Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Do You Recycle?

If so you may be only part of the 38% who do recycle City wide, according to the Tribune.

"Some east Tampa and central Tampa neighborhoods, for example, have 5 percent to 10 percent recycling participation rates.

That's below the 38 percent citywide average, and well below the rates in some south Tampa neighborhoods, where as many as 80 percent of residents recycle."

According to the article, Gary Elswort of South Seminole Heights estimates that 20% of residents in his neighborhood recycle.

Consequently the City is posied to award a $122,000 contract to study why more people don't recycle.

Let save the City some money (meaning us) and give them ideas as to why the figures are so low.

In the article Gary said: "One thing that would certainly help is if it was easier to get bins," Ellsworth said. "I've heard people say, 'I would recycle, but I have no idea where to get them.'""


IFly said...

Out West where I lived, recycling was mandatory. The waste management service would fine and ultimately deny you pickup service if they found an abundance of recyclables repeatedly in your garbage. The program also was a single bin, unsorted pickup, and they took virtually everything. So, it was just a matter of which can to put things in, very little additional effort required.

I've often wondered why the city does so little to encourage recycling. I've lived in a small town where the recycling program actually made more revenue than the cost to pick up and sort. So I can't imagine that its really cost. I know that with the waste-to-energy facility much less trash goes into a landfill than would without it, but everything that is recycled is that much less that has to be burned or buried. Anyone know if the amount that is burned for energy would be impacted with a significant participation in the recycling program taking that waste out of the system?

Anonymous said...

When I first moved to the neighborhood, 3 years ago, I called to try and get a bin... they even have a designated number for this. I called, and I called again, for about 6 months and they refused to bring me a bin. What was I supposed to do??

David Jenkins said...

It took me two years to get a bin, then I got 3 all of a sudden. Making up for lost time?

bloggerwife said...

Very few people on our street recycled. We were there when they started the program and passed out the bins, so we know the houses all got bins. Some people let those bins sit right where they were initially dropped for weeks. My guess would be, most people don't want to bother sorting their trash. Maybe there does need to be an incentive, like the program IFly talked about out west.

Anonymous said...

We recequested recycling bins two or three times before they actually appeared, and half the time when I put the bins out they aren't picked up. I probably just don't know the schedule, is recyling picked up every Friday?

If I had a suggestion for the city it would be to give everyone recycling bins, rather than wait for people to request them. Also, make it easier to find recycling centers.

bloggerwife said...

the city did pass out recycling bins to every home when the program started. The bins are supposed to stay at the home, regardless of whether the occupants sell or rent the house to other people. When we moved to Lutz last month, there were no bins here. The only way the county knew that, was for me to contact them and request more bins. I'm assuming the city works on the same premise. If there are no bins at your house, it's probably because the previous occupants took them with them, used them as moving boxes, or tossed them out.

Anonymous said...

on my way home from Publix today - saw a man, did not recognize him as a neighbor, going through someone's recycling bin. He was removing the aluminum cans from the bin and putting them in his truck bed...........

IFly said...

There's an older gentleman that rides an electric cart in our area that comes by every Thursday evening and/or Friday morning and gets the cans out. Those days I'm actually in the office I collect cans from coworkers(a few even pile them on my desk when I'm on the road so I have a nice can castle when I get back in town) and put them in my home bin. I figure the guy is selling them, so at least they're being recycled. As for schedule, at my house the truck comes by on Fridays and one thing that I've noticed is the empty bin, almost without fail, ends up in the middle of my driveway.

Anonymous said...

Instead of spending 200K of my tax money to figure out why I don't recycle plus many more thousands on subsidizing contractors to pick up recycleables, manually sort them, and then deliver them to the landfill/incinerator where the rest of my trash goes, perhaps they could spend a few small thousand and explain WHY I should recycle.

Aluminum: Easy one. If you don't recycle it, people will pull it out of your trash for you. Big indicator that it's worth the effort.

