I have great news! California is going to inspire us all to recycle more. Besides the great benefit recycling has for our Society- more recycling means more jobs! Sounds like a win-win situation to me!
A few weeks ago California passed an ambitious new law intended to raise the amount of materials that the state recycles. California's previously stated goal had been to recycle fifty percent of all qualifying materials--now, it says it will recycle seventy-five percent of all plastic, paper, and cans.
Many businesses and apartment buildings previously hadn't recycled their trash, but just sent it--some fifteen tons of it--to the landfills. Large office buildings only diverted seven percent of their waste to be recycled, and smaller businesses had managed to do even less than that.
To get the bill passed, politicians presented it as a jobs initiative. The market for recyclables will be expanded, they say--and because money can be made from the goods, it's expected that the trash will be collected more efficiently.
Recyclables had been previously sent abroad (at a loss) for processing; now local facilities will sort and process the goods. Proponents say this will create hundreds of new jobs. Eventually, it is hoped that as many as 60,000 jobs will be created with this program (both directly and indirectly).
But how are recyclables sorted before they're processed?
First, they're gathered at the curb. Once, most cities required that everyone separated their materials into differently colored trash bags. It was considered to be easier on the city that way, but harder on the consumer. Because of this, businesses weren't able to participate in the efforts for logistical reasons.
In many cities now, residents are allowed to co-mingle their recyclables in specially marked bins--cans and plastic and paper can be side by side. It's cheaper that way, because the sanitation departments don't have to make multiple trips to gather the materials. And as Science Daily reports more people recycle when it's made easier for them to do so.
Once the materials are taken to the sorting facility, everything is dumped onto conveyers--hundreds of them. Paper is pulled out, using sensors. Other sensors detect the plastic and shoot it with air to push out of the way. Magnets take the steel. Aluminum is taken with electronic pulses. Workers pull out the materials that will damage the machinery. Here's a video on how it's done in Calgary:
I always wonder why other cities don't do the same...
Are other cities and states catching up with California? Florida is notably efficient, and Dallas is leading the way in food and beverage carton recycling. Dallas now recycles 50,000 tons of materials, and is on track to soon recycle nearly 65,000 tons.
Why don't even more cities recycle at the same rate California does? Because there are those who call it a boondoggle. They say we're not about to run out of landfill space and that recycling paper keeps forests from being replanted with new trees.
But if the new law in California works, it could change the direction of recycling, make it much more efficient, and add many much-needed jobs, thus changing the script from whether or not these efforts will save the earth--to something local and immediate:much needed jobs.