quite obviously the recyclable value is much greater if the trash is sorted.

        • It’s all cost benefit analysis. Glass IS recycled here (UK) I think though into what, I do not know.

          Sadly plastic is also partially recycled. Instead on being burnt.

          • Glass recycling is a bit of a myth. Unless it’s sorted into individual colours, it’s not recycled. We might put it into colourless, green & brown banks outside Sainsbury’s, but have you ever seen the lorry that collects it with separate compartments?

          • Yes that is the practice in Holland: green, brown and clear glass have separate pockets and the truck that is collecting the glass has separate compartments for different colours. And should someone make a mistake it is rectified by blowing away the wrong coloured glass on the transport belt. Fascinating to see by the way.

          • in France we just have 1 recycling bin for all colours of glass, it all goes into green or brown glass cullet. Clear glass tends to be contaminated by brown or green. I’ve no idea why the OP claimed glass couldn’t be recycled…

          • “Glass recycling is a bit of a myth”
            That is very interesting.
            A worldwide trade in scrap materials amounting to hundreds of billions per year is a myth.
            Better tell the people who buy, sell, transport, collect, sort, and utilize this myth that they are wasting their time and the mansions and fancy cars they drive are hallucinations.
            You do know this is 2018, right?

          • Colorless glass is recycled and used for making glass bricks. Colored/mixed glass is worthless. It is mostly used as landfill, though if broken up small enough can theoretically be used in concrete or asphalt.

          • it shouldnt be worthless people really dont care what colour it is for patio type glass bricks or anything else theyd make from it, a nice green brown blobby or even khaki result would be fine with me
            and it should be affordably cheap to sell lots;-)

          • ozspeak
            If you are sure there is value, start your own business and produce these valuable products, and sell them cheaply.
            It is good to see that you know more than the people in the glass industry.

          • Here in the northeastern US, “glass is trash”. The last glass recycling facility in the Northeast closed its doors and there’s nowhere to send recycled glass. Our town does collect it, crush it, and use it as aggregate in asphalt, concrete, and in road beds during road reconstruction. Otherwise it gets land-filled because there’s nowhere else to send it.

            Of course we could go back to the old fashioned way of collecting bottles, washing and sterilizing them, and using them again. That’s how it was done for milk bottle, soda bottles, and wine bottles. It didn’t require crushing, melting, or remolding ‘old’ glass. It was just wash and reuse.

          • A high proportion of fiberglass comes from cullet. Powdered cullet is even used in some toothpastes. Think of all that fiberglass insulation. I know this because the company I used to run fabricated abrasion resistant pipe fittings used in the pneumatic transport systems for Owens Corning, Knauf, CertainTeed, and other fiberglass manufactures.

        • Iron is easily separated magnetically, before and/or after burning. This is done routinely in e. g. Sweden. However glass and aluminium are more troublesome, particularly glass and should be sorted separately. Aluminium will burn in a properly designed incinerator, but is worth more if recycled.

          Excessive sorting (e. g. separating plastic and paper) lowers the energy content of the thrash and the recycle value is negligible. As a matter of fact much of those “recycled” materials are more or less surreptitiously burned as well.

        • Greg, in most of the US, you pay to have your recyclables picked up and sorted. There is no market demand for most recycled materials. The only materials that have value are the metals. It costs more in energy and money to recycle the rest than the savings. In my neighborhood, a truck and three men go around each week and collect the recyclables from a bin that we have to pay for each month. There is no chance that the paper and plastic they pick up covers their salaries, the cost of the truck, and the fuel, plus all the pollution they introduce driving for eight hours a day every day. Burning the waste will be at best a wash since the EPA will demand a scrubber on the stack to catch the halogens produced from burning anything containing a chlorine, fluorine, or sulfur atom. NOx will have to be treated as well, as these are effective green-house gases. Japan incinerates most of their garbage, but not because they make money – it costs more to landfill it in their country. The bottom line from the free market: if it paid to recycle, you will get paid to recycle. If you are paying to recycle, you are actually causing more environmental damage than just burying the stuff.

          • You have no idea what you are talking about.
            Same with nearly everyone here…just jabbering off the tops of your heads and are in reality ignoramuses.
            When you speak to people who have actual knowledge and say things that are false, do you know how you sound?

      • quite a good income and benefit from composting food n garden wastes using worms
        the french have/had a huge system going some decades ago, and it was excellent fast turnover soil for the peoples use

      • Baltimore tried that back in the late 70’s. Turns out lots of people put combustible and explosive stuff in the trash. Who knew.

        • Do you pay attention to yourself?
          Back in the 1970s some city tried something?
          Explosive stuff in trash?
          Like what?
          Do you know what year it is?
          Every place that has trash collection has recycling, if for no other reason to save money.
          It is very simple: If you do not know about a process or system, you are ignorant of it.
          It exists, you just know nothing of it.

      • Rhonda,
        Guess what?
        Your ignorance of how things are done and your statement that “I really do not see any need to” is astoundingly empty headed blathering.
        In case you were wondering, this is why warmistas are so irritating to talk to: The have no knowledge, first hand or otherwise, but they heard a few things and can figure out the rest…they know what they want to think, thank you very much.