Glass: Some value. Recycling is probably worth the effort, if only barely.

Plastic: Toss it. Costs more to recycle than get new. This has negative economic value.

Paper: Toss it. Costs more to recycle and doing so saves no trees. (gasp!) Again, negative economic value.

Ferrous metals: Toss them. Our waste-to-energy plant sifts the ashes over a magnet and pulls them out that way.

Penn and Teller's "Bullshit" episode on recycling is a must see. It explains how our good intentions have spawned a multi-billion dollar make-work industry.

What I would really like to see are the actual figures of how much of the recyclables we do place out actually end up being recycled rather than sent to the landfills and incinerators. The tampagov FAQ on recycling says this about our program: "Revenues generate less than 10% of the overall program cost." Uh, excuse me? 90%+ of the cost is paid for through my taxes? For what purpose?

Did you know the contractors in Tampa have a contract that says if they cannot sell the sorted waste they can dump it with the rest of our trash?

So that plastic bottle you rinse with pottable water, place in the plastic bin, place at the curb, which is picked up by the special truck on a special trip (gas, fumes, oil, etc), manually collected, graded, and sorted in some facility (power, chemicals, etc), and then trucked again (more gas, more fumes, etc) to our landfills where it gets dumped on top of the bag of trash you stuck out with the recyclables.

If an item has recycle value people will come get it from your trash for free. If they don't then it probably as zero or near zero economic value. Burn it. Make power from it.

If 100% of our recyclables were being bought and used, that'd be great. But they're not. So who cares if more people join in?

I recycle aluminum and some glass. That's it. No paper. No plastic.

Anonymous said...

I get so fed up with people's idiocracy. Recycling is about the ENVIRONMENT not cost-effectiveness. And what do you expect from East Tampa. They don't volunteer, they don't vote for decent candidates. But they sure as hell all show up on welfare day!!

Anonymous said...

anon 6:30
did you not read anon 4:17?
If recycling is about the ENVIRONMENT as you say recycling is actually HARMING RATHER THAT HELPING IT!
The people showing the greatest idiocracy are the recyclers that buy the lie that it's doing any good.
I set out my newspapers, but only to keep from having to fill the garbage bag as often, there by saving on garbage bags.

The Penn & Teller episode mentioned is revealing, but I already knew about all the lies they unmasked. So for me it was a hoot watching the lengths people will go in the effort to feel good about themselves.

Anonymous said...

I tried to recycle and it was absolutely was a disasater. The last month, There were two days that the bin did not get picked up and one when the trash man picked it up and threw it in the regular garbage truck.

Anonymous said...

It also took me around 6 months to get a bin when I first moved into the city. I even tried leaving it in a card board box that was marked for recycling but because they don't take cardboard the pickup person refused to touch it.

A bit off topic but has anyone heard of the city dropping off large trash bins to people? I've heard that garbage trucks are being equiped to pick up these new bins without having a human having to dump the can. Does anyone know if this is the case?

Anonymous said...

Next time you see the regular garbage man pick up a recycle bin and throw its contents in the regular garbage truck, get the truck's number and call 348-4111 and have them put you thru to David McCary's voice mail, and leave him the info: truck #, address, time and date. He doesn't tolerate that crap. I've heard rumors that he's fired people for doing that!

Yet another reason why people are discouraged from recycling.

Anonymous said...

OOPS! Bad place for a typo.
The number is 348-1111.

IFly said...

