This is a rant more than an well informed post.
I was recently cleaning up my house, and realized that I don't know how to properly recycle a lot of the things I have. And reading up on how these things are recycled was a little bit of a let down because I realized that not all these processes are well designed. It's like they happened, and they weren't designed.
Then I realized that a lot of these things had the recyclable logo on them. Which made me realize that it's one of those standards which has no hard constraints (think FCC, RoHS). In a lot of cases the cost of recycling is too high for someone to actually care about going through with it. So that means that it ends up in a dumping ground, rather than back in another product.
There are very few companies like Apple who are making their products out of 100% recycled aluminum. But even they make their devices hard to repair, which contributes back to the recycling/waste problem.
So unless we want to head towards a world where we are forced to move to space, because Earth is filled with trash, I think we should raise the bar on what is called recyclable and what is not.
Some thoughts on what we should do -
- The recyclable logo should be more comprehensive. It should specify exactly what are the constituents of the product, and how they would be recycled. Something like a QR code which redirects to a website would be great. For example, OSHWA does a great job of listing certified products in a standard manner - see.
- We should have a library of recyclable processes that are practical - not just theoretical. Every company should be forced to pick one or many of these processes when certifying so that their product has an actual, viable recyclable path.
- Once we have certified processes, the government should subsidize companies working on those. Give them tax breaks if they are helping us save the planet.
Would love to hear more ideas in the comments!