January 6, 2005
CYCLE, CYCLE, RECYCLE
By Monte L. Stuck
“Put out the trash cans.” We call them trash cans at my house, even though we know they technically should be called “waste containers”—one for green waste, one for real household trash, and one for recyclables. As I rolled the recyclable waste container to the curb, I couldn’t help but wonder how we as a nation are doing in recycling our material resources. I tried to think into the far future: as our population grows, and as available resources for products become more and more scarce, will our future population face these three choices:
1. Reduce our world population by rigid birth control,
2. Move the population away from the earth to another environment with its own resources, or
3. Learn to recycle our available resources?
Recycling is not a new concept, but how are we doing? Two gentlemen, Gary Gardner and Payal Sampat, writing in “The Futurist” magazine, observed that “an extraterrestrial observer of the earth might conclude that the conversion of raw materials to waste is a major purpose of human economic activity.”  My well-thumbed “American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language,” 1970 edition, does not contain the word “recycle.” A recent computer search of the word “recycle,” however, instantly returned 3.38 million hits.
The bottom line is this: until the last two decades, nearly all of America’s household trash went to landfills. Now, with a new awareness equaling that of World War II when enemy submarines threatened the import of raw materials, recycling has been on a dramatic upswing. “The renewed interest is spurred by a range of concerns: loss of landfill space, contamination of groundwater by landfills, dwindling natural resources, and perhaps, a growing comprehension of our unmatched squandering” 
In Redlands, are we better known for our years of cycling as a result of the Redlands Bicycle Classic than our recycling efforts? In Redlands, the curb-side pick-up of recyclables not including green waste increased from an average of 519 tons per month in 2003, to 527 tons per month so far this year. In addition, an average of 137 tons per month of recyclables has been collected this year in Redlands from commercial sources. While California State law currently allows only 50 percent of a city’s waste to go to landfills, Redlands currently recycles only 42 percent of its waste, with a State approved plan to achieve the 50 percent requirement. This past year Redlands has budgeted $783,917 for waste recycling costs, while budgeting income from this activity at $250,000, for a planned loss in excess of half million dollars. 
“Today, this country recycles 28 percent of its waste, a rate that has almost doubled during the past 15 years.” “…recycling of specific materials has grown even more drastically: 42 percent of all paper, 40 percent of all plastic soft drink bottles, 55 percent of all aluminum beer and soft drink cans, 57 percent of all steel packaging, and 52 percent of all major appliances are now recycled. Twenty years ago, only one curbside recycling program existed in the United States, which collected several materials at the curb. By 1998, 9,000 curbside programs and 12,000 recyclable drop-off centers had sprouted up across the nation.” 
But are we doing enough? My search of the government’s Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) web site reveals the sheer magnitude of the waste disposal problems facing the U.S. by the following “gee-whiz” statistics:
“--Americans throw away 49 million diapers per year—that’s 570 diapers per second.
--If you stacked all the new refrigerators Americans buy in a single week, you’d have a tower more than 80 miles high—each and every week.
--American consumers, and industry, throw away enough aluminum to rebuild the entire U.S. commercial air fleet every three months.
--Americans throw away enough used motor oil every year to fill 120 supertanker ships.
--Americans throw away enough iron and steel to continuously supply the nation’s automakers.
--Every year, we make enough plastic film to shrink-wrap the state of Texas.” 
Let’s review a few of the major recycling programs by products:
California has more registered vehicles than any other state. According to the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB), one of six Boards under the California Environmental Protection Agency—in 1999 California generated 31.1 million waste tires, or almost one waste tire for each person in the State.  “The California Tire Recycling Act of 1989 (AB 1843) authorized the creation of the Tire Recycling Program and the California Tire Recycling Management Fund. A $1.00 per tire fee is assessed on the sale of new tires, and the collected revenue is deposited quarterly in the tire fund.” 
With this money, CIWMB awards grants intended to fund tire re-use research projects, and to assist local governments in implementing the collection of used tires.
