It appears that while European efforts in recycling and reduce, reuse, recycle are undoubtedly successful, there is a fundamentally different approach of how and why to recycle the cardboard boxes which were dropped off at your door yesterday. Arguably, Austria, Switzerland and Germany excel at recycling efforts and results. All green initiatives are strictly regulated and enforced by the iron fist of the law. Almost to a point where recycling becomes and obsession – a recent case in Austria was a perfect example. A person dropped their bank card statement together with some receipts into the regular trash as opposed to getting the paper recycled properly. The law responded almost immediately by issuing a hefty fine for this violation and the person learned their lesson the hard way.
On the other hand, recycling efforts in North America appear to be a bit more user friendly and better explained and encouraged. Examples are the many bottle buy-back programs where recycled plastics, glass and packaging is taken back to recycling centers and re-manufactured. In addition, there are many green organizations who follow events and inform the public of the latest research and even influence marketing and purchasing decisions over time as to which products are more environmentally friendly. People across the water appear to recycle and collect garbage separately simply because they believe in the process, not because someone sends tickets for recycling deviations.
There are some technicalities in the recycling process also. In Canada, for example, according to a 1996 detailed survey by the Canadian Council of their Ministry of the Environment, 13 percent of all solid waste is packaging. This would include, large and small cardboard boxes, shipping containers, bubble wrap, packaging paper and even some hard to recycle elements such as polystyrene sheets or packaging peanuts which are used as void and loose fill when preparing parcels. Also, majority of households are equipped with five different containers to separate trash and alleviate curbside collection by waste management – one large bag for newsprint, one for all other paper products including flattened corrugated cardboard boxes, one for recycling (this includes plastics and glass), one for yard trimmings (also organic refuse such as potato peels, egg shells etc) and one for everything else.
On the plastics – this are typically polymers with resin code from one to seven where some items such as resin code 7 are fine to go in the comingled trash since this is biodegradable plastics. In addition, resin code 3 is polyvinyl chloride or just PVC which is not really recyclable as it is known to cause issues including carcinogenic compounds when buried in landfills. Polystyrene is also an interesting category by being such a bulky and light item – its resin code is 6 and some of its flavors, such as expanded polystyrene, are almost non-recyclable.
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