Does any of our stuff actually get recycled??
November 11, 2010 1:54 PM   Subscribe

How can I make sure my recycling is not ending up in a landfill?

Today I just watched my trash/recycling company dump my three weeks' worth of recycling into the same truck as my trash. Just like that. I am indignant.

I want to switch trash companies (because it's not regulated where I live), but I want to know how I can make sure my recycling will actually make it to a recycling center instead of ending up in a landfill. Thanks!
posted by jehsom to Science & Nature (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Many modern trash trucks are actually split trucks, and what appears to be the same compartment is not. So you might want to verify if what you think you saw is what you actually saw.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:06 PM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, with split trucks, both trash and recycling get dumped into the same hopper, but they get routed to the appropriate half of the truck. Split trucks make for fewer trucks driving around.
posted by zsazsa at 3:01 PM on November 11, 2010


To answer your question quite literally, you could get a tiny GPS transmitter of some sort and stick it on the inside of a can. This requires your having some knowledge of where the landfill is and where the recycling plants are.

But it's probably a split truck.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 3:34 PM on November 11, 2010


This requires your having some knowledge of where the landfill is and where the recycling plants are.

At least in my area, the companies doing major recycling work are also the waste management companies that take things to the dump. In fact, our consumer recycling centers are at the dump. Unless I had a really good read on where in the landfill they were putting actual trash, I'd have a hard time telling anything from a GPS.

But, if you really want to make sure stuff ends up being recycled, it may be possible to take it to the recycling center yourself. I did that before they started having trucks come around.

Most recycling actually makes money for the companies that do it, and they wouldn't bother collecting it if it didn't. Even things that don't have as much of a return as metal can make some money for a company when they do it by the ton.
posted by LionIndex at 4:00 PM on November 11, 2010


At least in my area, the companies doing major recycling work are also the waste management companies that take things to the dump

I know, but the dump isn't the landfill and it's not the recycling plant. It goes somewhere from there. And yeah, they get paid for the material, and if it's all the same dump then there's no reason not to recycle it, assuming the current price of the material covers the cost of getting it to the recyclers.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 4:06 PM on November 11, 2010


Help us out here: where in the world are you?
posted by dash_slot- at 4:11 PM on November 11, 2010


Be aware of silly situations that seem to make no sense but probably happen everyday.

For example, in our town the people that get curbside pickup can recycle glass. Cool, I make the assumption that the recycling dumpsters are under similar rules (as it states on the city's recycling website, which is notoriously ugly).

Wrong, and since we don't qualify for curbside pickup it's a big deal. Anyway, after being told by a worker in one of the establishments near the recycling dumpster I use that "you can't put glass in there" it took 3 phone calls to the city and finally a friend of a friend who knows someone that works there told us that the city has to PAY the recyclers for the curbside pickup customers to be able to recycle glass and that the same ability is no longer available for the dumpster services as of 8 months ago.

Insane eh? Probably 100% related to the fact that glass doesn't recycle as much besides concrete filler and the economy is in the dumps... anyway... Good for you for wanting to know what the deal is and I encourage anyone who does recycle to make sure they're doing it right to ensure that the quality of the recycled product is not affected and/or the costs for the recyclers remain low.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:16 PM on November 11, 2010


Help us out here: where in the world are you?

I'm in Marietta, Georgia.

Also, I called the company this morning to tell them that they had put the recycling and trash into the same truck, and they informed me that there were supposed to be two different trucks, and they filed a complaint on my behalf, for the drivers of both trucks to see. So apparently they do not use the same truck for both recycling and trash.
posted by jehsom at 8:33 AM on November 12, 2010


I know you have better things to do with your time, but if you're the kind of person interested in a short project: my grad school advisor followed the trucks to their destinations and asked questions at the appropriate points. In his case (suburban Boston, Woburn, or Waltham , maybe?), he found that essentially the garbage was being recycled and the recycling was being trashed.

Another thing for you or others who happen on this thread: don't be discouraged because you are allowed to mix your recyclables! The technologies in recycling plants is pretty amazing. So you do still have hand-sort facilities in some places (uuugggh), but mostly you have state-of-the-art equipment that separates by the same principles as a centrifuge or a float tank. They divide materials by density. Cool, huh?
posted by whatzit at 9:54 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


« Older How good is MobileMe syncing?   |   Giving it a second shot? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.