          • Ok, remind me.
            And why is glass houses in “quotation marks”?
            Look bud, if people are gonna make jackass comments on a science site about a subject they know nothing about, I am gonna tell them what I think.
            And you are wrong…I am different than Rhonda.
            Is this about gender fluidity?

          • In case you never noticed, this site is primarily about education, which includes sharing factual information and debunking malarkey.
            Does it piss me off when dozens of people in a veritable echo chamber of misinformation exchanged a blizzard of bullshit about a factual subject?
            You betcha.

          • WRONG, this site is about news and commentary. It’s not about education, since it is biased against real science, and biased towards promoting conspiracy based anti-science propaganda, with a right wing political agenda.

          • Oh poor C. Paul, haven’t you learned yet that just because you make a statement that doesn’t make it true?
            There is more literate science in one of these articles than a year’s worth in the rags you read… NYT, guardian (of establishment propaganda), huffpo,etc.

            Come at us with a real, factually debatable argument and let’s see who had the science on their side. Otherwise, go back to your pew and get on your knees for your false idol, GAIA

  2. I’ve been saying the same thing for a long time…..including many posts here at WUWT. Plastic is solid hydrocarbon and, for the most part, is a superb fuel that can be used to generate electricity. Recycling plastic is just plain stupid…….the result is an inferior material that has only limited applications in ALL cases.

    The percentage of world hydrocarbon production that goes to to manufacture plastic and other petrochemicals is actually very small (certainly less than 5% and probably even lower) so we have no need to undertake the expensive, inefficient and stupid practice of recycling it. If we promoted it as a fuel to be combusted in proper incinerators to generate electricity, it would be seen as every bit as valuable as oil, gasoline and diesel and could be given a market value. That would foster a culture of collection in the developing world rather than disposal since it would certainly give rise to a market for people to benefit from the collection and sale of disposed plastic.

    Let’s get smart instead of fighting a ridiculous war to demonise one of mankind’s best and most useful inventions. Plastics are miraculous materials and we need to recognise that fact ASAP.

    • Where are all these ” proper incinerators ” ?

      We used to have an incinerator in a town not too far from here (south of France) but it got shut down because it was chucking out dioxins into the air.

      If France can’t build ” proper incinerators ” , can you imagine what would happen in Asia?

      • There are plenty of proper incinerators capable of burning plastic at temperatures high enough to eliminate any risk of dioxin release. Most industrial incinerators in the developed world have specifications to ensure that temperatures exceed 1000 deg.C. In any case, most common plastics (LDPE, HDPE, PET, etc) don’t actually produce dioxins when burned.

      • Modern incinerators are not sources of dioxins but sinks. And France has proper incinerators, for instance near the center of Paris.

      • It is done on a very large scale in Sweden. With properly designed incinerators there are no environmental problems. You have to put the ashes somewhere though, but the volume is vastly smaller than the original trash.

      • “If France can’t build ” proper incinerators ” , can you imagine what would happen in Asia”
        This is the problem with considering yourself knowledgeable when you know nothing about a particular subject.
        The technology to safely burn any organic material down to simple molecules of H2O and CO2 is decades old.
        Have you any clue how much waste is produced by a city full of people in a day?
        How much of it consists of materials for which a brisk trade in scrap materials exists?
        How much it costs to build a landfill, and how hard it is to get a new one commissioned, when one is full, and hence how much they charge per ton in tipping fees, plus rules for what can be tipped and what will get you arrested if you try?

        Lord help us…this is exactly how warmistas think they know shit from shinola.

    • not ALL cases. expanded polystyrene can be 100% recycled
      sufficient quantities and local collection makes it possible in Japan, in the UK and USA less so due to weight to volume transport costs (but has a higher calorific value than coal).

    • Plastic is solid hydrocarbon

      Well, actually, no. Firstly, some plastics have chlorine in their compositions, e.g. PVC, others have nitrogen, e.g. ABS, nylon, or fluorine e.g. PTFE. Burning these can produce some nasties if not done right.

      Then, there are the mineral fillers. Most common plastic products contain up to 50 percent of calcium carbonate, as a filler. There are also reinforcing fillers whose platy or needle-like crystal forms add strength to the plastic (mica, talc, wollastonite to name a few). Your plastics are actually composite materials, and there’s a lot of technology in designing plastics with the desired physical properties for specific applications.

      That’s why there’s a lot of ash when plastics are burned. Hence the calorific value of these plastics are lower than that of the equivalent hydrocarbon.

      Because calcium carbonate is the commonest mineral filler (cheap and readily available anywhere), high-temperature incineration of plastics will release a lot of CO2. Some people might regard that as a negative, but in actuality the lime in the ash will ultimately soak up the CO2 from the atmosphere again. But the endothermic decarbonation of calcium carbonate will further reduce the net calorific value of most plastics.

