I'm old enough to remember when recycling was not something the government was interested in. Instead it was your own effort to recycle, if you were interested in recycling. Of course that was 30 years ago, now the government is not only interested it is insistent that we recycle.
I remember the introduction of recycling bins, I remember the size of the bins changing, the rubbish bin got smaller and the recycling bin got bigger. I remember being told how important it was that we recycle. I remember being told how strict the rules were for what could be put into the recycling bin.
In the past year there has been a widening scandal concerning recycling in the State of Victoria where I live. It started a few years ago with people pointing out how much of our electronic waste was sent to the Third World. Then it became a more general concern about plastics in the world's oceans. It was pointed out that most of that waste didn't come from the First World but from countries like China and India. Sure it was a problem but we couldn't do much to fix it.
Then there was a fire in a recycling yard, a big fire whereby people were told to stay indoors because the smoke was toxic. Then another, then another and recently two in the same month. People, not unreasonably, started asking questions. Why do these fires keep happening?
It turns out that the secret of recycling was sending our waste to the Third World. Where they recycled it? The basic answer was, who knows, who cares, it's not our problem anymore.
However the reason the fires started was because countries in the Third World had decided that they didn't need our waste anymore. So while everyone hoped that they would change their minds, the waste piled up. And once in a while it caught fire. The Fire Brigade has finally had enough and put strict restrictions on the recycling company concerned. Which might send it out of business.
The question I have is where is the responsibility of the local governments, the State government or of the Federal government? Apparently they are not responsible for this. Except I cannot find a single point that doesn't go back to bad policy and bad planning.
It turns out that wishful thinking isn't enough, because while in theory we can recycling things, in reality that's not true. No one wants the recycled goods, so no one can recycle and make a profit. So we are sold a lie and instead it is exported.
Until we return to reusing and repairing items this mess is going to continue....and get worse!
Edit: California's largest recycling center chain RePlanet closes all locations
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