Watching Penn & Teller for social responsibility guidance is like watching Kramer's Mad Money for your financial advice. It's better than nothing maybe. However, looking out for our interests is not their motivation. The shows are produced for entertainment, and while they have some fact and worthwhile information, they should be viewed with the same healthy doses of skepticism as any mass media production.
Unprocessed bituminous coal was for a long time the cheapest form of energy for the industrial revolution, but history showed that it wasn't necessarily the right way, when you factor in all the results of it's use(pollution, acid rain, strip mining). Introducing scrubbers, or switching to other sources, while more expensive, improved quality of life. When petroleum becomes scarce enough plastic recycling will catch up to the cost of producing it new, but should we wait until then, with all that plastic now buried in landfills? Those bags also end up affecting wildlife too. I won't speak on glass, but if, as you indicate it is even "slightly" more economical than producing it new, with increased participation, it should become more cost-effective over time. With fast-growing pulpwood tree farms and paper's very biodegradable nature, it might one thing that makes more sense to burn/landfill than recycle.

IFly said...

Just out of curiosity, what's the thought on outsourcing jobs to developing countries or utilizing undocumented workers in this country? The bottom-line paradigm is what's driving that as well.

Anonymous said...

I believe the recycling industry is doing a lot of both.
A lot of the plastics are sent overseas to be cleaned before being reground.
A lot of undocumented workers do the sorting.

Cost and profits are how a freemarket economy determines what is worth doing or not doing.
Money and time spent on feel good / make work endeavors takes money and time which could be used on more valuable things to the betterment of the economy and society as a whole.

IFly said...

Thankfully, we don't live in a free market economy. That would be a place very few of us would want to exist. Things like worker safety, minimum wages, quality control have little place in a totally free market. Regulations are in place because markets often take too long to do what we humans would consider the right thing, if ever. The right thing from a market perspective is not always the right thing from a human perspective. Additionally, permanent or long-term negative effects may result before the market adjusts.
Using the market argument, exactly where is this market defined for your position? Since we don't exist in a vacuum, the people have placed a value on this "feel-good" "make-work" effort, because so far participation in most places is voluntary, and an entire industry has sprung up to fill the role. The citizens have so far not rebelled.

One position mentioned 10% of the costs of the program was supported by the program itself. I realize we get value out of power here(not sure of the value, but lets give it the benefit of the doubt and say it's more than 10% of the cost to run it), but not everywhere does. So any idea on how much revenue a solid waste program returns when the waste is landfilled. I suspect it's near zero, there may be some recovery of methane that supplements the cost, but not every landfill is doing that either.

Economies are only healthy through continued expansion. Creating new industries must be healthy for the economy or it wouldn't be done. In nature, the one example of something that exists only through growth and expansion is cancer. There are not enough resources to sustain unmitigated growth of economies, and even if there were, it would leave a swath of human suffering in it's wake. Hence, we live in a constant, complex struggle between over-regulation and the heartless market economy.

Regarding the followup question: So, with the exception of outsourcing and undocumented workers employed by the recycling industry, you're fully supportive of the practice?

Anonymous said...

With glass the "sort of" measure is the color. Clear glass has some minor value, colored glass has pretty much none. Glass is made from trucking clean sand into a hot furnace. Recycled glass is made from trucking used glass, sorting out some debris, crushing it, stuffing it into a furnace at higher temperatures to burn off waste food, paper labels, glue, etc, and then creating a final product inferior to what the sand made. It really isn't worth the effort in most cases. (Bottle return programs sterilize the bottles and re-use them. This is different.)

Plastic burns and releases energy nicely. It also can be placed in the new bio-reactors that use enzymes and such to create a combustable bio-gas that is burned for energy too. (some great articles on this process and how it's heading into the market.) But right now, used plastic has negative economic value.

Again, the point isn't that we shouldn't recycle, the point is that what passes for recycling today, in Tampa, is more harmful than helpful. Why increase the number of people recycling if we cannot sell all the waste we currently collect? If the recycled goods are only worth 10% of the cost of recycling them, there's 90% waste in the process, which is highly inefficient and creates even more polution (and government pork).

IFly, placing plastic at the curb isn't recycling it if it ends up in a landfill anyway. We are the "supply" side of recycling but the demand isn't there because used plastic isn't an attractive resource to most manufacturers.

