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Thread: How could we get near 100% recycling rates?

  1. #1
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    How could we get near 100% recycling rates?

    Could some more simple nanotechnology be created to sort out the more valuable elements, like gold, aluminium etc.?

    I think it would be good if people could just chuck things in a bin, like cans to mobile/cell phones, and some kind of technology could separate all that was useful from everything else. Even the useless stuff could maybe be turned into something like bricks, fuel, and more compact landfill.

    I think at least some sort of robot technology could pick/sort stuff from a conveyor belt.
    Formerly Frog march..............

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mudskipper View Post
    Could some more simple nanotechnology be created to sort out the more valuable elements, like gold, aluminium etc.?

    I think it would be good if people could just chuck things in a bin, like cans to mobile/cell phones, and some kind of technology could separate all that was useful from everything else. Even the useless stuff could maybe be turned into something like bricks, fuel, and more compact landfill.

    I think at least some sort of robot technology could pick/sort stuff from a conveyor belt.
    Well, we have single-point recycling in many communities in Connecticut: we chuck most things into a large, blue bin which is collected and the contents separated by some kind of technology. Magnets can get most of the steel. Some can be separated by flotation. A lot is separated by human hands.

    Information about American English usage here and here. Floating point issues? Please read this before posting.

    How do things fly? This explains it all.

    Actually they can't: "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." - Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.



  3. #3
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    I saw a feature on the evening news showing the separation line in action. Machines did most of the work with the magnetic and floatation techniques, and human sorters could then visually pick out stuff that had some significant scrap value. There was nothing "nanotech" about this. It was large machines and real people. The results were not 100%, but it got a valuable yield of profitable scrap and reduced the amount of stuff bound for the landfill.

    This is a big advance from the earlier days of municipal recycling here in northern Virginia. With plastics it was originally only type 1 or 2 out of 6, with empty bottles and jars being acceptable but not their lids.

  4. #4
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    Single-stream recycling began here a few years ago. I don't
    understand how it works. I was happy to sort my recycleables
    into two streams: Paper, and plastic/glass/steel/aluminum cans
    and jars. I expected to have to sort more in the future, not less.
    I actually still sort it into two separate bags, then put both bags
    in the same dumpster. But in order to save space, I also nest
    cans and jars together. Right now I've got a bag with a plastic
    can for frozen fruit juice inside a steel soup can. It isn't a tight
    fit-- pick up the steel can and turn it over and the plastic can
    will fall right out. But sometimes it is a tight fit. Am I making
    Hell for somebody on a disassembly line somewhere? Does it
    help that I usually pull staples out of papers, and even rip off
    gummy stickers and tape before recycling the paper?

    Or is it all a wasted effort?

    -- Jeff, in Minneapolis
    http://www.FreeMars.org/jeff/

    "I find astronomy very interesting, but I wouldn't if I thought we
    were just going to sit here and look." -- "Van Rijn"

    "The other planets? Well, they just happen to be there, but the
    point of rockets is to explore them!" -- Kai Yeves

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Root View Post
    Single-stream recycling began here a few years ago. I don't
    understand how it works. I was happy to sort my recycleables
    into two streams: Paper, and plastic/glass/steel/aluminum cans
    and jars. I expected to have to sort more in the future, not less.
    I actually still sort it into two separate bags, then put both bags
    in the same dumpster. But in order to save space, I also nest
    cans and jars together. Right now I've got a bag with a plastic
    can for frozen fruit juice inside a steel soup can. It isn't a tight
    fit-- pick up the steel can and turn it over and the plastic can
    will fall right out. But sometimes it is a tight fit. Am I making
    Hell for somebody on a disassembly line somewhere? Does it
    help that I usually pull staples out of papers, and even rip off
    gummy stickers and tape before recycling the paper?

    Or is it all a wasted effort?

    -- Jeff, in Minneapolis
    Not really wasted effort. If someone is purchasing steel and sees a bunch of paper and/or plastic bag sticking out of the bundle of compacted metal, they won't take it or downcharge for cleaning.
    Solfe

  6. #6
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    I think pulped paper has a magnet applied to it, anyway...

