The Recycler’s Confession

While we’re on the subject of prayer — not, I admit, a regular topic in this blog — there’s another traditional one that often comes to mind. This time, it’s when I’m putting things in the recycling bin. I’m sure you must have had a similar experience.

Anybody old who, like me, grew up in the Anglican Church, will remember this oft-repeated phrase from the Book of Common Prayer:

We have offended against thy holy laws.
We have left undone those things
which we ought to have done;
and we have done those things
which we ought not to have done;
and there is no health in us.

As I carefully separate the rubbish into the blue ‘recycling’ bin and the black ‘non-recyclable’ bin, there are always some items about which I am unsure, and I mumble to myself:

We have left unrecycled those things
which we ought to have recycled;
and we have recycled those things
which we ought not to have recycled.

Does anyone know, as a general rule, which is the greater sin? Or are there too many variables involved to generalise?

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The greater sin is to contaminate the recyclables so a whole batch has to be scrapped. For example how “clean” are clear glass recycling bins?

    Yes, well I wondered about that… but on the other hand, we’re lucky that we don’t have to do much separating by hand here: all the recycling goes into the same bin.

    So there must be quite a lot of automated separation already, and my main concern is whether I have precisely identified the type of plastic or the material making up the carton or the packing film or even correctly identified the recycling symbol on the packaging, and then correctly matched that to whatever is the precise policy this month in my area.

    For a while, we could only recycle plastics that weren’t black, because the systems used colour as part of the process of identification and they apparently couldn’t see black objects. That restriction has now gone away, I believe.

    I’d love to see the recycling machines in action, actually… I wonder if they do tours?

It would be interesting to find out whether your system can actually recycle black plastic now, or if it’s just better at sorting it out for disposal now.

My impression is that we should actually throw away items that are uncertain. Most areas manually sort recycling at the facility, so that dirty polypropylene takeout boxes will likely be garbage even if you add it to a recycling bin. “Wish-cycling” at best makes sorting harder and at worst reduces the quality of the recycled product. In my area waste is burned for electricity production, so I’m much less concerned about tossing plastic vs recycling every single thing.

[…] I wrote last year about ‘The Recycler’s Confession‘: […]

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