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It's About Trash

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Many people know that any kind of trashes are useless. But I keep wondering are trashes really useless? I mean are their substance really can't reused or maybe recycled to make something new like energy or from chemistry perspective, can't we make useful substances from trashes'. I know some countries already imported trashes around the world and turned into something useful such as energy.

What keeps me wondering is in the scale of home-industry, can't we use some of substances from some trashes (mixed trashes) and make something new? or maybe from certain trashes, like just papers or just tissues, or just organic, or just plastic trashes. I don't mean to recycle it physically and make something like shoes from plastic, etc because many people dislike it. But what I mean here is recycle trashes chemically.

Especially plastic, that becomes many countries' problem nowadays, are all plastic's substances really bad? can't we make something of it?

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One issue is whether it's cost-effective to recycle things that can be reclaimed, and also of political will to do jobs where the burden would be put on taxpayers for recycling done on the scale of a community

Some plastics can't be recycled easily, and contamination is a barrier to recycling. if you don't pay to sort the plastics, you end up with a lower-quality plastic, and the number of time you can recycle is limited (you generally have to add some amount of virgin material)

The relevant term here is downcycling
https://www.oberk.com/packaging-crash-course/downcycling-temp

 

For home industry the problem is worse, because you generally aren't going to have the necessary infrastructure to carry this out.

 

 

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I had lunch at a diner in Yellowstone National Park not long ago, and the fork, spoon, straw, and cup were all made from compostable plastic. They had reusable plastic baskets for the meal itself, but everything else was meant to be thrown away to compost (including napkins). I'm sure the plastic was more expensive than regular, but I'm also sure if everyone used biodegradables, the cost would come waaaaaay down.

Rather than figure out what to do with the trash we generate, I think we should focus on smarter packaging so it's not automatically trash. They have a prototype orange juice machine that 3D prints your cup from the peel of the orange being squeezed for your drink. Reusable boxes and other tactics that delay or remove the need for landfills are going to be more important than ever.

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43 minutes ago, Phi for All said:

I had lunch at a diner in Yellowstone National Park not long ago, and the fork, spoon, straw, and cup were all made from compostable plastic.

That is a bit tricky, though. There is no industry standard as to what is really considered compostable, and accordingly there are biopolymers who theoretically degrade, but only under optimal conditions. In landfill or other unfavourable  conditions they may persist for almost as long as regular plastics.

47 minutes ago, Phi for All said:

They have a prototype orange juice machine that 3D prints your cup

3D printers often use PLA. While it is obtained from renewable resources, it degrades slowly under unfavourable conditions. If properly composted (i.e. right mix of bacteria and high temp) it works fine. But again, in landfill or ocean it will persist quite a while.

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If it's something that e.g. degrades under UV, then that may be an infrastructure we need to invest in. But we have to get used to viewing this as a total cost of operation, and not the isolated cost of one element. As with the example Phi gave — it may cost more for the biodegradable utensils, but there is cost savings elsewhere in the chain of events, e.g. you don't fill up your landfill as quickly.

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7 minutes ago, swansont said:

As with the example Phi gave — it may cost more for the biodegradable utensils, but there is cost savings elsewhere in the chain of events, e.g. you don't fill up your landfill as quickly.

That's a good point. The total cost (production, emission, persistence in the environment, degradation time etc.) should be considered. I assume that it is going to be somewhat complicated, though. 

I am thinking that some bioplastics can be very well degraded if they are collected and composted properly. But that would require an infrastructure with its own cost, too. 

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People use landfill like it's a dirty word, but for the right substances, I don't think there's a lot wrong with it. Near where I live, it's used to reduce flood problems, and when finished and landscaped, it makes attractive hillsides with sheep grazing. 

A piece of plastic buried in landfill is not going to cause environmental problems, it's more the plastic that escapes landfill that makes trouble. The average plastic takes 1,000 years to degrade in landfill. A glass bottle a million years. Plastic bottle 450 years. It's not a hazardous practice, to bury the right stuff. 

I prefer incineration, if the energy can be used, and the gases and ash are safely dealt with. There is some CO2 emitted, but you are getting usable energy from it, so it's no worse than burning natural gas in that regard. A combination of land fill and incineration, sending the right trash to the right place, is ok by me.

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3 hours ago, mistermack said:

A piece of plastic buried in landfill

...is a strawman argument. Nobody is talking about a single piece of anything.

3 hours ago, mistermack said:

The average plastic takes 1,000 years to degrade in landfill. A glass bottle a million years. Plastic bottle 450 years. It's not a hazardous practice, to bury the right stuff. 

But people have short memories and developers grab that land up to build on. The landfill I grew up with just 45 years ago has homes built on top of it now, expensive ones. 

3 hours ago, mistermack said:

A combination of land fill and incineration, sending the right trash to the right place, is ok by me.

I prefer a bit of social management when it comes to these types of practices. The national efforts to clean up US highways and cities in the mid-60s were extremely effective. All very positive, and all this time later I could NEVER throw trash out the car window. You should add some kind of incentive to change bad habits, like what the UK did by charging 5p for plastic grocery bags. If the Guardian can be believed, you guys cut consumption by 85% in the first month!

