Urban Druid: Recycling For Cash
There's money in them thar bales...
Recycling is good. Recycling is awesome. In some circles, those who fail to recycle are looked upon as evil pariahs singlehandedly bringing mankind to ruin. It's probably fair to say that people who don't recycle should be put in public stocks and whipped, but I say that mostly just because I'd enjoy watching that, your millage may vary.
Most people recycle because they've been told that recycling is an easy way to save the planet, also recycling is free, whereas most regions of the world charge to take away non recyclable household refuse. However there is another side to recycling, a side we quite often don't think about as humble consumers bumbling about our everyday lives.
Whilst the items we throw away into our recycling bins are trash to us, they are, quite literally, another man's treasure. Let's look at just one commonly recycled material, HDPE, or as it is more likely to be known in your house 'milk bottle', to illustrate this point.
Recycled HDPE, a plastic marked with the number 2 inside the little recycling triangle, is a multi billion dollar business, and the bulk of recycled HDPE comes from post consumer kerbside reclamation programs, aka you and me, faithfully rinsing out our plastics and popping them into the bins. Those bins are then collected and taken away to recycling facilities where the HDPE is separated out from other recyclable materials and baled up. Those bales are then sold as sources of scrap HDPE, a popular raw material in the creation of all manner of goods, from tanks, to plastic pipes, to shopping bags. In most jurisdictions manufacturers stop short of using recycled HDPE in goods which will come into contact with food, but most other applications are fair game.
In some instances, depending on where you live, scrap HDPE may even be sold offshore, netting those who run kerbside reclamation programs a tidy little profit. This makes the citizenry who faithfully recycle, by default, a massive unpaid workforce. Does that mean we should stop recycling? No. Of course not. But knowledge is power, and knowing that millions of citizens of various countries are working for HDPE scrap merchants for free should be some impetus to have a portion of the profits returned to the communities from which they arose.
Recycling, as with all other enterprises operated on a major scale, is a profit making enterprise, it's primarily about cash, not the environment. If communities decided not to put their HDPE scrap out for kerbside reclamation and instead collect it themselves, admittedly a task that would require some organization, though would not be impossible, that could represent a viable income stream which could be put towards community and environmental projects. After all, if we're going to work, we may as well benefit from that work.