Remember, our trash ends up as a pile of ash and some electricity zipping through the grid.

If you want to really help the environment, recycling isn't the way to do it. That's the consumerist "feel good and pat yourself on the back" way. It's empty. What you need to do instead is take your own cloth bags to the store. Just don't use plastic bags at all. Don't buy vegetables wrapped in styro and plastic at Publix. Don't buy heavily packaged products. Re-use your own plastic bottles and glass jars for household chores before tossing them. (A cut bottle makes a funnel. Glass jars hold nuts and grains. etc.) Get your news on the internet or TV and don't buy magazines. Don't buy books--use the library. Drive less and walk more. These are the ways you reduce your "carbon footprint" and your effect on our environment. Recycling is nothing more than placing a pretty ribbon on careless consumption.

Anonymous said...

I am a Republican and I believe very strongly in finding the cheapest labor possible at any cost. Companies needs to outsource any and every job possible. And hell, if you need to take advantage of an illegal immigrant by paying him less then minimum wage under the table, then that's life.

Anonymous said...

"Regarding the followup question: So, with the exception of outsourcing and undocumented workers employed by the recycling industry, you're fully supportive of the practice?"

A fine trap you've laid there. :-) I'm not taking the bait. (and I'm anon 4:17 but not anon 6:16. confusing, I know.)

There are many ways to value something, and social effects are one. Not everything is measured in cash, although everything of value eventually pulls the cash along with it. You've latched on to "eventually" and believe we should react sooner. I don't disagree, except that I don't think expanding our recycling efforts in Tampa is a helpful way to do that. Focusing on recycling distracts from conservation and gives people a false belief that they're doing something positive. Recycling isn't a bad thing as long as it's useful, and except for aluminum, it really isn't at this point.

The rest is off-topic so I'll leave that for another time. :-)

Anonymous said...

Er, and for the record, I'm not a Republican; I'm a Democrat.

IFly said...

I completely agree with all the conservation measures that you mentioned, reduction in consumption is the only true fix. Until we get better at reusing/recycling or the magical tech bullet comes along, we'll have to one day curb consumption whether we like it or not.
With paper being something of a renewable resource, even landfilling paper isn't that bad. Landfilling glass really isn't too bad either. Landfilling plastics is terrible. I had no idea that the contractor was able to landfill excess. That is a problem that should be addressed.
If, locally, the best use of our flammable recyclables is to burn them for energy, then it should be advertised as such. I don't have a problem with that.I've often had suspicions that is an unstated motive for the lack of encouragement by the City.

IFly said...

It isn't a trap. While it might be a bit off-topic, if one uses the market economy as the true gauge of value of something then it is a legitimate question of the supporting evidence of your position.

To the Republican, that seems like nothing more than flame bait or an attempt at trolling.

Anonymous said...

IFly says:

"Just out of curiosity, what's the thought on outsourcing jobs to developing countries or utilizing undocumented workers in this country? The bottom-line paradigm is what's driving that as well."

My apologies, but this statement appears leading. It frames the question of market-driven valuation in terms of two politically charged topics that go beyond just markets and incorporate racism and other issues that muddy the waters. Even as a Democrat, I see it as trolling because it immediately invites the charge of racism should I defend market-driven forces in those situations.

You may have asked it with the best of intentions (and thus not really trolling), but perhaps you can come up with examples that are more confined to questions of economics?

Anonymous said...

As a reminder, the topic is "Do you recycle" and quotes snippets of a Trib article describing low recycle rates and a $122,000 contract to discover why so few recycle.

To restate my primary objection: $122,000 is good tax money badly spent here.

The question should not be "why do only x% of the people recycle?" but "how much recycling is enough to meet demand for waste material and are we meeting that demand?"

Recycling is something the city does to enhance its image because that is the only real value we get out of whatever money we spend on it. The percentage of the city that recycles is an important national metric for this image. That's why it's done. It is not done because of landfill problems, wildlife issues (how does a plastic bag burried in a landfill harm wildlife?) or anything else like that.

