Written By: Jessica Jane Robinson
Cartoon Picture Credit: Plastic News
Welcome to 2018 where we are coming to realize recycling is not enough. However, backtracking a year ago in 2017 I released “Resilience: Climate Change Expedition, Part 3,” that addressed a HUGE pressing issue, that we the US and other first world countries have been using other countries as our dumping zones for our trash, under the name of recycling. In my expedition documentary, I interview the film producer of “Plastic China,” Jiuliang Wang back in 2016, who gave us the warning that China was on the brink of refusing the world’s plastic recycling imported to China. “Why?” you ask because we were sending China our trash and calling it recycling. The quality of plastic bales has been so low that it has been a hindrance to the industry for decades now. The answer to the “Why?” is due to people not paying attention, not taking the time to listen and to learn and understand what is recyclable, what is landfill, and that food does not belong in either of the two bins. Our three streams, compost, recycle, and landfill, have been so cross-contaminated, that it has been self-defeating having recycling be any solution for an environmental movement.
Resilience: Climate Change Expedition, Part 3
I am not saying recycling isn’t right and that we shouldn’t do it at all, that would be crazy for me to say since that has been my branding for almost a decade. What I am saying is if we want to make a difference in this world for future generations, we need to take ownership of our actions and do our best to do better.
China has refused the world’s plastic recycling because the world has been importing plastic bales mixed with trash and low-grade plastic waste that has caused such horrendous pollution in country areas where their recycling facilities are located, and the water is now contaminated with toxins and people in their early 20’s now have terminal cancer. People in China have been dying while doing their best to salvage the plastic junk the world has been dumping on them under the name of recycling.
Welcome to the new era of the National Sword, where China has refused to be the world’s dumping ground for trash and other countries like Thailand are now refusing electronic and plastic waste, while Vietnam and Malaysia are shutting their borders to the toxic waste as well, to protect their people and environment.
What does that mean for us who want to recycle, who believe in the ideology of recycling, and or are now catching on that we need to do something to help the planet and recycling has become their newfound tool to make a difference? It means recycling cannot be a crutch anymore. It means we need to do better by making the effort not to contaminate our recycle and compost bins with materials that don’t belong in there. It means we need to step up our game. It means we need to invest in better technology so that we can revive the recycling industry here in the US, with facilities that are not gross polluters. It means we need to make significant changes. We need to encourage our young engineers to focus their talents on improving our technology in the recycling industry so we can meet our environmental codes and standards, and we need to invest in our industry.
It means we need to reuse and move away from single-use disposable items and go back to the good old reliable products that last years instead of months, weeks or days. We need to “refuse” materials that are not accepted into our local recycling programs. We need to pay attention to recycling instructions and signage, teach, and encourage our children to care and be aware of their impact on the planet and do not follow our current path of self-destruction.
We need to move towards zero waste.
A friend told me the other day “to be real.” She said “zero waste isn’t possible,” that “there will always be, waste.”
I believe waste can change, we can be smarter, and we can see zero waste the way it is meant to be, “if it can’t be reused, recycled, repurposed, rot (compost), it needs to be refused and redesigned.” We need to wake up and realize putting our waste in the landfilled or incinerator, and or dumping on our sisters and brothers in other countries to deal with our toxic waste is not the answer and is unethical, inhumane and is destroying our world. We need to step up and take responsibility for ourselves and what we bring into this world for the future generations.
If each person tried a little harder to reduce the amount of waste they generate every day, moved toward reusables, that would be billions of people on this planet making the change we need in this world.
I believe we can succeed, but first, we need to wake up and take responsibility.