      The only common plastic products without a lot of mineral filler are clear plastic bottles made of PET (polyethylene tetraphthalate)

      Same thing with paper. Your typical paper these days contains up to 50% of calcium carbonate with particle sizes in the micron or sub-micron ranges. Fancy or glossy papers might contain talc or kaolin (“china clay”).

      If you doubt any of this, just do a google search for “mineral fillers”. It’s one of the industries that is hidden below the surface of our modern society.

    • All plastics aren’t created equal. For example PVC would have chloride emissions when incinerated whereas HDPE would not. Epoxies are a different animal as well. Incineration definety has its advantages in energy recovery and reduced landfill volume. Economics of waste collection and segregation, off gas treatment, ash management, energy recovery, etc. may point in a different direction than one may think. One must assess whether the energy input to recycle exceedes the energy recovery. I’m not saying it will in every case. I’m just asking questions as an engineer.

    • Yes, you’re absolutely right…plastic is a valuable resource. Just had a tour today of the newest and largest incinerator in Switzerland in Bern:

      https://www.ewb.ch/nachhaltigkeit/produktionsportfolio/energiezentrale-forsthaus

      Sorry, website is in German!

      However they take totally unsorted household waste (400t/day) from a regional population base of 200,000 residents and burn it at 1000C to produce 16MW electricity plus hot water piped over a 45km distribution network to hospitals (180C) and the university, government buildings, local industries, etc. They recover 5t of iron a day plus a similar amount of Cu and also other metals. A five kg sack of household waste produces the same energy as 1.5 litres of oil.

      All you see from the “smokestack” is shimmering heat…nothing else at all, no odour and it operates in beautiful downtown Bern, the Swiss capital.

      They have a separate onsite plant for forestry slash and construction wood waste that produces another 46 MW as well as a gas fired turbine producing another 27 MW. This wood operation is a completely separate incinerator as the flue gases require much less cleaning up than those from the household waste.

      They operate to the highest EU environmental air pollution standards and are well within these limits for all pollutants including dioxin, etc. The capital cost of the plant was about 500,000,000 Swiss Francs, which is not cheap, but it can be done and does work well. Expected lifetime of the plant is 60 years…somewhat better than bird choppers.

      To me, it’s the way of the future…

  3. Snag is that burning anything is to be in league with the devil to our true believers Grreenies.
    Only thing to do with Greenies is to force them to go live on a island with all that nature has to offer them. See how long they last when its back to the basics of life.

    mje

  4. I thought that most glass was ground up and used in things like reflective paint and fill for tar.

      • Best way to recycle glass products is segregation, cleaning, and direct reuse by the same manufacturer who made the glass container in the first place: But that requires rigorous sorting, selecting into stable shipping cartons, return to the base, absolute 100.0000% cleaning and removal of rats, mice, straws, food waste, bacteria, old gunk, wrappers, etc, etc, etc, etc … Then clean storage (again!) so nothing crawls back in the containers, then re-filling, then re-packaging.

        And that IS difficult. At least re-melting into cullet glass – even if not perfectly the original colors (dark beer bottles are easier to color match than clean clear glasses!) – kills all the biologics and rats and mice and bugs that pollute the food containers in every normal trash collection site.

        • I think you are describing the soda drink industry of my childhood.
          You return the P+psi or C0ke bottles when you are done. The delivery guy drops cartons of full and removes cartons of empty on his truck.

          They go back to the bottling plant and are washed, inspected, refilled and capped then loaded on trucks for delivery. Again.

          Key point is that a small C0ke cost 7c and the bottle deposit was 5c of that.

          The energy to transport, handle, melt and recast glass is…. probably too much to make sense.

          • Yes, I have a similar recollection. They stopped that when they went from glass to plastic bottles. I know the big boys occasionally issue their product in glass for special occasions, but plastic must have been enough of a cost savings to junk the whole bottle reuse system.

          • “The energy to transport, handle, melt and recast glass is…. probably too much to make sense.”
            All waste must be collected and disposed of.
            Tipping fees at landfills and the fact that they are limited in number and capacity makes it imperative that waste managers make the best use of every bit of material collected.
            There are high tech machines that use magnets and air and gravity and water and other methods to efficiently sort a never ending waste stream, and people who are in the business of making the most cost effective use of, least costly disposal method for every last bit of it.
            People who read a article in the paper back in 1983 might think they know what the hell they are talking about…but they do not have any idea what they don’t know.
            For glass, which is 100 percent recyclable and reusable and in high demand and saves money and creates jobs and reduces waste management costs,
            Read and learn folks, or you are just another ignoramus spouting off about crap you know nothing about:

