I’m travelling throughout the US right now visiting family. Amongst my stops this week was to see my 92 year old great aunt in Kansas. She was no longer able to drive after a fall last year, and so I offered to take her around town to do any errands.
Her first request? She wanted me to help her drop off things to be recycled at three different locations.
They don’t have curb side pick-up of recyclables like they do in many cities in the US and Australia. Instead, if you want to recycle anything in middle America, you have to work a lot harder.
Cans went to a Boy Scout troop. Soft plastics went to to only grocery store in town, and everything else had to be physically dropped off at a drive through warehouse at the edge of Main Street.
I spoke to the guy that helped us at the warehouse. He said that they used to have 6 different satellite collection locations in the surrounding towns, but now they were down to just one.
Because China and the other Asian countries were no longer taking most American recyclables, the materials that they were collecting were practically worthless. The only thing keeping this location from closing was the financial support from their local government.
In so many ways, this demonstrates the even bigger problem that America has regarding plastic waste because of its size. So many people want to recycle, but there is little demand for the materials now.
My plans for The Refoundry are to expand our product lines to the US if all goes well in Australia. After all, the need to do something with plastic waste is not limited by borders. In the meantime, 91% of US plastic is going to landfill despite the efforts of people like my aunt.
Despite her age and inability to drive, she’s still determined to do her part to help the environment. I know there are others, but it’s going to take a huge coordinated effort to turn things around in middle America.