If we can recycle plastics why don’t we do it?

We have all seen those tragic pictures of the slums of Mumbai where people challenge death every day by recycling the world’s waste. They burn plastics, pillage through garbage tips on their bare feet and live in very very poor circumstances with little or no sanitation. Kevin McCloud shows it to the world in his tv series.

We also know our own (western?) way of buying stuff, using stuff and discarding it. We think that once we have used it that it is no longer our problem and discard it to the land fills. We have grown accustomed to the fact that we cannot recycle certain types of material. Most of those are plastics. For some reason we have given up and assumed that that is the way it is.

But what if there are already ways of recycling most of what we throw away? That that technology is already available now? Why are we still filling our land fills with the stuff?

The gentleman in the following TED talk video claims he’s found a way to recycle the plastics we throw away daily.

And a quick search on the Internet comes up with numerous claims of being able to recycle plastics through an automated process. For example: here, here and here.

So, if indeed the above claims hold true why don’t we do it? For the same reasons as to why we are not all driving Electric Cars? We all know it’s better for us and the planet. And the technology has been around for a while.

Reasons that I can think of;

  • Public misconception. (“Electric cars are bulky and can’t drive fast/ for long.” and “We cannot recycle certain types of plastics.”)
  • Large sums of money have to be put up to get it started. (Infrastructure for manufacture for electric cars and the plants necessary to recycle plastics)
  • Other people make more money with other things. (Actually, both the electric cars and the recycling of plastics would pull resources away from the oil industry where people are still making bucket loads of money. And Indian slums are making their living with manual recycling.)
  • It’s just too hard. (It’s easier for us normal folk to grab a gass guzzler as they are readily available and it’s easier for us to throw away our stuff rather than finding a place to get it recycled)

Ideally you would bring the solution close to home. Make sure that all of the above points I brought up just now are nullified. If people could recycle their stuff directly at home they would not have the misconception that they can’t recycle it. If we all do it at home with a small machine of some sorts it wouldn’t cost large sums of money. In fact, people that manufacture the machines would earn money and people using the machines could earn money by selling their recycled plasticsas a resource. The people making money with other things will lose their grip on the process as the recycling makes the harvesting of “fresh” resources less crucial and hence less valuable.
And all of a sudden, the “too hard” will turn into “too easy”. We will transform ourselves from “Consumers” in “Borrowers”. Anything that we buy, we also put back into the system ready to be reused. A bit like how some tribes still live. Use nature, but return it as you found it.

Or maybe we are just concerned about the people in the slums making a living and us changing our ways would take away their source of income? But somehow I don’t think that is the reason. I’m sure they will adapt to whatever happens as they have done so for years.

Whatever happens, the time will come at some stage that the pendulum will swing towards the Recycling and the Electric Cars. As soon as people can earn more money with this than with for instance oil. Let’s just hope though that that will happen sooner rather than later.


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