    I try to remove plastics, but I put the lid back on cartons, to prevent stinking up my flat.
    Formerly Frog march..............

  7. #7
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    As I understand it, the main deterrent for higher levels of recycling is not technology but economics. As long as it is cheaper to purchase virgin plastic or paper or aluminum, versus recycled grades of those, manufacturers won't purchase recycled materials, and so there will not be a demand for them.

    The exception to that are products that are marketed as made from recycled materials, for which tree-huggers like me will pay extra for. But that is a small percentage of the market.

    There are ways to change this; governments can do things to make virgin materials more expensive (or give economic benefits to the recycled materials), but that gets into politics and I won't discuss that here.
    At night the stars put on a show for free (Carole King)

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  8. #8
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    Sooner or later the energy you must use to make recycling more efficient becomes more of a problem than non-recycled materials.

  9. #9
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    I suspect that a much larger percentage of waste could be
    recycled with no net increase in energy use. And there are
    probably many different (some of them mutually exclusive)
    ways to do it. But it still depends on economic pressures.

    -- Jeff, in Minneapolis
    http://www.FreeMars.org/jeff/

    "I find astronomy very interesting, but I wouldn't if I thought we
    were just going to sit here and look." -- "Van Rijn"

    "The other planets? Well, they just happen to be there, but the
    point of rockets is to explore them!" -- Kai Yeves

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Root View Post
    I suspect that a much larger percentage of waste could be
    recycled with no net increase in energy use. And there are
    probably many different (some of them mutually exclusive)
    ways to do it. But it still depends on economic pressures.

    -- Jeff, in Minneapolis
    Many years ago, I lived in Utica, NY. Their recycling efforts were intense. At McDonald's, the cups went in one bin, the lid in another and the straw in third. They were so serious about it that they tore open bags of recycled goods to make sure it was done right before it left the store.

    At home, recycling was less intense, a single tote for all recyclables. But it was done because a 30 gallon garbage bag purchased from the city was $3.00. If you used a different garbage bag, the fine was $300.00 for the first offence. Each bag was a different offense, so you only made this mistake once.

    It seems they have abandoned this aggressive strategy. Instead they generate electricity with gas wells at the landfill to offset cost.
    Solfe

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Squink View Post
    Sooner or later the energy you must use to make recycling more efficient becomes more of a problem than non-recycled materials.
    if this technological society continues, material resources will be more important than energy, which can be collected from the Sun.
    Formerly Frog march..............

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mudskipper View Post
    if this technological society continues, material resources will be more important than energy, which can be collected from the Sun.
    Still, you're trying to beat entropy.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Squink View Post
    Still, you're trying to beat entropy.
    Generally speaking, the whole history of life on earth and human civilization is about using the energy of the sun to beat entropy, so that’s not really new.

    What I find interesting is that if you look at the elemental level, nothing we have done has really changed much, except for some small changes due to nuclear reactors and the release of helium through natural gas. Basically we’ve oxidized or reduced or polymerized things, and moved them around a lot. So as long as we have the energy and the technology, we can move it around some more.
    As above, so below

  14. #14
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    Vastly increase consumption of recyclables, and recycle them. That will get the recycling rate close to 100%.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    As I understand it, the main deterrent for higher levels of recycling is not technology but economics. As long as it is cheaper to purchase virgin plastic or paper or aluminum, versus recycled grades of those, manufacturers won't purchase recycled materials, and so there will not be a demand for them.

    The exception to that are products that are marketed as made from recycled materials, for which tree-huggers like me will pay extra for. But that is a small percentage of the market.

    There are ways to change this; governments can do things to make virgin materials more expensive (or give economic benefits to the recycled materials), but that gets into politics and I won't discuss that here.
    The latter is a MUCH better idea than the former. Sometimes horrific unintended consequences occur when employing the first strategy in this scenario.
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