Recycling in the U.S.

K. Andrea Meza Flores, Times Staff

Americans use a lot of plastics everyday. For a time, people’s livelihood has been supplemented with recycling, especially with China’s connection to it. This will no longer be the case with the current state of trade with China, as it will not take in our trash.

Wait, what does China have to do with the U.S. recycling program?

Quite a lot. In fact, according to The Daily Show’s host Trevor Noah, it plays a great role in trade with China. Other than movies and debt, China buys trash and recycling to sort through it, divide it, and finally melt it down into a product.

They weren’t the only nation to do it, since there were other Asian nations that took part in this trade, but with China out they are following suit because what the U.S. produces in plastics is too much for them to handle.

According to the Atlantic’s article, “Is This the End of Recycling?”, this all started when China began its import tax on American recyclables such as mixed paper and most plastics. This brings the actual recycling process since it takes a lot to break down products to become reusable again.

Take plastics for example. There are many different kinds and forms that we use, and they need to be melted down again so that we can reshape them for reuse. Most of these processes took place in China and a few other Asian nations. With Asian nations now wanting out, this will begin to affect our ways, like our recycling plants are too under-developed to take on America’s trash.

Why is sorting out the trash and recyclables such a big deal? Believe it or not, there’s more to sorting through our waste than simply putting them in the right bin; something that many people don’t do according to the Sierra Club.

Within the recycling process, there are various parts of a product that must be separated into proper categories, so that it can actually be recycled properly. There are some plastics that are more readily available for recycling than others–just think about the recycling labels you see on water bottles.

The process itself takes a lot of time and effort, and sadly it’s not even the most efficient way either. If the U.S. tries to just take in their own trash, we lack most of the infrastructure. It would be easier just to put everything in the trash since we cannot afford to process the recyclables and make them re-useable.

To help mitigate this issue, Americans must stop the consumption of so many plastic products. This is not easy since many of us are accustomed to the packaging of many of our everyday products.

There needs to be both an investment in finding a solution to this issue while also learning to become less wasteful. We cannot continue putting our heads in the sand about this issue, because our landfills are filling up fast.