If the city really wanted to cut down on plastic in the landfill they would make plastic grocery sacks illegal like San Fransisco just did. I'm not sure I'd back that, but it at least directly addresses the problem. Curbside recycling programs address no problem other than consumer guilt.

IFly said...

Anon@10:36 (Way too many anons to keep track of now :-)I was attempting to indicated some of the less desirable outcomes of allowing the market to be the end-all determinant. Examples such as those are market-driven with little regard to the social impact much like consumption sans efforts for recycling. I'll admit that I picked those topics because they are current and it is a case where folks often speak of market forces on one hand(when it suits them) while preaching for greater crackdown on the outsourcing of "American" jobs and illegal immigration on the other. We can't have it both ways, hence the need for regulatory oversight.
I fear it is impossible to limit the discussion to pure economics because it is unrealistic given that we do not, or will we ever exist in a pure market-driven environment. As mentioned in one of my previous comments, other relatively less controversial issues such as inadequate minimum wages, unsafe working conditions and similar effects are the results of a pure laizzes faire approach. My assertion was that we must broaden our metric, and solely using economics as a guide is short-sighted(or perhaps far too long-sighted disregarding near-term human impacts) at best. If the scope of this discussion is limited to the local recycling issue, I'll concede that there may be lesser value in recycling, but bringing in P&T/BS as the supporting evidence opened the door to a larger discussion. Apologies if I reached beyond your intent.

Anonymous said...

"Regarding the followup question: So, with the exception of outsourcing and undocumented workers employed by the recycling industry, you're fully supportive of the practice?"

No, If it requires subsidies to exist it's wasted money and effort.
If some people want to spend money to feel good use their own but not others and especially others that know how useless it is.

If outsourcing and use of undocumented workers could allow the recycling industry to exist with out subsidies then I might be supportive of it.

Anonymous said...

Every industry uses undocumented workers you naive twit. The term "undocumented" has no relevance. It is a buzz word, something the media uses to stir people up.

If you only patronize businesses that use documented workers, you must sit at home a lot.

But then your home was probably built by undocumented workers too.

Anonymous said...

Before you trash free markets too much, let us not forget that regulated economies tend to be the ones that trash people's rights and safety.

Whether you like it or not, Say's law is how the world operates.

Anonymous said...

How about this: We recycle because it is the RIGHT THING TO DO!!! Not everything has to be cost effective you know.

Anonymous said...

NO, YOU recycle because YOU think it's the "RIGHT THING TO DO!!!"
And yes, everything has to be cost effective, that's how you gauge if it's worth doing or not. That's why the former Soviet Union is the "FORMER" Soviet Union.
If it's wasting time, resources, and money, it's the WRONG thing to do and actually harmful to the goals recycling is supposed to promote.

For me the last nail in it's coffin was it's negligible effect on landfills compared to modern landfill management.

Anonymous said...

When you place things on your curb to be recycled here in Tampa, that doesn't mean they are actually being recycled.

If you do that, you are doing more harm to the environment than good. (This assumes your recyclables end up with the trash later in their cycle which in Tampa, is a safe assumption.)

If you recycle because "it's the right thing to do" but use plastic grocery sacks, plastic milk jugs, and other such conveniences, then your heart is in the right place but you aren't thinking clearly.

You've been marketed the idea that recycling is a moral choice and you've bought that hook, line, and sinker. But recycling is what you do to lessen the impact of your _responsible_ consumption. As long as you're consuming irresponsibly, recycling shouldn't be your focus.

Put your aluminum out there. Forget the rest.

What we really need is a way to front-load the cost of disposal/recycling into the manufacturing cost of everything. Then you're paying the real cost of each item when you buy it. At that point, waste plastic will have positive value (cost of the new plastic already paid) and people will sift that out of your trash like they already sift ferrous metals and aluminum.