 

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43 minutes ago, Phi for All said:

...is a strawman argument. Nobody is talking about a single piece of anything.

You're aiming blows at your own strawman. Nobody pretended that the argument was about a single piece of anything. That's a ridiculous interpretation of my post. If one piece of plastic is safe in landfill, then ten are, or a thousand are. They either are or they aren't. Plastic is so inert, as I pointed out in my post, that it's no hurting in landfill. You could argue that it's a waste, which might be a bit more relevant. 

If it was technically viable, I'd rather see it incinerated. If not, landfill is fine for that sort of a thing. 

54 minutes ago, Phi for All said:

But people have short memories and developers grab that land up to build on. The landfill I grew up with just 45 years ago has homes built on top of it now, expensive ones. 

Well, that's a real straw man. Nobody here is proposing building on landfill. The same argument applies to flood plains. Developers do build on them. It's not a good argument for eliminating flood plains. It's an argument for not building on them. ( or raising the level with some land fill 😊

1 hour ago, Phi for All said:

If the Guardian can be believed, you guys cut consumption by 85% in the first month!

It's probably true. But consumption isn't the problem. It's disposal that causes harm. If they cut littering by 10 percent, I'd be surprised. The people who throw stuff out of their cars are probably the same people who don't care about paying 5p for a bag. 

The supermarkets used to have recycling bins for used bags. I haven't seen them lately.

I never ever litter. I hate litter. I've never seen any of my family litter, apart from babies. But I'd have no problem putting bags in the bin for landfill. If you can tell me the problem with it, I'm happy to read it, although, as I said, I'd rather incinerate and use the energy.

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On 10/10/2019 at 9:17 AM, Phi for All said:

I had lunch at a diner in Yellowstone National Park not long ago, and the fork, spoon, straw, and cup were all made from compostable plastic. They had reusable plastic baskets for the meal itself, but everything else was meant to be thrown away to compost (including napkins). I'm sure the plastic was more expensive than regular, but I'm also sure if everyone used biodegradables, the cost would come waaaaaay down.

Rather than figure out what to do with the trash we generate, I think we should focus on smarter packaging so it's not automatically trash. They have a prototype orange juice machine that 3D prints your cup from the peel of the orange being squeezed for your drink. Reusable boxes and other tactics that delay or remove the need for landfills are going to be more important than ever.

If I understand correctly, some "compostable" plastics are meant to go to a commercial composting facility rather than thrown in with regular compost.  In other words, you can't just toss them in the compost pile with the banana peels and coffee grounds and expect to them to decompose in the same way.

 Where we live we do have compost/yard debris pickup and you can throw the compostable plastic bags* in with it ( but not other types of compostable plastic items). I think a lot has to do with the thickness of the plastic. 

*We have a small compost pail lined with one of these types of bag. When full, we just tie up the bag and toss it into the yard debris can.

Edited by Janus

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22 hours ago, mistermack said:

Well, that's a real straw man. Nobody here is proposing building on landfill.

Um, correct. But my response was to your figures on the centuries it would take for decomposition to take place. It was evidence for an argument about landfills that runs counter to your own, that they CAN be hazardous places even with the right stuff in them. You assumed those landfills would remain inviolate for the time it takes the plastics to degrade, and I tried to show that might not be true. I'm sorry if I didn't make that clear, or made it look like a straw man, and hope this makes my position easier to understand.

26 minutes ago, Janus said:

Where we live we do have compost/yard debris pickup and you can throw the compostable plastic bags* in with it ( but not other types of compostable plastic items).

Is it paid for by taxes? I like approaching this as a public solution, since it seems like that model is best suited for something that a) most citizens would benefit from, b) doesn't need a profit to remain sustainable, and c) has limited growth potential (as a private business, there's only so much compostable garbage in an area). The city/county has LOTS of uses for compost, and any leftover can be made available to citizens.

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38 minutes ago, Phi for All said:

 

Is it paid for by taxes? I like approaching this as a public solution, since it seems like that model is best suited for something that a) most citizens would benefit from, b) doesn't need a profit to remain sustainable, and c) has limited growth potential (as a private business, there's only so much compostable garbage in an area). The city/county has LOTS of uses for compost, and any leftover can be made available to citizens.

It's run by Waste Management, the same company that does normal garbage pickup. It's covered in our normal garbage fees. The city does regulate them (in order to operate a garbage collection company, you have to do recycling and compost/yard debris).

The compost/yard debris is taken to a composting facility and the finished compost is sold to landscapers, agriculture, and residents. 

Because of the recycling, which is picked up every week, our actual garbage is only picked up every two weeks, and even then, most times my wife and I don't fill the garbage can between pick-ups.

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53 minutes ago, Phi for All said:

that they CAN be hazardous places even with the right stuff in them.

I don't think having plastic buried under my house would be hazardous. There's a lot of stuff in landfill that would be absolutely fine to build on, but another lot of stuff that wouldn't.

Really, what is needed is intelligent sorting of waste so that It can all go to the best place. I'm sure it won't be long before robots can do it to a high standard but we're not there yet. 

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