Wednesday 4 September 2019

MRF recycling

Material Recovery Facility. The Boy worked in one of those places for a week. That story only really make sense if I share the fact that Milo is both his name and the name for a malted drink product much more popular in British colonies than in the UK itelf. Milo the powder was invented in Australia in 1934, so I guess its use spread out from there. The brand is now owned by Nestlé, the originally Swiss multinational. Without visiting a MRF, it's hard to imagine the shite that people throw in the wrong bin. If they made such visits a mandatory part of the primary school curriculum, the youngsters would develop a sense of empathy and responsibility which they could then take back home to bludgeon their heedless parents with moral outrage. Like Greta Thunberg.

That thing about "It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do little" may not apply to most people and their approach to their trash. I see two problems 1) not all "plastic" is the same and people can just lose the will to recycle because the rules are complex, locally variable and seemingly arbitrary. 2) The Me factor: the rules surely don't apply to me, my time is more valuable than other people's time.

Here's useful, profusely illustrated, NPR essay on the do-and-don't of recycling which concentrates on the physical, ather than chemical [list HDPE LDPE PET etc.] attributes of trash. It's worth a peek because it gives a reason for some of the rules.
  • Saranwrap / clingfilm tend to wrap around the rollers of the machinery
    • remove the thin plastic label from the water bottles
  • crisp-packets get diverted into the paper stream
  • small plastic [pen tops, bottle-caps, bread closure tags] fall through the cracks at the MRF to accumulate as a fire hazard
  • plastic 'clam-shells' for salad bars, chemically identical to water bottles, are a pain in the tits in many MRFs - don't buy them!
  • polystyrene is a problem because it is 95% air and needs to be de-aired / compressed before re-use. 
    • Landfill is by volume - although they charge by weight because it's easier. 
    • expanded polystyrene punches the economy of disposal way above its weight
Since we were told that plastics-that-cannot-be-scrumpled are only fit for landfill, I have been compressing the bags and packets into bricks. There is no point in filling the last few landfills with light-packing scrumpled plastic. Just spread out the bags and roll them up tight. And I do the best I can to get more than one use out of each bag: packing my lunch sandwich for work for example. I feel super-virtuous about this.

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