Recycling and waste disposal

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Recycling is not the ideal way to reduce waste. Reuse (see modular hardware in particular) is better and more nature friendly. And material conservation, which includes designing things to go more slowly obsolete, is better yet. And requiring product take-back by the manufacturer puts the responsibility for this exactly where it belongs, where the design and modularity can really be dealt with, and, where an industrial ecology can evolve to do it better and use waste as a resource.

However, recycling is a very good starting point for gathering and dispensing important information since the better knowledge people have on how recycling works the more likely is that they will do it and the better they can help the people working for the recycling industry such as collectors and processors. Working together we can make recycling more pleasant and efficient. And, we can exploit the opportunities that manufacturers fail to take for themselves.

In theory, recycling would be a continuing reuse of materials for the same purpose, but in practice much recycling extends the useful life of a material, but in a less versatile form. For example, as paper is recycled, the fibers shorten, making it less useful for higher grade papers. Other materials can suffer from contamination, making them unsuitable for food packaging.

Recycling information is very location sensitive since the state of recycling systems vary highly from place to place, but it's a good starting place. We can work from recycling and correct waste disposal bacwards up the consumption chain without getting engulfed in a swamp of lies right in the begining.


Well organized recycling

Well organized recycling takes care of the separation and correct routing of the following packaging materials and informs the public about the recycling process e.g. If some beverage cartons are recycled the consumers preparations for the process may vary on the process they are instigating. If the cartons get burned then cleanliness of the is mostly a question of the working place comfort of the people working for the process ie. well washed cartons don't smell so rotten.


There are many different classes of papers in high resolution recycling. Office paper (print outs) are different from magazine papers and so on. This furhter separation of paper into different bins is done somewhere and somewhere it's not, but we should work to make it more available as all recycling

  • Small metals such as magazine or tabloid binders are not a big problem since they can be detected and removed by machines in the processing.
  • Plastic and glues from envelopes are more of a problem in the recycling process. Someone with more knowledge on this could helpfully write something here.

Glass recycling

Effective recycling of glass (mostly bottles currently) relies on a refund system where a small refund is paid for the return of the package to the producer for reuse after it has been cleaned and checked to be in a functional condition.

Also recycling glass containers without using them again is useful though if the glass is broken and crushed in the process to just create more raw material. Though this consues much more energy as the glass is melted once again

Metals recycling

Again here there are many resolution levels. Not knowing about the technology in this area I'm not very equiped to write anything about this. Different metals have different prices and different raw material extraction costs so that could be used as guideline.

Open questions:

  • How does plastic, rubber or paper that is attached to some metal surface affect the usability of the metal?


Running an private biowaste recycling facility or compost as it's called you might have noticed some things like citrus fruit peels compost quite slowly compared to say some other fruit leftovers.

In centralized biowaste management this might not be such an big issue due to the longer time horizon of the activity. Drying biowaste before you put it into the recycling bin helps you avoid fungus growth allowing you to take it out less frequently and also makes the job of the collector nicer

Packaging cartons and cardboard

These are often made from recycled paper and can be used to make more cardboard.

Waste disposal

Hazardous waste

Proper dealing with hazardous waste is a very location specific issue. In developed countries there are often arrangements that the companies that sell products containing hazardous waste are also responsible for accepting and managing the handling of hazardous waste, such as batteries, chemicals, pharmaceutical products, freons and machinery oils

Other waste

Accounting standards that deal properly with waste are based on ISO 14000. ISO 19011 is the first real standard here. But it doesn't deal with natural capital as well as it could, nor all the styles of capital.

See also:

External links

  • Consumerpedia for recycling links, detailed information for UK and US