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What’s actually happening to the things you recycle?

What’s actually happening to the things you recycle?


Let’s talk trash. Now, I realize trash isn’t something people
typically like to think about. You sort of just want to put it away and let
the city take care of it for you. But what if you knew a third of what you are
putting into your recycling bin is ending up at the landfill? China used to take a ton of our recycling. But in reality, a lot of what we were sending
them was just straight up trash. Like 10% of it. And 10% might not seem like a lot but we were
sending them 4,000 shipping containers every single day. So when you do the math, that’s 400 whole
shipping containers full of garbage going from the U.S. to China on a daily basis. Now in 2018 China decided that they didn’t
want to be the world’s landfill anymore. So they announced that they’re only going
to accept shipments with less than half a percent of trash or what the industry call’s
contamination. That’s a nearly impossible standard for U.S.
recycling processors to meet. Because while the cost of cleaning and sorting
recycling has gone up, the amount of money they can make from selling it has plummeted. As a result recycling markets are in a tailspin. But how does that affect you at your home
today? First off, a lot of recycling companies used
to give cities money for the privilege of picking up your recycling at your curb. Now those roles have reversed and those same companies are asking to be paid more and more to do the job. So you might start feeling it in your wallet
as cities start coming to you to cover the costs. Also, some industry experts believe that a
third or more of what you’re putting in your recycling bin is just ending up at the
landfill. That means your trash is taking two trips
to get to the dump. Which is just inefficient. So we know the recycling industry is in crisis. And I want to know how that is affecting recycling
here. Today I am going to try and follow it. Uh oh … someone got a plastic bag. I am going to take that out because I know
that’s not recyclable. So they’re picking up our trash now. I don’t know if they know I am going to
follow them. Here we go! Once a truck comes and picks up your bin,
they take it to what’s called a Material Recovery Facility. And that’s MRF for short. So the actual recycling part doesn’t actually
happen in Utah. Just the sorting and the shipping. OK, so here the trucks are. I’m going into Rocky Mountain Recycling. This is a MRF like I told you about. This is Walt Mathiason. He manages a MRF operated by Waste Management. He says his business is hurting because of
record low prices for recyclables. Walt: We’ve never seen commodity prices
as low. This is historic low prices. Erica: What’s the ones that have been affected
the most? Walt: Cardboard and paper. Erica: Cardboard and paper. So, it used to be how much and now it’s
how much? Walt: It used to be a lot. Now it’s a little. Walt: We believe it’s a cycle that will
eventually turn around. After talking to Walt at the MRF we decided
to visit a landfill to see what happens to those materials he says he can’t sell because
there are contaminated. Mark: Now you can start to smell a little
bit. This is Mark Hooyer, he’s the former manager
of a multi-city landfill in South Jordan, Utah. He saw firsthand what gets thrown away and
truly believes the recycling industry is in a crisis that’s not going to end anytime
soon. Mark: All of this material was placed in a
single stream curbside recycling bin by someone who thought they were doing the right thing. Everywhere are milk jugs, plastic bottles,
this is what they say they want. Yet here they are in the landfill, being thrown
away by the tons. The citizens of our communities want transparency. They want to know the truth. They feel hurt and maybe disenfranchised when
they find out they have been carefully recycling as they’ve been told, just to find out it’s
all being thrown away anyway. If you’re not 100% sure something can be
recycled, just throw it away. Don’t put it in your recycling bin. Keep recycling the valuable stuff, that’s
plastics with the number 1 or 2 on the bottom. Things like water bottles or laundry detergent
containers. Also, keep putting aluminum cans and clean
cardboard into your bin. Focus less on mixed paper, stuff like junk
mail and low-value plastics, things like single-use food containers. You might also want to think about reducing
your waste. Buying less plastic, using less and throwing
less away. Good to see all our hard work, all these newspapers. Coming to you. Comment below to tell us how recycling is
changing in your area. If you liked this video please give us a like. And if you want to see more videos like this
please hit subscribe.

5 comments on “What’s actually happening to the things you recycle?

  1. You have an agenda. Paint the worst possible picture.

    When in reality countries all over the world are now recycling plastic directly into fuel.

    https://youtu.be/6xmpZmbLgkU

    https://youtu.be/IwAKqF_eYZo

    Stop painting a dystopian future.

  2. 1:50 "trash bags are not recycleable"

    Wrong!

    Plastic bags can be recycled into fuel.

    https://youtu.be/Plr_iNU-hGw

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