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Old 01-02-2014, 10:31 AM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is online now
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What does the "chasing arrows" recycling code on plastic products mean?

A 1995 column by the Perfect Master: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/...-products-mean

Is the solid state shear extrusion process now widespread? Are recycling rates up, a lot or a little, in the U.S. since 1995?
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Old 01-02-2014, 10:54 AM
Powers Powers is offline
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A ripe topic for a followup. In the years since 1995 my county has switched to single-stream recycling and they accept all numbered plastic containers.


Powers &8^]
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Old 01-02-2014, 11:38 AM
Rutabegger Rutabegger is offline
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I'm a little surprised such an old column would be repeated. I'd be surprised if something hasn't changed in almost 20 years.

In my area all recyclables get put into the same container - plastic, metal and paper. Obviously some sort of separation process occurs at some point. Time for a new report!
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Old 01-02-2014, 06:21 PM
Blackfaer Blackfaer is offline
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Yeah, I'd love to get an update on this topic... in 1995 my area (Pacific NW has always been 'greener' than most of the country) accepted 1, 2, 4 and 6, in 3 separate bins - I think the 2 and 4 or the 2 and 6 were together and the other two had their own bin, though memory is failing me on that detail. Ten years prior it was aluminum, glass, and newspaper. Today it's practically anything and all plastic, paper, and metals are mixed together, with glass, plastic bags, and batteries sorted out separately.
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Old 01-02-2014, 10:09 PM
qazwart qazwart is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rutabegger View Post
In my area all recyclables get put into the same container - plastic, metal and paper. Obviously some sort of separation process occurs at some point. Time for a new report!

The "separation process" is people being paid $8/hour to sort it as it goes along a conveyor belt.

"Single stream recycling" – having consumers tossing everything in a single bin – is becoming the default in the U.S.

American consumers are… (what's the technical term? Oh yeah…) lazy bastards. We just weren't all that good at separating various plastics, paper, and cans into various bins. Meanwhile, in Japan, the people there sort their recyclables into almost a dozen separate bins with no problems.

Plus, when you had multiple bins, you had low compliance. And, keeping all those various waste streams separate was a pain. Our garbage men would make multiple passes picking up each type of recycling. Most of our neighbors never bothered.

Our town went single stream this year. We all got a giant blue recycling pail and a single manned truck collects it every other week. More people are participating in recycling.

Also, our garbage is better separated at the transfer station. Even those who followed the old multi-stream recycling program did a poor job with separating it. They still needed people at the transfer station separating it out anyway.

The chasing arrows is hard to understand and only applies to plastic. In Japan, they do a much better job with recycling iconography.
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Old 01-02-2014, 10:15 PM
Chronos Chronos is online now
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There are some automated separation processes. Ferrous metals, of course, can be pulled out by a magnet. Non-ferrous metals (which in practice, are going to be almost all aluminum) can be pushed out by a magnet, using a rapidly-varying field and induced eddy currents. Plastics can be separated from paper via density. You'll still need humans doing a final pass to catch the odd things that get through, but that's a lot more efficient when you're letting most of it just pass by, rather than actively sorting everything.
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Old 01-03-2014, 09:51 AM
C K Dexter Haven C K Dexter Haven is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rutabegger View Post
I'm a little surprised such an old column would be repeated. I'd be surprised if something hasn't changed in almost 20 years.
"Classic" columns are recycled as they were, usually without any updating (which would be a massive and impractical job.) On rare occasions, the person doing the posting of the classic columns adds a slight update, but these are few and far between.

In this case, I'll bring the question to Cecil's attention to see if he wants to do a revision (either an edited footnote or a new column.)
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Old 01-03-2014, 12:30 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by qazwart View Post
...The chasing arrows is hard to understand and only applies to plastic. In Japan, they do a much better job with recycling iconography.
Very interesting - thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by C K Dexter Haven View Post
"Classic" columns are recycled as they were....
:: rimshot ::
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Old 01-03-2014, 02:42 PM
Irishman Irishman is offline
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Wait, the Japanese have a mark to tell you if the product is corrugated cardboard? Can't they tell by, I don't know, look and feel?

I would like to know if more plastics are recycleable, or if the bulk of stuff placed in the single stream buckets is just being sent to a landfill after sorting.
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Old 01-04-2014, 11:23 PM
qazwart qazwart is offline
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Wait, the Japanese have a mark to tell you if the product is corrugated cardboard? Can't they tell by, I don't know, look and feel?
The marks aren't to tell you what the product is made out of, but which recycling bin it goes into.

This is different from the U.S. where we have sometimes have a mark that sometimes tells you what the stuff is made out of, and it is up to us to figure out how to dispose of it. For example, I have something that's made out of paper, but might have a plastic coating. Do I recycle this? What about this plastic with a "6" on it vs. this one with a "2"? I have shirt cardboard. Do I recycle it with my cardboard, throw it in with my paper, or dump it in my trash? What about cereal boxes? The easiest thing to do is toss everything in the trash.

There are cultural differences, but a lot of the Japanese compliance with recycling is that they make it easy for the consumer to do it right.
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