Recycling… to do or not to do

My friend wrote a piece on her blog (her first blog entry!) about recycling. She talked about a documentary she saw that said that the recycling process has a larger carbon footprint and is more damaging to the environment than not recycling is. Got me thinking… what kinds of technologies are we looking at that can reduce the carbon footprint of the recycling process? Or are we stuck using archaic non-green equipment? She mentions using lasers… what effect would that have?

What do you all think?

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2 thoughts on “Recycling… to do or not to do

  1. This come from the British ADA’s, and is from March:

    “Following recent speculation over the carbon impact of the recycling process, research by ADAS has indicated that there are alternative methods available which could significantly reduce the supply chain’s carbon emissions.

    ADAS has developed a unique model for calculating the carbon footprint of each process in the recycling chain, which reveals that if paper is collected separately from bio-degradeables, plastic and glass recycling, it can significantly impact upon people’s propensity to recycle and reduce the carbon footprint of the recycling process as a whole.

    Phil Metcalfe, lead ADAS Environment consultant on the report, commented: “When recyclables are co-mingled, or stored together, the paper element makes up two thirds of the waste and results in energy and emissions from handling this mass through the materials recycling facility in order to separate the plastic, metal and glass. As a dry and easy to store material, people are often happier to keep their paper recycling separate. This enables the paper to be collected separately and sent for recycling without the extra burden of mechanically separating other recyclables. If the different wastes are separated, councils can increase the frequency of collection for more difficult recyclate such as household kitchen organics.

    “This will significantly decrease the volume of the pick-up. Therefore, collections of organic waste can become more frequent without increasing the carbon footprint in the chain .

    “Local authority environmental services would also be able to retain the popular weekly collection of perishable waste, a subject over which there is the most controversy, because when left it smells, rots and can attract rodents and insects”.

    The research conducted by ADAS also concluded that by sending recyclate to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in closer proximity to the pick-up area, more frequent, smaller collections would not significantly impact on the carbon footprint because of the ability to separately collect more than one waste type on the vehicles. ADAS also highlighted that local authorities can look to reduce the carbon emissions in their supply chain by using environmentally friendly vehicles and fuels.

    Currently the ADAS environmental research has focused on recycling in the London Borough of Camden, where the council is using the research findings to guide new practice. However, the ADAS model suggests that, if it were rolled out countrywide, the UK could make significant savings and reduce its waste management carbon footprint.

    For more information on this project or any other waste management issue, please contact Phil Metcalfe by e-mail phil.metcalfe@adas.co.uk or telephone 01902 693224″.

    As with everything, doing things well or not has a whole impact on the footprint it leaves.

  2. Thanks for the article! That’s got some interesting point and I like how the last sentence really brings the punch to the party. 😉

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