recycling stories

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

So when you recycle paper or an empty bottle, do you get that warm little feeling because maybe you think, hey, I've done something right for the world? Well, maybe you shouldn't get that feeling because there's some new social science research out there that suggests recycling can have a downside. Why are you always bringing negative news?

SHANKAR VEDANTAM, BYLINE: (Laughter).

MARTIN: Shankar Vedantam, NPR social science correspondent, here to rain on our recycling parade. Hi, Shankar.

VEDANTAM: Hi, Rachel.

photo of recycling bin
WKSU

In Cleveland, most of the recycling residents put at the curb is not being recycled. City leaders says it’s a problem many cities are dealing with because of a changing market and contaminated items.

Cleveland has hired a consultant to help them figure out a new path forward. It will likely involve a drastic reduction in the program.

The U.S. used to send a lot of its plastic waste to China to get recycled. But last year, China put the kibosh on imports of the world's waste. The policy, called National Sword, freaked out people in the U.S. — a huge market for plastic waste had just dried up.

Where was it all going to go now?

Plastic Bag Ban Goes Into Effect Across Cuyahoga County

Jan 3, 2020

Shoppers in Cuyahoga County will need to find an alternative to single-use plastic bags, as some stores have already removed the option.

The county’s bag ban goes into effect this week.

Though businesses won’t be fined for providing plastic bags for the first six months, many stores have already started pushing their customers toward alternatives.

Giant Eagle's plastic blue bags are a common sight in Pittsburgh, often curbside on recycling day, used to pick up dog poop or sometimes cast aside on the street. Not for long — Giant Eagle told WESA that the company is stepping away from these bags and other plastics, in a large move to be announced Tuesday afternoon.

This story was produced as part of a collaboration with the PBS NewsHour

As the season of big holiday meals kicks off, it's as good a time as any to reflect on just how much food goes to waste.

If you piled up all the food that's not eaten over the course of a year in the U.S., it would be enough to fill a skyscraper in Chicago about 44 times, according to an estimate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Akron Launches Recycling App

Oct 29, 2019
photo of app
SARAH TAYLOR / WKSU

The City of Akron is launching an app to make recycling easier for its residents. The “Akron Recycles” app can be downloaded on all mobile devices. The app shows pickup times and classifies recyclable items. Akron’s recycling manager, Dan Dempsey, said the new tool is another way to make Akron sustainable.

“It is just another tool that our residents have. Certainly, the better educated our residents are on recycling, the better recyclers they will be. We are trying to give our residents every tool available to make Akron a sustainable city.”

When curbside recycling caught on in the 1970s, it was mostly about cans, glass, cardboard and paper. That's how Donald Sanderson remembers it.

Sanderson is 90 years old, an earnest man with a ready smile. Every Thursday in Woodbury, N.J., where he lives, he hauls a big blue recycling bin out to the curb. Recycling is close to his heart. "I guess you could say I'm the father of recycling," he says. "I don't know if that's good or bad."

The avalanche of plastic waste that's rolling over land and sea has inspired numerous potential solutions. Some involve inventing our way out of the mess by creating new kinds of natural materials that will harmlessly degrade if they're thrown away.

Others say it might be quicker to change people's throwaway behavior instead.

akron recycle bin
Jennifer Conn / WKSU

Municipal recycling programs are as different as the communities they serve. But keeping a large recycling stream pure is a universal challenge.

The city of Akron has launched an initiative to combat the increasing volume of contamination in its recycling streams.

Over the next three months, the “Recycle Right” campaign will rely on bin inspections and ongoing communication with residents, according to Akron Chief of Staff James Hardy.

Plastic garbage from Trader Joe's and an AARP card are peeking out of hillocks of plastic trash piling up in Indonesia.

It's a sign of a new global quandary: What should wealthy countries do with their plastic waste now that China no longer is buying it?

For years, America sold millions of tons of used yogurt cups, juice containers, shampoo bottles and other kinds of plastic trash to China to be recycled into new products.

And it wasn't just the U.S. Some 70 percent of the world's plastic waste went to China – about 7 million tons a year.

Oregon's bottle deposit system is recycling more containers than ever before despite major disruptions in global recycling markets.

Last year, Oregon recycled 90 percent of the beverage containers covered by its bottle deposit system. The rate has jumped from 64 percent just two years ago, and the total number of bottles recycled reached an all-time high of 2 billion in 2018.

photo of recycling bin
WKSU

Cleveland residents who don't follow the rules for recycling will be fined starting Wednesday. 

Diane Bickett is the Executive Director of the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District, which provides information on the do’s and don’ts of recycling. She said the entire county is dealing with issues related to improper recycling.

China Has Refused To Recycle The West's Plastics. What Now?

Jun 28, 2018

For more than 25 years, many developed countries, including the U.S., have been sending massive amounts of plastic waste to China instead of recycling it on their own.

Some 106 million metric tons — about 45 percent — of the world's plastics set for recycling have been exported to China since reporting to the United Nations Comtrade Database began in 1992.

Scoot over, cans; cartons are moving in on your shelf space. Specifically, the soft, light rectangular containers commonly associated with juice boxes — "aseptic cartons" to the carton literati.

"They're growing in popularity," says Jason Pelz, vice president of recycling projects for the Carton Council, an industry group. "Broth is predominantly in aseptic packaging now, and you see a lot of coconut water in it."