“Over the past decades, many innovative uses have been found for recycled tires. For example, ground rubber from scrap tires is recycled into rubber products, such as rubber-modified asphalt, playground cover and flooring material. Tire material has also been employed as an alternative to pea stone in septic systems. Facilities such as cement kilns and pulp and paper mills use scrap tires as a combustion fuel, burning approximately 42 percent of all scrap tires generated annually and utilizing the energy. Tires produce the same amount of energy as oil and 25 percent more energy than coal. New technologies and pollution control equipment allow facilities to burn tires at high temperatures, reducing air emissions.” 
One of the greatest success stories in household recycling is the recycling of aluminum cans. The press never ceases to print stories of citizens who have successfully persevered in the collection of aluminum cans, such as this story in the June 19, 2004, edition of the Press Enterprise, which begins:
“Plucking millions of beer cans from filthy dumpsters in the alleys of Los Angeles may not be the easiest way to get your kids through college. But for the Garcia family, the road to graduation day is paved with recycled aluminum. Two parents, three children and 8,756,093 cans are the catalysts for a film debuting Saturday at the Los Angeles Film Festival.” 
It seems that the Garcias collected 45,000 cans per month (at 3.3 cents a can that was $1500 worth per month) to send their daughter to UC Riverside.
The main reason for the success of aluminum can recycling is the fact that aluminum cans are 20 percent cheaper to recycle than to make “from scratch” and the process requires only five percent of the energy.  “Recycling a single aluminum can saves enough electricity to run a television for nearly three hours.”  The California EPA reports that even 10 years ago, over 65 percent of aluminum containers (over 65 billion cans) were recycled in the U.S. They state that “the lifespan of an aluminum can is 6 weeks on average: that means that the time it takes for a beverage can to be manufactured, filled, sold, recycled and remanufactured is 6 weeks on average.” 
But as simple as it would seem to melt aluminum scrap for recycling, note that just this October the U.S. EPA cited Timco Standard Tandem, Incorporated, an aluminum recycler located in nearby Fontana, for exceeding the limits on the release of dioxin emissions into the air.  The fine for non-compliance regarding these emissions was reported to be $32,000 per day.
The U.S. EPA reports that most of the glass recovered in the U.S. comes from glass containers (91%) and is used in new glass containers.  In 1992, 41 billion glass containers were produced in the U.S.  What is our recycling score? In 1994 2.6 million tons of the glass produced was recovered, and an estimated 10.6 million tons discarded.
Glass bottle recovery for recycling is just one of the materials sorted at Burrtec’s recycling center located in Fontana. This three-year-old recycling center, open to the public by special appointment, employs 60 to 70 workers on daily eight-hour shifts. Burrtec also operates three other material sorting facilities: in Victorville, Indio and Riverside, serving both residential and over 16,000 commercial and industrial customers. 
A visit to their Fontana facility proved educational. From a glassed-in second-floor observation room, a visitor can watch the major sorting process: the 30 trucks dumping their loads at the facility entrance floor, crews on the watch for any hazardous materials as tractors scoop the material onto a rising conveyor belt. There, workers pull out all cardboard, as it is the easiest to separate. Next, they pull out any non-recyclable material. The remaining material is then conveyed into a two-story high automatic sorting machine—the glass bottles, tin cans, aluminum cans, and plastic bottles falling to the bottom while paper and plastic bag materials float off to the top. The plastic bottles are then hand sorted, and the tin cans sorted out by magnets. At the top of the machine, on a separate conveyor, the plastic film products are hand-sorted from the paper products. Impressive to see was a virtual wall of paper, 20 feet wide and five feet high, continuously exiting the final sort and being baled for recycling.
Lubricating oil does not wear out, or break down. It simply becomes dirty and the additives become depleted as it does its job in your engine. The current process of re-refining used oil involves cleaning the oil of dirt, water, fuel and used additives through a distillation process. Then the oil is hydrotreated in a process similar to what traditional oil refineries use to remove base oil from crude. Finally, the refined base oil is combined with a fresh additive package by the blender. The re-refined lubricant oils that are certified by the American Petroleum Institute comply fully with vehicle manufacturer’s warranty requirements. Mercedes-Benz uses re-refined oil to fill new cars at their factories. 
The advantage of re-refining used oil is that one gallon of used oil provides the same 2.5 quarts of high quality lubricating oil as 42 gallons of crude oil.  The U.S. EPA estimates that recycling all used oil would save the U.S. 1.3 million barrels of oil per day. 
