Recycling of waste (the word is used broadly) has been growing in the United States and elsewhere. The New York Times last week had a front page story about a growing number of cities that are moving away from recycling because of the cost.
Is this going to be a major blocking point in recycling?
The Times story said hundreds of towns and cities across the country have canceled recycling programs, limited the types of material they accepted or decided to levy huge price increases. There were strong overseas markets for American recycled materials, but countries, such as China, say the recycled materials had too much trash in it, like cardboard and certain plastics, and they cut back on buying it.
That means in the long run more landfills will be needed and we can expect some environmental problems.
The Missouri Public Interest Research Group (MoPIRG) reported that across the country, only 34.7 percent of our waste gets recycled. The rest of it usually ends up in a landfill.
“But improved recycling rates alone won’t solve our plastic waste crisis. The best way to reduce the amount of trash clogging our landfills is simply produce less of it,” MoPIRG said. That group wants people to tell Missouri’s governor to support a ban on the single-use plastic items “that are polluting our planet.”
MoPIRG said polystyrene foam cups and containers — the kind we get from coffee shops or restaurants — are among the worst, and most common, forms of single-use plastic waste. Polystyrene foam breaks down easily and persists in the environment as micoplastics, according to MoPIRG.
Who doubts this from the Environmental Protection Agency, which says, that the estimate is that we produce more than 3 million tons of polystyrene every year? It is filling landfills, littering streets and polluting our environment. That is why MoPIRG is focused on bans on polystyrene foam containers in cities and states across the country. The bans will take time. Enforcement will pose problems.
It’s a national effort.
There are more than 54 prorecycling laws, plastic bag bans, and other policies to reduce, reuse and recycle in 16 states, according to MoPIRG. Missouri isn’t one of them.
This effort needs a leader in the General Assembly to champion the cause.
As we said, in Missouri crusades such as this take time. Being the Show Me State means being slow to act.