            Glass Facts
            •Glass is 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without loss in quality or purity.
            •Glass is made from readily-available domestic materials, such as sand, soda ash, limestone and “cullet,” the industry term for furnace-ready recycled glass.
            •The only material used in greater volumes than cullet is sand. These materials are mixed, or “batched,” heated to a temperature of 2600 to 2800 degrees Fahrenheit and molded into the desired shape.
            •Recycled glass can be substituted for up to 95% of raw materials.
            •Manufacturers benefit from recycling in several ways: Recycled glass reduces emissions and consumption of raw materials, extends the life of plant equipment, such as furnaces, and saves energy.
            •Recycled glass containers are always needed because glass manufacturers require high-quality recycled container glass to meet market demands for new glass containers.
            •Recycled glass is always part of the recipe for glass, and the more that is used, the greater the decrease in energy used in the furnace. This makes using recycled glass profitable in the long run, lowering costs for glass container manufacturers—and benefiting the environment.
            •Glass containers for food and beverages are 100% recyclable, but not with other types of glass. Other kinds of glass, like windows, ovenware, Pyrex, crystal, etc. are manufactured through a different process. If these materials are introduced into the glass container manufacturing process, they can cause production problems and defective containers.
            •Furnace-ready cullet must also be free of contaminants such as metals, ceramics, gravel, stones, etc.
            •Color sorting makes a difference, too. Glass manufacturers are limited in the amount of mixed color-cullet (called “3 mix”) they can use to manufacture new containers. Separating recycled container glass by color allows the industry to ensure that new bottles match the color standards required by glass container customers.
            •Some recycled glass containers are not able to be used in the manufacture of new glass bottles and jars or to make fiberglass. This may be because there is too much contamination or the recycled glass pieces are too small to meet manufacturing specifications. Or, it may be that there is not a nearby market for bottle-to-bottle recycling. This recovered glass is then used for non-container glass products. These “secondary” uses for recycled container glass can include tile, filtration, sand blasting, concrete pavements and parking lots.
            •The recycling approach that the industry favors is any recycling program that results in contaminant-free recycled glass. This helps ensure that these materials are recycled into new glass containers. While curbside collection of glass recyclables can generate high participation and large amounts of recyclables, drop-off and commercial collection programs tend to yield higher quality recovered container glass.

            Glass Recycling Statistics
            •Glass bottles and jars are 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without any loss in purity or quality.
            •The container and fiberglass industries collectively purchase 3.35 million tons of recycled glass annually, which is remelted and repurposed for use in the production of new containers and fiberglass products. (Sources: Precision Consulting, NAIMA)
            •Over a ton of natural resources are saved for every ton of glass recycled.
            •Energy costs drop about 2-3% for every 10% cullet used in the manufacturing process.
            •One ton of carbon dioxide is reduced for every six tons of recycled container glass used in the manufacturing process.
            •There are 44 glass manufacturing plants operating in 21 states. There are 63 glass beneficiating facilties (aka “glass processing” plants) in 30 states. At the glass processing plants, recycled glass is further cleaned and sorted to spec, then resold to the glass container manfuacturing companies for remelting into new food and beverage containers.
            •In 2015, 41.9% of beer and soft drink bottles were recovered for recycling, according to the U.S. EPA. Another 27.5% of wine and liquor bottles and 15.1% of food and other glass jars were recycled. In total, 33.2% of all glass containers were recycled.
            •States with container deposit legislation have an average glass container recycling rate of just over 63%, while non-deposit states only reach about 24%, according to the Container Recycling Institute.
            •Beverage container deposit systems provide 11 to 38 times more direct jobs than curbside recycling systems for beverage containers. (Source: The Container Recycling Institute, “Returning to Work: Understanding the Jobs Impacts from Different Methods of Recycling Beveage Containers”).
            •About 18% of beverages are consumed on premise, like a bar, restaurant, or hotel. And glass makes up to about 80% of that container mix.
            •In 2008, NC passed a law requiring all Alcohol Beverage Permit holders to recycle their beverage containers. Since then, they have boosted the amount of glass bottles recovered for recycling from about 45,000 tons/year before the ABC law to more than 86,000 tons in 2011.
            •Glass bottles have been reduced in weight approximately 40% over the past 30 years.
            •Recycled glass is substituted for up to 95% of raw materials.
            •Manufacturers benefit from recycling in several ways—it reduces emissions and consumption of raw materials, extends the life of plant equipment, such as furnaces, and saves energy.

            •An estimated 80% of all glass containers recovered for recycling are remelted in furnaces, and used in the manufacture of new glass containers. Source, Strategic Materials, Inc.

            •Recycling 1,000 tons of glass creates slightly over 8 jobs. (Source: 2011 Container Recycling Institute).

            http://gpi.org/recycling/glass-recycling-facts

    • Cullet is eminently recyclable and actually reduces the melt cost in glass manufacture. It is simple to incorporate it at say 45% of the glass mix.

      As for wine in plastic try that for a good wine that needs cellaring; nothing beats glass. The problem is oxygen ingress IE barrier properties. Multilayer exotic plastics with glue interfaces or pinhole free aluminium coated plastic give some extended life.

      For some low value applications or high integrity recycled material it makes sense to recycle.

      Otherwise with the right pulution control (say for pvc) then incineration for power would be a good use.

        • PVC is not used in disposable containers or medical devices. Polyethylene, polypropylene and polyesters are the bulk of one time use containers.

