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A journey of 9,500 miles. Why recyclables are heading overseas to Asia.

Original post made on Apr 12, 2019

As Palo Alto works to achieve zero waste, there are new environmental obstacles arising from changes in global recycling standards that the city must consider since it currently sends about 75% of its recyclables overseas.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, April 12, 2019, 6:52 AM

Comments (15)

26 people like this
Posted by Re-Use That Banana Peel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 12, 2019 at 8:59 am

We need to develop recyclables into alternative energy sources...not so much plastics as this may pose an environmental hazard but organic waste material.

I've always been impressed with how Dr. Brown was successful in converting his nuclear-powered DeLorean to bio-fuel (aka produce material wastes). If this can be accomplished with a complex Flux-Capacitor design, we most certainly have the technology to apply this process to conventional-powered mobiles.

14 people like this
Posted by Don't Disrupt The Flow
a resident of another community
on Apr 12, 2019 at 12:48 pm

When Asia says no more to exported recyclables, then we must consider an alternative.

Until then, keep those barges headed out their way. It provides jobs for the grateful locals.

3 people like this
Posted by sophie
a resident of another community
on Apr 12, 2019 at 1:52 pm

For some folks, waste needs to be disposed, for others, waste is resource in a wrong place. There are businesses established based on recycling the waste material, such as the recycled plastics are used to make printers' housing, recycled metals are used in mother boards. Return of Investment is the only thing it matters.

2 people like this
Posted by Polly Wanacracker
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 12, 2019 at 4:27 pm

"Re-Use That Banana Peel"

Recycle it into a slipper.

10 people like this
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 13, 2019 at 8:54 am

I think this is pretty funny. In the old days, Palo Alto had clean recyclable streams. Separate boxes for paper, cardboard, glass and metal, etc. High value, no contamination.

Then greenwaste convinced the city to go to the large mixed bins so that greenwaste could save money collecting the waste. And the city paid for the initial cost of the bins. All so that greenwaste could reduce THEIR costs.

Now we find out that no one wants the contaminated waste and it is expensive and hard to separate out.

Why don't we clawback the bonuses we gave to the city employees and city manager for their wonderful service and short cited thinking that got us into this situation.


15 people like this
Posted by Just fix it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 13, 2019 at 3:50 pm

Not only did we used to have well-sorted recyclables, we also used to put clean items in recycling until we were told by our waste management that we SHOULDN'T clean things before putting them in recycling because of water. I read this to incredulous members of the household and we started putting items in without rinsing.

I do not mind going back to sorting and rinsing. Just tell us what to do. And sheesh, stop talking about the problem as if it just happened. Someone goofed, it can be fixed.

7 people like this
Posted by Just fix it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 13, 2019 at 3:51 pm

But maybe we should be keeping all the easily recycled aluminum and glass here anyway...

4 people like this
Posted by merry
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Apr 14, 2019 at 11:35 am

merry is a registered user.

Another fraud that became an industry! Remember when we were issued burlap sacks for our cans?
Now it’s complicated expensive and does not work.

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Posted by I like bananas
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 14, 2019 at 3:40 pm

Seriously - there are vitamins in banana peels. Try washing a banana before eating it, and then putting the washed peel into boiling water, allowing it to seep and become a flavorful tea. I tried it and it's great. Must be done after eating the banana though. Don't think it would work as well, when peel turns brown.

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Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 14, 2019 at 9:11 pm

eileen is a registered user.

@I like Bananas, stop being ridiculous and pay attention to the issue.
Other than eating bananas, do you have a real solution this is problem?

Like this comment
Posted by Mellow Yellow
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 15, 2019 at 8:19 am

> Try washing a banana before eating it, and then putting the washed peel into boiling water, allowing it to seep and become a flavorful tea.

Those who remember the late 1960s will also recall the concept of scraping the inner lining of the banana peel & smoking it in lieu of marijuana.

Donovan even wrote a song about it...'Mellow Yellow'.

Countless people tried this & found that marijuana had a much more profound and noticeable effect.

In any event, whether tea or smoke is made from the discarded banana peel, you still have some residual garbage. Probably best to just toss it in the garden & let the residual decompose organically into the ground.

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Posted by Fossil fueled consumerism
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 15, 2019 at 8:51 am

Fossil fueled consumerism is a registered user.

We use fossil fuels to ship cheap manufactured goods over thousands of miles of ocean to "save" money. We ship tons of packaging and dirty waste back to those same countries to manage our waste. It would be great if US companies paid US citizens a decent wage to make stuff closer to home, pay a little more for labor, and manage our waste here. We would then have control to truly manage environmental impacts (assuming we really want to--I do.), create jobs, reduce fossil fuel emissions from long-distance shipping to minimize enormous long-term unmeasured costs of climate change.

Cheap stuff from overseas is not cheaper if you consider the long-term cost of the environmental damage of this kind of foolishness. It's time for us to clean up our own messes and own the true cost of our consumerism.

Short-term profit motive is the enemy. Greed truly is a vice. Our children and grandchildren will thank us for considering their future as we make our consumer and waste management choices.

Reduce what we buy. Reuse what we can. Recycle as much as we can. Most importantly, reduce our fossil fuel footprint. That is the single most important thing we can all do for our kids. My beloved grandmother who died forty years ago would be appalled to see how we wastefully are living today. We can do better. We HAVE done better.

1 person likes this
Posted by Chris G Zaharias
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 15, 2019 at 12:35 pm

Chris G Zaharias is a registered user.

It seems to me that the most environmentally friendly things for PA to do would be to reopen the landfill. As I understand it, the knock against landfills is that *poorly-managed ones* are conduits to plastics and pollution entering the environment, the ocean primarily. If PA's landfill continues to be well-managed, that risk is largely mitigated whereas it's not if our trash ends up in SE Asia.

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Posted by Another Use For Expended Plastics
a resident of another community
on Apr 15, 2019 at 8:02 pm

> Other than eating bananas, do you have a real solution this is problem?

Bananas, apples and oranges are the most popular fruits in America & I have the utmost appreciation for them.

Their skins are bio-degradable, the fruits provide healthful nutrition & are easy to carry in a brown bag lunch.

They are also popular (along with cherries) as slot machine symbols.

Back to topic...isn't ironic how we import tons of plastic products from Asia only to send much of them back as recyclable materials?

The oceanic shipping lanes are inundated by this back & forth transport of plastics.

One possible solution would be to convert the plastic into viable construction & building materials to meet the expanded housing & office demands of the SF Bay Area & elsewhere. This would in turn reduce global steel production & the pollution that emanates from its manufacturing process.

Plastic could also be used for building bridges & modern sports arenas. It's flexible, strong and the pigments could be added to into the epoxying process so exterior painting would now become a thing of the past!

Plus...plastic doesn't rust.

We have the technology and the engineering know-how.

Like this comment
Posted by Vettura
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 16, 2019 at 9:24 am

City needs to develop volunteer network, to hunt down any business who uses disposable plastic in their business that cannot be recycled in the US, setup initiatives to ban them or tax them to make it economically not viable. Eventually the countries who use or produce these plastics needs to pay recycling cost.

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