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Toss That Plastic and It Goes Far

A tour of the dump provides insights on where Piedmont's trash ends up.

Ever wonder what happens after you throw your trash "away"? 

A group of interested Piedmont residents—including City Councilmembers, teachers, parents and myself—recently toured Richmond Sanitary Services to see first hand and learn more about the fate of our garbage, recycling and compost.

We've all been told to recycle our waste as much as possible rather than simply sending it to the landfill. But we learned that most of our allegedly recycled plastic (No. 3-7) actually goes to China! 

That is because, our guide told us, it is cheaper to fill the empty shipping containers eagerly waiting in the port of Oakland for their return trip to China than it is to send these plastics to Sacramento! It costs $35 per bale to transport the stuff to the Pacific Northwest versus $9 per bale for it to go to the Far East.

The details concerning what happens to the plastic after it's traveled thousands of miles to China is another disheartening environmental story. ...

But the message of the Richmond Sanitary Services tour was simple: question your habits of convenience—plastic only became mainstream 30 to 40 years ago.

I ask myself as I head out for the day, am I going to want a coffee or a sip of water today? Then I better take my reusable mug or bottle. Am I going to purchase anything today? I should grab my reusable bags. Do I really need that packaged food item? Do I have to buy the single-use size?

These are just a few examples of thoughtful questions that come to mind in my daily life. I hope we all begin to push back against convenience. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jodi Friedman Beasley November 14, 2011 at 11:08 PM
What does happen to our plastic once it gets to China?
Sabrina Hollander November 15, 2011 at 04:38 AM
Great question Jodi... Sheila, I've missed your blog posts. This is a helpful reminder that we must reduce reduce reduce!
garrett Keating November 15, 2011 at 12:41 PM
The StopWaste.org Board will be considering draft ordinances for a single use bag ban and mandatory recycling at tomorrow's board meeting in Oakland. Meeting agenda and packet at: http://www.stopwaste.org/home/index.asp?page=10&recordid=1534 Comment letters to the Board can be submitted through the Board Secretary at adunn@stopwaste.org. The Board is considering model ordinances that municipalities CAN adopt so more action will be needed at the local level. Please submit comments or attend tomorrow's meeting in Oakland at 2:00. The proposed ordinance only covers supermarkets and large grocery stores - other retailers not included at this time.
Sheila Hollander November 16, 2011 at 07:35 PM
Hi Jodi, Thank you for your wonderful question! Once our plastic gets to China it is received and "processed" by people of all ages, including very young children. Quite often it is burned which releases noxious toxins into the air, ground and water, further contaminating our planet. There is very little, if any, regulation governing the processing of bales and bales of our imported plastic that is allegedly used by Chinese manufacturers to make "new" recycled plastic materials, such as fleece, milk bottles, crates and pipes.

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