Whenever I see the recycling bin being filled up with more trash than recyclables, I feel so sorry for the workers transporting these all the way back to their facility to sort. I wonder how many items are really recycled, and how much eventually is sent to the incineration plants where they should have been directed to, right at the start. At this point, you’ll ask yourself: why waste even more resources to create such an unnecessary detour?
Even with recyclable plastic food containers, they are usually unclean. Not many washes and dries their recyclables before depositing them into the bins. I cannot see through the Tetrapak beverage cartons, but they are likely not rinsed. The residual milk would probably turn bad by the time they reach the recycling plant, can you imagine the stench as the workers open up the cartons?
Rarely but unbelievably, I even found pet litter and food waste amongst the plastics and paper once; these only end up contaminating the good recyclables. So are we putting more junk or recyclables into the recycling bins? I am not the only one that found food in recycling bins.
I am also quite sure foil packaging and balloons cannot be recycled too. Bed linens, pillows and bolsters? Confirm trash. I hope the staff collecting the recyclables will sort these at bin source instead of bringing such obvious trash back to the recycling facility.
At times, I suspect the residents are treating the blue bin as a freecycling zone. How do you explain the appearance of potted plants, old clothing, stuffed toys, and perfectly good stuff like this and this? The upside of leaving usable stuff in good condition around the high traffic recycling bin area is that there are good chances of these items getting picked up. However, recycling bins are emptied three times a week, so the window period for the items to find a new home is quite short.
With the end of the year approaching, households will be spring cleaning, decluttering and discarding, overfilling the recycling bins with items that we are too guilty to discard as trash on our own. So, we devise a plan to be eco-friendly or charitable; treating every trash as “recyclable” or donate stuff we no longer want to the less fortunate.
Someone else can turn them into something useful.
Someone else can give them a second lease of life.
Out of sight, out of mind, where they end up never matter; we have tried recycling them!
Unfortunately, a study suggests that, even if we recycle the right way, only 9% of world plastic gets recycled. Maybe it’s time to tell ourselves that recycling just isn’t working anymore. Forget recycling and just stop generating more waste instead.
The only items I am still recycling are old newspaper and cardboard. But I only recycle through the karang guni uncles, not the blue bins. They tell me the truths about recycling based on economics, not some grand ideas of waste eradication by recycling/upcycling every plastics, glass and paper trash we generate mindlessly.
How has this affected my recycling habits? Greatly. I no longer spend time (& water) rinsing and drying recyclables. Whatever I can refuse, repurpose and reuse, I will. Here are some items that I either give away/ reuse or simply discard as trash.
++ Plastics ++
In theory, PET and PP plastics are highly recyclable materials. In real life, they are not worth the efforts and resources to recycle. We are also probably generating too much single-use plastics to be able to keep up with the rate of recycling.
BEFORE: For a long time, I practised the zero-waste habit of refusing to accept single-use plastics. On occasions when I encountered #ZeroWasteFailures, I would rinse-clean soiled plastics before depositing them in the recycling bin.
AFTER: Repurpose takeaway containers (PP5) as fresh produce storage boxes, for keeping my cilantro and spring onions crisp and fresh. Also great for storing enoki mushrooms. I will discard the plastics in the trash bin once they start to chip or crack.
++ Tetrapak ++
Recycling milk and beverage Tetrapak cartons can be quite confusing! I thought there are no Tetrapak recycling facilities here. But NEA’s Guide encourages depositing them in the blue bins, while Tetrapak’s website says they have a few collection points.
BEFORE: I would rinse out the cartons, tear open and leave them to dry before sending them to the recycling bin.
AFTER: Why recycle when the cartons can be repurposed? I discovered my naked bar, a local natural soap maker, who also accepts empty milk carton donations (Note: doesn’t accept cartons with aluminium foil lining) and reuses them as soap mould!
++ Metal cans ++
Canned Bailing mushrooms, condensed milk, evaporated milk, tuna, these are some canned food items we consume at home. The frustrating part is always seeing dirty cans inside the recycling bins, contaminating the entire bin with food.
BEFORE: Rinse, dry, and deposit into recycling bins
AFTER: Discard; I don’t consume canned food much, now that I no longer recycle metal cans, I will also try to consume even lesser.
++ Glass jars and bottles ++
I read that in many countries, the local recycling facilities have stopped accepting glass. It’s a pity because glass is one of the materials can be recycled INDEFINITELY. I have always tried to reuse them at home instead of recycling. It happens to be one of my favourite material choices for food storage containers. The challenge is to stop collecting once the cupboard is filled with enough glass bottles and jars.
AFTER: Still repurposing them into reusable food storage containers, home decor accessories but no longer deposit any excess into the recycling bin. I also discovered Refind, the only glass recycler I know of, but have yet passed them anything.
Sustainability issues should focus less on recycling, spotlight more on refusing, repurposing and incentivise reusing instead. Because no one wants our recyclable trash plus our plastic problem has become too huge to be solved with recycling.