      • A few years ago there was a recycled glass based sports sand product. It was a fantastically good product with no sharp particles (you could rub it between your fingers) and it had a percolation rate far better than the equivalent sized natural silica sand product. I wonder what happened to that havent heard of it recently – uk anyway.

        Would have been an excellent drainage product and unbeatable augmented into sports pitches

    • as a child, finding a coke bottle on the roadside was great- 2 cent refund was wax lips or bubblegum on the way home from school.
      the trash was collected for profit by us willing volunteers.
      then the FDA banned rebottling- they could no longer be reused so they instantly became a trash problem and nobody was a willing volunteer.
      so then laws are passed to pay people to ‘recycle’, which really isn’t recycling- i mean, ffs, the stuff is sand- you don’t recycle sand for profit.

      when i was in oakland- back in the day when jerry brown was mayor and the affirmative action teachers invented ebonics as their excuse for appalling ignorance, the city made a new law that everybody had to have a new set of multicolored trash bins and each individual was obliged to sort his trash according to the pop culture ‘recycling’ fad.
      the new kit cost you 75$, incidentally…
      Being as how it was now conveniently sorted, binned and placed conveniently at roadside, the mandated ‘deposit’ on aluminum beverage cans attracted the homeless who were happy to take them to the ‘recycling center’ to cash in.
      but nope- we can’t go back to volunteer trash collection in any form- it was an outrage that street ppl were stealing the city’s trash like that!
      so the governor hired a couple of garbage police at 100k/yr to make double damn sure no fly by night independents were recycling the garbage.

      and you can get anything you want at alice’s restaurant…

      • I grew up in the 70’s and as luck would have it, we lived next to a rubbish dump. That was our playground. It was popular back then that kids from school would build complete bicycles out of parts they scavenged from the tip. Two or three bikes per year and they’d be happy to sell them off for a small profit. Finding wallets with money and jewelry was surprisingly common too. My brother and I mostly made cubby houses and toys out of scrap wood.

      • Back in the 70’s everyone was trying to collect cans for the deposit but back then you could buy something with what you collected. Of course for me it was a soft drink and candy, during the 80’s I wanted enough to play a couple video games. Grandparents would get their exercise by collecting cans and help their grandkids through college.

        Deposits haven’t changed much since then but the cost of everything else has gone through the roof. The only reason homeless are such a pest at our recycle cans is because most people can’t be bothered to return cans for a deposit at 5-10 cents each. On multiple occasions I’ve wasted an hour or more of my off time trying to recycle a few dollars worth of cans. Between waiting for one of those recycle machines to open, having it break down, wait for a store employee to begrudgingly show up to fix it or totally give up and just manually count them. People just don’t want to be bothered at that rate of return so toss them into the recycle bin instead.

  5. But the very notion of recycling is fixed into the hearts of the greens, and their supporters, so ridiculously uneconomical schemes will be imposed in various jurisdictions. With the near extinction of hard-copy newspapers, the only item worth recycling is aluminum beverage containers. All the plastics in garbage, or paper products, were used because they were disposable.
    This is not to discount junk collection, with large chunks of metal. Or recycling asphalt roadways as aggregate for new asphalt roadways.

      • It is all worth recycling and separating waste streams into commodities, stuff that can be burned, stuff that can be made into mulch, stuff that can be composted into soil…
        It all has to go somewhere, and landfills charge by the ton…a lot of money, and the amounts are staggering, and landfills fill up, and are almost impossible to make a new one, and if there are toxic contaminants, it cannot just be ignored.
        Landfills now are bioreactors which produce methane, and are highly managed and complex systems. Nothing just gets “thrown away” anymore.
        It all gets sorted, even the trash. On conveyor belts, with apparatus that pulls out various components and visual inspection for crap like paint.

      • The two most recycled materials, at least in the US, are metals (iron, steel, aluminum, copper) and, for some reason, corrugated cardboard. There is a considerable market for those two groups of materials. Not so much plastics and paper, at least not like their used to be only a few years ago, and there’s no real market for glass. Then again I am speaking primarily of the Northeastern US. I do not know if that’s the case elsewhere in the US.

    • Tom, seriously, you have no idea what the hell you are talking about.
      Nearly every word, wrong.

      It is interesting when we have subjects like this arise, and some people who one might have supposed were careful to state opinions as such, to qualify the state of their knowledge, or to check before they tried to sound like an authority, to make sure they were not saying a whole load of horseshit, well, turns out…

      And I have seen this every time this subject comes up.

      Some of the comments are squarely in the realm of being a “crank”.

  6. Burn it! Burn it ALL!

    But seriously… if you make it a fuel, you’re putting a value on it. Once it’s worth something, people will start collecting it for the purpose of making money. Pretty soon after that, we’ll have cleaned up all the plastic pollution.

    But the Greenies will never go for it because, it makes too much sense and goes against their “narrative”.

