Our Recycling Delusion

You likely have seen the news that China is no longer accepting material the U.S. sends for recycling. If you’re like me, your reaction was, What? We’re burning fossil fuels to ship our waste to the Far East? China’s reasons that most of what we sent was adulterated with garbage and could not be recycled.

If you’re thinking, okay, we’ll just recycle it at home, you’d be right, partly. There has been some investment in paper and plastic production from used materials. The news is mostly not good, though.

RePlanet, the largest operator of recycling redemption centers in California has shut down its business, laying off 750 employees. Since 2015, almost a thousand beverage container redemption locations have closed in the state. Good luck getting your bottle and can deposit back. Unlike Oregon, California does not require retailers to take back and refund the deposits they collect for products they sell.

If you’re old enough, you may remember refilling soda and beer bottles was the norm. You paid a deposit, returned the empties to the store, your deposit was refunded and the bottles sent back to the brewery or bottling plant to be washed and refilled.

Old Coca-Cola bottles had its original location etched on the bottom. You could see how far the bottle had traveled since it was first filled.

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