Our view: Recycling blues: A matter of curbing our addiction to plastic

Our view: Recycling blues: A matter of curbing our addiction to plastic

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Recycle collection

A city worker picks up recyclables along his southside route on Friday.

Recycling in Kenosha has become, as recent Voice of the People writer Frederick Butzen put it so eloquently, “a feel-good charade.”

For decades Kenoshans have dutifully separated their cardboard, plastic and glass from their other garbage and placed them in blue bags, convinced they were doing their part to help the environment.

Not so anymore. The world of recycling has changed and, like many municipalities, Kenosha has been snagged in a seemingly no-win situation, continuing an antiquated system that is no longer economically feasible.

The blue bags we’ve used for years are now verboten. And we’ve learned that much of what we are recycling is going to landfills anyway.

And now Kenosha is looking at an expensive overhaul of its recycling system to the tune of $7 million.

Could Kenosha have done something to prevent this?

Maybe, but not likely. The story is the same throughout the country: As the bottom fell out of the recycling market when China, India and Indonesia stopped buying our recyclables, the only place to go was the landfills.

Kenosha will do what needs to be done, converting to an automated bin system like so many other municipalities have done.

But the real solution to our recycling problem is that recycling, as we know it, is no longer feasible.

Some cities and countries have turned to incinerators that convert the waste into energy. But even with the latest technology, many wonder if there is such a thing as a clean incinerator.

So if you can’t burn or bury recyclables, and no one is able to actually recycle them, what are we to do?

The solution is actually simple: Stop making so much stuff out of plastic.

Think of all the plastic bags you use, and all the annoying plastic packaging in which everything is encased these days.

“They’re an absolute abomination,” said Keir Powell, city superintendent of waste and recycling, said of plastic bags. “The amount of energy it takes to create this plastic bag from a petroleum-based product that we just fill at the grocery store, empty at home and throw away is ridiculous. We shouldn’t be doing that.”

He’s right. There are more environmentally friendly options out there.

But until something is done to curb our addiction to plastic everything, we will continue to fool ourselves every time we toss a piece of plastic into a recyclables bin. Because it isn’t being recycled. It’s just a “feel-good charade.”

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