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Concerned citizen sparks outrage with photo of their city's trash collectors: 'It's disheartening'

"People are trying to do the right thing."

Rrecyclables sparks outrage

Photo Credit: iStock

While recycling bins can be found in homes, communities, and businesses across the country, one disappointed Redditor shared the complicated truth about recycling efforts in the United States. Unfortunately, much of the paper, plastic, and glass put in the blue bin often still ends up in the landfill.

"I watch the maintenance crew dump the recycling into the trash bag every day after work," the poster said. "Why even have recycling bins?" The accompanying photo shows workers pushing regular trash and recyclables into the same bin for disposal.

Photo Credit: u//DrTreesus / Reddit

Recycling as we know it took hold in the mid-20th century, slowly gaining traction over the following decades. However, challenges throughout the process means many recyclable materials continue to end up in the trash. 

Although many Americans want to recycle, learning how can be confusing. Some recyclable materials are improperly sorted or not thoroughly cleaned, which can contaminate an entire batch of recycled materials. Throwing products in the bin with the hope that they can be recycled, also called wishcycling, can also cause major problems for recycling centers.  

Ultimately, recycling is a business. For years, the United States and other wealthy countries sold millions of tons of plastic recyclables to China, where they would be transformed into new products. However, in 2018, China dramatically restricted its intake of recyclables, making the process far less lucrative for American companies and leaving tons of recyclable material with nowhere to go but the landfill. 

Tossing everything in the trash results in a loss of valuable resources, from the energy required to make the materials to the potential for repurposing them into new products. Additionally, landfills take up space, emit planet-warming gases, and pose significant risks to both human health and the environment.

Sparking over a thousand comments, Redditors had a lot to say about the state of recycling in America. While many were frustrated by the system's failings, others offered hope and suggestions for improvement.

"It's disheartening because people are trying to do the right thing," one Redditor commented

"We need to standardize manufacturing to make things more easily repairable, reusable, and recyclable," another suggested.

Despite efforts to improve recycling processes, the system clearly still has a long way to go.

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