Currently, most used oil is burned as fuel (67%) or illegally dumped at landfills (24 % or 200 million gallons). In 1991, only 4% was re-refined. If you change your own oil, there are seven certified local collection centers in Redlands which will take your used oil to keep it out of the land fill: Certified Tire & Service Centers on Colton Avenue; Kragen Auto Parts on Orange Street; Auto Zone on East Citrus Avenue; and the Firestone Store, Jiffy Lube and The Tire Guys all on Redlands Boulevard, and of course, the Redlands City Yard, which is open each Saturday from 9:30 to 12:30.
Another location locally which is open daily to take used motor oil—and perhaps exchange for something more useful—is the Household Hazardous Waste Collection center at the San Bernardino International Airport (the old Norton Air Force Base site). This facility, operated by the San Bernardino County Fire Department, has a unique latex paint recycling operation.
Latex paint arrives from the public and from household hazardous waste collection centers from throughout the area—such as the Redlands City Yard. If the paint received is more sludge than liquid, it is placed in 55-gallon drums and sent to the one permitted recycler in California for this material—Amazon Environmental. They rework the sludge to the correct consistency for resale to companies conducting rock crushing operations for concrete. Apparently, a little latex coating not only aids in the rock crushing process, but also improves the concrete end product. 
If a can of latex paint received is still liquid, it is added to other latex paint received, mixed into a 55-gallon drum until full, and then placed into ten individual 5-gallon containers. These ten containers now contain the same shade of beige paint. Beige, because that is always the color that results from mixing the various tints of white, yellow, brown, blue, etc., received on a random basis at the collection center. Sometimes it is a light beige, sometimes a darker beige, but beige nonetheless.  And the 5-gallon containers of paint are available, free, to the San Bernardino County public. Only a $5 fee for the container is charged, and is redeemable with the return of the container. Many people use the recycled paint as an undercoat for a project which will receive a non-beige final coat. Environmental volunteers use the free paint to cover graffiti on walls and fences. And CalTrans is required by the State to use a minimum of ten percent recycled materials. Therefore the latex makes a fine beige undercoating on their steel bridges.
And latex paint is not the only free product available at the San Bernardino International Airport Hazardous Waste Collection Center. Hundreds of other household chemical items are inspected and shelved by categories, and available for the taking. These categories include Building Materials (such a ceramic tile cement and grout), Automotive (such as cleaners and waxes), Household Cleaners, Pool Chemicals, Lawn and Garden Care chemicals, and Insecticides.
It seems as if we have always recycled paper. Who has been a Boy Scout who has not collected papers for a paper drive? “Look at the back of the next birthday card you buy. Odds are it’s printed on recycled paper. The cereal box you reach for each morning might be reclaimed newsprint. Paper—37 percent of our nation’s waste—is one of the easiest materials to recycle.” 
In one year there are 359 million copies of magazines and 24 billion newspapers published in the United States—with one year’s worth of the New York Times weighing 520 pounds.  The fact is, there is a lot of paper out there, but in 1998 in California, only 31 percent of our paper waste was recycled.  While the most visible method of paper recovery is the residential curbside collection program, the majority of recovered paper originates from business and industrial sectors as “preconsumer” paper.  These businesses take rolls of new paper and convert them into finished products. The salvage, misprints, and overruns are “preconsumer” recyclables.
Today, nearly all of the virgin paper produced in the U.S. is made from wood fiber derived from trees. The wood is flaked, softened into a wet mush, and formed into a thin sheet. “Recycling repeats the process with the paper itself, removing the ink, glue, and coating. But the process breaks down some of the fibers, requiring the addition of new pulp to maintain paper strength.”  So even recycled paper requires some new wood product.
Chlorine and its derivatives, such as chlorine dioxide, are used in paper manufacturing to bleach the wood fibers white and to remove “lignin,” an element in wood fiber that yellows paper when exposed to sunlight (as occurs with newsprint). “Wood-based paper is brown in its natural state, as evidenced by brown paper bags and most cardboard boxes, which are made from unbleached paper.”  Obviously, recycling white waste paper requires the cutting of fewer trees, and also requires far less bleach, chlorine being quite harmful to the environment—particularly the aquatic environment.
