Recycling Rather Than Dumping

Recycling may be headed for the trash can in some regions of the country, including ours. Last spring, Moundsville shut down its program. This week, two popular recycling collection sites in Ohio County were shut down.

In our area as well as many others, the problem is that not everyone is conscientious about recycling. Many containers intended for recyclable paper, plastics and metals are used as general dump sites, with everything from household garbage to construction waste being dumped there.

That is why the Ohio County Solid Waste Authority is removing recycling collection containers from Oglebay Park and Clearview.

“The contamination levels at both (sites) continue to be at levels that are unacceptable to the recycling facility,” authority Executive Director Tammy Bonar told us. “It’s so disappointing.”

But the authority’s recycling program has been in operation for 24 years. Surely this is not the first problem with contaminants.

No, it is not. But in the past, American recycling initiatives had an easy way of dealing with the concern: China.

About one-third of the 66 million tons of recyclables Americans turn in every year goes to China. There, officials have been reasonably tolerant of contaminants. If a shipment of material too contaminated to be recycled profitably is received, it just goes to a landfill.

Last year, Chinese officials got tired of being the world’s dump. They have banned many imports of recyclable material. No plastics are being accepted.

That leaves Americans, as well as environmentally responsible residents of many other countries, with a problem. What to do with all the waste paper, plastic and metal we once put on ships and forgot about?

Much of it will be going to landfills. If the Chinese cannot process contaminated recyclables profitably, U.S. firms probably cannot, either.

Recycling — when practiced conscientiously — is a good thing. Emptying recycling containers at a landfill is not.

What to do, then? We do not have a good answer for that. Clearly, someone needs to come up with one, and soon.

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