  7. Many years ago soda (pop) and beer bottles were collected and a small return-fee paid. I did so, pulling a small red wagon, and knocking on doors, or retrieving them from the sides of roads. Today, parents would have a visit from child-protective services and the police if a child was seen doing that. There are many other reasons why that would not work now.
    Collecting, cleaning, and reusing wine bottles has been tried. It doesn’t pay expenses.
    Alternatively, the standard size could be changed from 750 mL to 1.5 L and the number of bottles reduced. If all were the same size, shape, and color, reuse would be easier.
    Did I hear someone mention totalitarianism? Anti-capitalism?

    The essay started with things that can “be efficiently burnt” and segued (via a non sequitur) to something that doesn’t burn.
    It seemed a decent idea until that happened.

    • I did the same thing, except I used a bicycle with a basket. It paid 3 cents each (about $0.25 adjusted to today’s dollar) These days homeless people collect a lot of containers with state mandated deposits on them out of the trash. So 6-10 year olds would have a lot of competition. We also didn’t have to contend with syringes and needles and disposable diapers in the trash and AIDS from contact with body fluids or even plastic garbage bags. We also didn’t have roaming drug gangs or drive by shootings and had far fewer child molesters or kiddie porn gangs at large. Also in those days milk was delivered fresh to the front door 3 days a week and the empty milk bottles (glass) picked up and reused. It was a different time.

    • Newsflash…it is 2018.
      Even waste is highly organized and high tech.
      It is hundreds of billions a year in the US alone.

      Perhaps some of you all recall the trash train that no one wanted, the trash barge that was rejected by every landfill in the country once it was in the news?
      Any idea what it costs when some crap like that happens?
      Not being idiots is how places like Florida have no state income taxes or city taxes.
      One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
      And a penny saved is a penny earned.
      I am so embarrassed reading some of this…

  8. I’ve seen projects for scooping up the plastic in the ocean being put up for government funding. It would be so much easier to just use it and not put it in the ocean in the first place.

    • Talk to China, Mexico, Brasil, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Africa ….

      it’s their plastics being washed out to sea from their rivers and cities.

    • Try explaining that to billions who live in Asia. Most of India is still into raping minors and shitting in the street. You think they are going to worry about “thoughtfully” disposing of plastic wrappings ?

      They just drop whatever they longer need, wherever they are when they no longer need it.

        • You really do have a reading comprehension problem, don’t you Ryan old boy. What part of “most of” do you think means “all”? granted “most of” is probably a gross exaggeration for “large numbers of”, but claiming he was referring to “all” when he said “most of” is just an outright lie.

      • Two observations on dropping whatever is no longer needed:

        1. In the 1950’s in small town Wisconsin, people would unwrap a candy bar or light a cigarette and toss the candy wrapper, the burnt match, and the cigarette butt on the ground for the street cleaners to pick up before the next morning. The sidewalks and street gutters were clean at the beginning of the day and used as garbage cans all day. By the mid-1960’s people had quit littering and had started using garbage cans placed along sidewalks, cans that weren’t even in place in earlier years.

        2. In the late 1960’s at the campus of the University of Wisconsin, groups would stand at the top or bottom of Bascom Hill and pass out flyers about an upcoming event. The hill would be papered with those flyers as students read them and then tossed them to the ground as they walked up or down the hill. I returned in 1972 and even though groups still passed out flyers, they were very rarely tossed to the ground any longer. The suddenness of the change in behavior was interesting.

        • Try checking out what is left behind after a liberal protest or march or demonstration.
          Filthiest and most unthoughtful pigs on the Earth.

          • LOL @ Menicholas. The garbage left behind by conservatives is the same as the garbage left behind as liberals. You need to get out more and smell the (roses) garbage.

          • The difference, you nitwit, is that the conservatives generally leave their garbage behind in the appropriate trash receptacles (IE they clean up after themselves) whereas liberals generally leave their garbage behind in the streets (IE they leave a mess for someone else to clean up).

    • Nobody “puts” it in the ocean. It washes out of the cities, towns and rivers with the monsoons.

      • And why does it wash out of the cities, towns and rivers? because the people in those cities and towns aren’t putting their trash in proper trash containers (for proper disposal) but rather just dumping it on the ground and/or into the rivers (which eventually flows into the oceans).

  9. Why don’t we burn plastics? They release complex gases like phosgene, a very dangerous gas.

    • Don’t tell the Bay Area Air Quality sniffers that I burn styrofoam and plastic packing materials in my fireplace. Usually on top of some top quality seasoned oak, burning hot and clean. I didn’t use to … but the more the Air Quality Nannies imposed No Burn Days … the more nasty shit I burn in my fireplace. The higher PG&E is allowed (by a compromised PUC) to jack up my gas and electricity prices … the MORE I burn. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

    • Not really true! The VAST MAJORITY of plastics in use today DON’T generate phosgene or dioxin or other nasties when burned. They produce CO2 plus water since most are simple polymers of hydrocarbons like ethylene, propylene and the like. If you knew anything about chemistry you’d know that phosgene aka carbonyl chloride is produced from the combustion of halogenated materials like carbon tetrachloride, trichloroethane, etc. PVC is one of the very few plastics that is halogenated and represents only a tiny proportion of plastic produced today.