A step further in the environmentalists’ goal in the original production of paper is the “tree-free” paper using residues from agricultural crops such as straw from rice, wheat and rye. And while straw is being used to make paper, dairy farmers are turning to shredded newspaper, bought in bales, to use to bed their cows. The farmers claim that it is cheaper than straw, and keeps the cows drier and less prone to disease.  And when it becomes sodden with manure, like straw, it is spread on fields and is returned to the soil.
Plastic is everywhere. And when its useful life is finished, it will still be with us. It doesn’t rust, it doesn’t rot away, and it doesn’t disintegrate. The international sea shipping community recognizes this fact, and their Marine Pollution International Convention To Prevent Pollution From Ships, totally prohibits the “discharge” of plastic into the ocean.  Whereas most other commodities may be dumped from ocean-going ships beyond the 12-mile limit (such as food and human waste refuse) it is illegal to dump plastic anywhere in the ocean.
But as effusive and durable as plastic is, very little plastic is recycled. Recycling plastic has problems: the many varieties are difficult to sort, and often chemicals stored in plastic containers, such as gasoline or insecticides can contaminate the reprocessed material. The plastics industry, therefore, favors making plastic out of raw materials, and as a result we recycle only about two percent.  Plastic soft-drink bottles—those with the number “1” in the recycling triangle signifying the type resin as polyethylene terephthalate (PET), however, is a recycling success. These containers are being melted down and regenerated into long cottony fibers used in jacket insulation, pillow stuffing, sleeping bags, and carpets.
A new use for recycled plastics is that of plastic lumber used in exterior applications such as decks and patios. Usually mixed with some actual wood product to reduce expansion and contraction with temperature variations, this lumber is fully competitive in price with quality redwood, and does not crack, split, warp or ever need painting.
STEEL AND IRON:
Steel is 100 percent recyclable, and can be reprocessed almost indefinitely. The major source of recycled steel and iron is the automobile, although the simple “tin can” does its part. Over 10.5 million vehicles reach the end of their useful lives each year in the United States. “The automobile industry estimates that, in the United States, 75 percent of a vehicle’s weight is now being recycled.” 
The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries report that overall, 9 million tons of U.S. scrap is exported each year.  While Japan has in the recent past been the major importer of U.S. iron and steel scrap, returning our scrap metal to us in the form of new cars, China has now also become a major importer. The Manhattan-based Hugo Neu Corporation—one of the largest U.S. metal scrap processors and number one exporter, in 2003 shipped over a million tons of metal scrap to China, up from nothing five years earlier. 
Locally, there are three regional car shedders. They are in Anaheim, Long Beach and Etiwanda. A fourth, originally at Carson, will be moved to Colton, with the recently granted approval of Colton’s City Council just this past November.  The shredders reduce the cars into fist-sized pieces of metal, once they are stripped of certain elements such as engines, radiators, wheels, batteries and catalytic converters. Last year, a total of over 500,000 vehicles were shredded at these four sites.
However, as robust as the automotive recycling programs are, the EPA reported that the overall recovery of all ferrous metals is currently only about 25 percent. 
So, again, the question, how are we doing on recycling? Are we on the correct path? There are many who would say no—that there are better concepts to introduce to the recycling effort. Denmark, for example, as a nation, has switched from aluminum cans to glass containers for beverages. They then placed a high deposit cost on these refillable glass bottles, and currently enjoy a 98 to 99 percent return rate. 
“The European Union has passed laws to hold producers (of automobiles) responsible for their cars post-life, through mandatory takeback and recycling programs.”  “German automakers now bar-code car components to show scrap dealers the mix of materials contained in each piece.  “… Germany implemented a revolutionary package-waste ordinance in 1993 that holds producers accountable for nearly all of the packaging material they generate. The new law increased the amount of packaging recycled from 12% in 1992 to 86% in 1997. The new law also gave producers a strong incentive to cut their use of packaging, which dropped 17% for households and small businesses between 1991 and 1997. The use of secondary packaging—outer containers like the box around a tube of toothpaste—has also declined in Germany. Now several other countries, including Austria, France, and Belgium, have adopted similar recycling legislation.” 
