Mar 18, 2019

Counterintuitive Recycling

Not everything done with a good intention comes back in a good way, and sometimes we are wasting things without realizing it. This came to my mind when I was throwing out my recycling bottles and cans one morning, and it got me thinking about how we sometimes are quite counterintuitive when dealing with garbage and recycling.

What sparked my thought to reexamine my garbage-throwing garbage was when I saw the massive pile of aluminum cans and bottles. I saw many people using small plastic bags just to wrap up one or two cans in order to throw them out.

On the other hand, some people would use massive garbage bags to gather a lot of cans, but these bags are usually extra thick bags bought from drugstores, so the amount of plastic being thrown out is actually even more.

Counterintuitive Recycling photo

Back home, the way we threw out recyclable garbage was just to have them in a box and in the morning, once a week, someone would come by to pick it up. They would pick the box up and empty the content, then put the box back down in front of my house. There were no extra plastic bags being thrown out unnecessarily.

This is not how it works in Japan yet, so we are still short of an alternative, but if we could at least flatten the beer cans and bottles before we throw them out, increasing the volume each plastic bag can take, we would be saving some more plastic bags that way.

Speaking of plastic bags, we know that Japan loves them, handing them out with every single purchase you make, especially at convenience stores. Many people keep the bags to reuse them, thinking that they make perfect small-garbage bags for their cars when they are on the go, and they can then throw it out when it is full. The problem I see from this is people accepting small plastic bags when they don't need to in the first place. 

Counterintuitive Recycling photo

Throwing out a small plastic bag with a small amount of garbage every time is quite wasteful, especially when they are throwing the plastic bag into a bigger plastic bag. What I do is keep the small garbage in the side of my backpack or in the car, then I move them by hand and throw them into the garbage can, without needing an extra bag. Most garbage cans I end up using are covered or have lids anyway.

By doing this, the small bags would not have been used in the first place, so we would not be throwing them out in unnecessary ways. 

Counterintuitive Recycling photo

A lot of people also recycle milk cartons for paper.  School kids do this, too. I think it is a good thing to recycle paper, but I was also curious how much waste people were creating in the process of cleaning the milk and juice cartons. A friend of mine said he did not recycle paper cartons because it felt wrong to him when he was using a lot of water, particularly hot water just to wash out something that was to be thrown out.

In schools in Japan, kids use the same bucket of water to rinse 30 milk cartons so water isn't heavily wasted. However, many housewives I know of actually open the carton and wash it with hot water and dish soap, which is spending resources for resources, and I don't know how effective this is. My friend was probably right. I believe that a rinse is all they need, so if we are reusing the water we have during dish-washing, that should be enough.

My point is that even in acts of recycling and reusing resources, there are smarter ways to do this for a more sustainable lifestyle.

If we are wasting things while recycling, it sort of defeats the purpose and our good intention, doesn't it?