    • That’s why the plants need high temperatures and scrubbers. They can also produce far worse, like dioxins.

      The key is to get to CO2, H2O and the least damaging compounds of halides possible, which are then removed by scrubbing.

      Typically phosgene, dioxins and other chlorinated hydrocarbons can end up yielding hydrochloric acid, which in itself is a useful chemical.

  10. Hummmm, I remember stocking my father’s restaurant/bar with recycled beer bottles. They were simply reclaimed, cleaned, and re-labled and redistributed after first use, many times. Why did that stop? Milk too…..

    • Think about it. Glass to mandated no return policy leads to coated cardboard and plastic containers. The government elected persons ( probably got rich from inside information as well as large donations.) picked winners and loser.

    • It would be good if the supermarkets could somehow have a big container of milk that customers could fill their own bottle with.
      Probably impractical I suppose.
      But they have just added a self service, computerised nut dispenser at my supermarket.

      • It would be good if the supermarkets could somehow have a big container of milk that customers could fill their own bottle with.

        I believe that’s called a “cow”.

      • In Slovakia few years ago there was try to install milk machines in grocery shops, where fresh local milk was dispensed. Machines were nice modern, not dissimilar from ATM’s.
        It was big fail.
        Personally I did not see anyone to using it and after year or two they disappeared.
        People are lazy. They want their milk last months. And their are lazy to clean and bring their own containers.

  11. An alternative to straight combustion is to convert the plastic feedstock back into methane via the Fischer Tropsch process. It can cope with any organic feedstock.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fischer%E2%80%93Tropsch_process

    Once you have methane, the cycle can continue either into petrochemistry, to make new plastics, to fertilisers via the Haber process.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haber_process

    or into electricity via gas fired power stations.

  12. “Or else, recycle enough carbon dioxide and water back into hydrocarbons to keep the worlds multi billion dollar auto industry huffing and puffing, at least for long distance heavy haulage, until technology catches up.”

    “Or else”…lol, thats funny, but missing a sarc tag.

  13. Decades ago, I interviewed with a company that had (or claimed to have) a process for turning waste into fuel, the, let us say, “Trasholeum Process.” I never heard of it again. A little digging revealed that the process also created tons of organic and inorganic acids that ate the process equipment up faster than it made fuel. I’ve heard of dozens of processes since, but none of them that I know of are actively getting rid of trash profitably.

  14. Considering that the gases that come out of modern incinerators are usually less polluting than the atmosphere it enters, it continues to amaze me how the supporters of a man made global catastrophe speak so vociferously against disposing of hydrocarbon waste this way.
    With the added benefit of electricity production, and less landfill, making it even more incomprehensible.
    A sound article. Thank you…_

  15. Many years ago I worked at an observatory in the Atacama desert. One day there was an accident on the Panamerica highway involving a Coca Cola truck which had shed its load completely. An ‘eco-aware’ member of staff was very upset about it because, according to him it would take at least 25000 years for the glas to disappear. Had read that somewhere. And indeed there was an impressive pile of glass debris on the side of the road.

    Three years later there was hardly anything left. A few hundred day-night cycles and some desert wind was all that was needed to pulverise the glass and return it to the sand it was originally.

  16. Subsidies for plasma furnaces would make a lot more ecological sense than subsidies for windmills. (To the extent any subsidies makes sense, that is.)

  17. I like using multiple techniques to reduce or reuse. Wth plastics like thin film, straws, etc I like pyrolysis (which the EPA is considering incineration) in a reduced oxygen environment like nitrogen. At a certain temperature and particle size and mixture you can produce diesel or jet-a fuel below $2 a gallon. Biggest problem I see is we have fixated on a large or extremely large and costly solutions and not scaling down to where the problem is. So San Francisco cam afford to recycle but if you life in a town of 100,000 or less you options decrease to dig a hole and bury it.

  18. i recycle all the glass jars and bottles incoming to my home easily
    i buy, or friends give me mass fruit n veg in season and then I make jams chutneys pickles real tomato sauce, worcestershire etc etc
    I share the product with the jars/produce donors, we all benefit and get better food as well
    the agee twist top lids are fine for reuse and seal up properlky if theyve not been savaged on initial opening.
    recently made 18 jars and one 2kg bottle of mustard pickles cost around $1.50 max per jar inc power and condiments and produce. the turmeric and mustard powder cost the most!

  19. As I understand it, some of the problem “micro plastic” pollution arises from wear from automobile tires, which is washed into the drains and oceans and fibres from man-made clothing which come off during washing and again runs into the drains.
    I would like to know what recycling can do about those.

  20. Plastic bottles or other such plastic debris floating down rivers usually drifts by the wind to one bank or the other where it accumulates near obstructions in large piles for a while. Rivers are natural sorters of floating plastic. Someone just needs to scoop it up.