Some people question whether our government subsidies that make virgin materials cheaper than recycled materials is helping. “The 1872 Mining Law in the United States, for example, continues to give mining firms access to public lands for just $12 per hectare, without requiring payment of royalties or even the cleanup of mining sites. The effect of this virtual giveaway is to encourage virgin materials use at the expense of alternatives such as recycling. 
Gary Gardner and Pahyal Sampt in the Futurist magazine state, “Perhaps the most revolutionary shift toward sustainable materials use is the conversion of manufacturing firms to service-providing firms. Service providers earn their profits not by selling goods, such as washing machines or cars, but by providing the services that goods currently deliver—convenient cleaning of clothes, for example, or transportation. Providers could also be responsible for all of the materials and products used to provide their service, maintaining those goods and retrieving them when they wear out. Service firms would thus have a strong incentive to make products that last and can be easily repaired, upgraded, reused, or recycled.
“Many service-provider firms would lease their products rather than sell them. The Xerox Corporation, for example, now leases most of its office copy machines as part of a redefined mission to provide document services, rather than to sell photocopiers. The new arrangement gives Xerox a strong incentive to maximize the life of its machines: Between 1992 and 1997, the company doubled its share of remanufactured copiers to 28%, keeping 30,000 tons of waste out of landfills in 1997 alone.” 
One last category of recycling bears mentioning: that of human organ recycling. My son needs a kidney transplant. He has been on the waiting list for over six years—meanwhile undergoing blood dialysis procedures three times a week, four hours per session. Over 5,000 people die each year waiting for organ transplants.  This is over three times the number of U.S. combatants who have died to date in the Iraqi conflict. “Although there are between fifteen and twenty thousand deaths in America each year that could yield organs, about half of families deny permission for the bodies of relatives to be used in this way…”  Often, this denial is contrary to the dead person’s donor card statement.
The questions of recycling are many: should the government put in place strong regulations to force recycling, such as restrictions on the use of virgin materials to ration these commodities? Should recycling be driven solely by the profits of the marketplace? What is the value of protecting the environment—air and ground-water pollution—in the recycling equation?
Perhaps it all can best be summed up in this short poem written by Rowland Howard in 1876:
“Waste not, want not is a maxim I would teach.
Let your watchword be dispatch, and practice what you preach;
Do not let your chances like sunbeams pass you by,
For you never miss the water till the well runs dry.” 
(This paper was printed on Hewlett-Packard Company recycled paper)
Monte L. Stuck
January 6, 2005
EarthLink Revolves Around You.
 Gary Gardner and Payal Sampat, “Making Things Last: reinventing our material culture,” The Futurist, v33i5 (May 1999) p.24-25.
 Noel Grove, “Recycling,” National Geographic, Vol.186, No. 1, (July 1994) p.98
 Telephone interview with Edie Brown, City of Redlands, Solid Waste and Recycling Division, October 20, 2004.
 Bradley Weaver, “’Parents of the Year’ on Film,” The Press Enterprise, June 18, 2004, page A-1
 Noel Grove, op. cit., p.102
 Redlands Daily Facts, “Recycling at all-time high in California,” December 20, 2004, page A-4
 The Press Enterprise, October 15, 2004, p. B-5
 Interview with Jimmy Tatosian, Burrtec Corporation, December 23,2004
 Interview with Jerry Wong, Environmental Health Specialist, San Bernardino County Fire Department Hazardous Materials Division, 12-14-2004.
 Noel Grove, op. cit., p.112
 Noel Grove, loc. cit.
 Noel Grove, op. cit., p. 113
 “ABCs of the California Boating Law, 2002,” California Department of Boating and Waterways, p.38
 Noel Grove, op. cit., p.113
 Forbes, “Óne Man’s Junk…”(December 22, 2003) p.120
 Forbes, ibid, p.119
 The Press Enterprise, “Debated Shredder gets OK,” November 18, 2004, Local Section, p.B1
 Gary Gardner and Payal Sampat, The Futurist, “Making things last: reinventing our material culture,” v33 i5, (May 1999), p.27
 Gardner and Sampat, op. cit., p.25
 ibid, p.26
 ibid, p.25
 The New Yorker, (Aug 2, 2004) p.58
 Rowland Howard, “You Never Miss the Water,” Peterson’s Magazine, 1876