  21. From the financial point of view, the cost of collecting and transporting recyclables in our town amounted to over a million annually. If, on the other hand, the recyclables were collected and hauled away, unsorted, with the trash collection, the town would have saved over 50 %, less than half of what pays today.
    Defenders of recycling say that there are environmental benefits and job creation with recycling that make it worthwhile. As to the former, only 5 % of the recyclable load is truly recycled country-wide for original product. A part gets shredded for land fill and similar purposes and much goes to the dumps or incinerators, sometime simply because the recycler did not find a buyer for some items or run out of storage capacity. All this hauling, sorting and repeated hauling cause harm to the environment, not benefit. There is no evidence that recycling saves energy or lessens pollution to a measurable degree, save with objects returnable for cash such as cans and bottles.
    As to job creation, for that purpose we could replace every 200 horsepower trucks with 200 horse-powered wagons with drivers, loaders and unloaders. That would also eliminate burning fossil fuels along with replacing the diesel noise and exhaust pollution with “organic” ones. Not a good prospect considering that this country achieved the highest standard of living in the world by saving labor, that is, by finding ways to achieve more with fewer jobs.

  22. There is a difficulty and a cost to removing the high energy plastics from other waste in the dump. A few years ago before the Natural gas shale revolution, there were several companies developing and building incinerator plants to burn household garbage. Unfortunately it just isn’t cost effective with low cost natural gas.

    The other problem is the resulting ash is somewhat toxic and there are disposal issues.

    There is no such thing as a free lunch. If it were cheap and easy to take out the plastics, and then there were people willing to pay for the power generated from these plants, they would already exist.

  23. Recycling is generally a scam with the main benefits being a sense of greenness and more government tax payer funded jobs. If no profit can be achieved by recycling, it should not be done. Leftist propaganda has convinced folks it is a good thing. I sit on a tax distribution board and one of our biggest loosers is recycling, ie, a tax èater. But those being paid by the local tax dollars will likely vote left along with family ànd friends. Burn it or bury it.

  24. I used to use the burn barrel down by the barn to recycle plastic into the air. It stinks to high heaven.

  25. I’m curious about the source for the 90% figure. I’ve seen numbers showing 85% of the plastic in the ocean consists of fishing nets.

  26. Ask any woman from Fishkills, NY about labial malformation and you’ll understand why you shouldn’t burn all plastics.

  27. What’s wrong with Thermal DePolymerization?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_depolymerization

    Once upon a time, environmentalists where very concerned about landfills. In fact I can remember themselves chaining themselves to the gates of landfills. It appears those efforts are no longer in vogue.

    I think it is terrible that we plant any sort of garbage into the ground.

    Thermal depolymerization should be a mandatory first step for all waste, except for possibly some chemical and radioactive waste.

  28. Went to a small island off of Hong Kong a few years ago for a day trip to see a Buddhist temple there.The ferry had to plow through 2 miles of floating garbage to get to the dock. We walked along the water front and the garbage was at least 3 feet deep on top of the water and most of it was plastics and Styrofoam junk. I really think that the ban on drinking straws and plastic beads in shower soap is not going to effect the amount of plastic that is in the oceans because 98% of it is coming from China, Africa and other third world countries.

  29. Aluminum is still the most efficient container for beverages. It has the longest product life as it blocks all light. The intrinsic energy value promotes recycling. Easily sorted via eddy current sortation, its bulk handling is also favorable.

    There are typically two alloys used in each can, a 5000 series top and a 3000 series cup. These are segregated by melting points after shredding.

  30. Actually, I suspect quite a bit of the plastic floating in the ocean really does come from the U.S. – via recycling. So, how recycling works is that it’s sorted by type then sold to China where it is actually recycled. They’ve become very insistent about the level of cross contamination of the waste they’re buying. Even a tiny bit of the wrong kind of plastic in a bundled ton and they reject the whole thing. Where does it go then? So, we may be the source of “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch” because of – yup – our recycling.

    • When flat screen TV’s were just starting to take hold the local municipality land fill started to take in a rash of older tube TV’s that nobody wanted. There was a line of tube TV’s on pallets 5 across and 4 high stretching for over 1/2 a mile along side a road inside the dump. One day there was a sale of these used TV’s and they were put into a lot of shipping containers and shipped off somewhere. Later a news item appeared on the news about a place in Mali Africa that was busting up old TV’s in a big dump so that the locals could recover a small bit of gold in the circuits and some other small items. They were literally carrying these old TV’s out of the shipping containers and smashing them on the ground to get at the insides. When the pile of debris was to high and picked over another local Mali doused the pile with diesel fuel and set fire to it. The black smoke pillar rose into the air and carried off over a shanty town near by. I wonder how much toxic material was released for the sake of RECYCLING. Just remember out of sight and out of mind is a great recycling tool.

  31. How much more CO2 would be generated? Would this burning of waste not displace other energy production that would no longer be emitting CO2?

  32. “We buy our cheapest plonk in casks, those plastic bags in boxes. Has anyone complained about the taste? ”

    I’ve been drinking that stuff for years. I didn’t know it had got taste.

  33. “plastic is able to put cheap glass out of business,”

    Glass is made of silicon compounds, sand.

    sand too is needed for construction works. and worldwide Construction companies are seeking sand.

    peak sand Availability is exceeded.

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