Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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SOFT/HARD recycling

Cognitively accessible recycling signs.
 
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Ok, embarrassed to admit this but I haven't really figured out recycling yet. This is somewhat an east coast thing, because we are a little more conservative over here and a little slow to pick up on the latest California trends. And it is also somewhat a learning disability thing, because I am a little slow on the uptake, especially when it comes to processing language, and because I live in a world of related phenomena -- social anxiety, co-dependence etc.

So I am proposing a simplification of the categories of recycling so that I can understand them, or so that i could have understood them well enough to not have gotten to be close to half a century old and still not understand recycling.

Tonight I was out at a venue with what must have been a group of several hundred ecologically conscious people, who divide their recycling into "composting", "landfill", and "recycling," (this last category created a circular vortex in my mind that I spent an extra 5 minutes contemplating and still cannot figure out) and a couple of extra categories like "medium grained paper" and some other stuff. Actually I'm not interested in understanding recycling as much as I am interested in avoiding the awkward moment that I walk up to the f- ing trash cans in my Seersucker or whatever and then have to stand there for like 5 minutes trying to figure out what f-ing trash goes in what container, because I can't read or can't process the signs.

On the east coast we basically drop things as soon as we cease to have a need for them. It is a pretty simple rule but a lot easier to remember than the phd level reading I had to do tonight to figure out where to put my trash. And you hesitate because you know it looks stupid to continue standing there staring at the signs while your friends are yelling at you to hurry it up. But you also suspect, at least enough to stop you from following the tried and true east coast drop it when you feel it rule, that if you do go ahead and drop it and it is in the wrong container that an Eco- policeman will make an example and spectacle out of you. It does not help of course that I am over sensitized to failure or that I am constantly waiting for someone to step into the space left by my mesmerized moments and remind me that it looks strange to them for me to be staring for a long time at a two or three word sign.

For an east coast person who doesn't even get the metaphor of recycling much less being comfortable spending a lot of time considering any kind of waste, especially his own, and especially in as public a venue as the dropping off of trash from a meal in a public place. The rest of the folks from the table are probably now waiting for you expectantly, standing in an aisle somewhere and not being happy with your mesmerization over the two and three word categories for separating recycling.

So what about, and I know there are lots of problems that this brings up, but what about starting with something simple like SOFT and HARD, so that compostables (and unfortunately paper, but this is just a first step) could go in the soft trash and glass metal and hard plastic could go under hard.

This would be good marketing too because the vaguely sexual connotation would be more memorable so that I would be able to bring it up in my head on the way to the trash can so that I could spend some time classifying the stuff before I got to the cans and that way avoid the awkward reading/ processing/ spacey moment.

JesusHChrist, Jun 16 2012

http://www.lbhf.gov...eet_tcm21-23390.pdf [hippo, Jun 19 2012]

[link]






       I've handed out a number of m-f-ds lately and I feel like I've reached my quota for the time being, but as far as I can tell this is just a thinly disguised rant.
ytk, Jun 16 2012
  

       //I am over sensitized to failure// Careful - they can smell blood in the water ...   

       {scurries back out of sight}
pertinax, Jun 16 2012
  

       I'm going to bun this for the self depreciation. But I'd like to remind that wit hthe anonymity of the Internet a person is better off to claim they're a hypersexual millionaire than someone with social anxiety and codependency who cant read or process signs. That's cool too though.
rcarty, Jun 16 2012
  

       What [rcarty] said. Also because the idea might actually have merit in its own right if it improves existing signage.
AusCan531, Jun 16 2012
  

       I have a limited degree of belief in the idea of continents on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean because i've only seen them from space, but if they exist and there are recycling schemes there, this stage might be transitional. We have been through various phases of recycling here, ranging from sorting rubbish to the current phase of sticking it all in an orange bag and having it sorted by a Materials Recycling Facility. Consequently, you may not need to worry about it for long. I would also say that when i worked for a charity which allegedly recycled domestic waste, they largely just dumped it in landfill and i'd be surprised if it turned out they take a different approach nowadays. That job was a major factor in making me the cynic i have apparently become today.   

       Whatever happens in reality to the allegedly recycled waste, there are two major problems with recycling. Firstly, if you have had to resort to having someone else recycle your waste, that's a failure because it's a last resort and every other stage leading up to that has been unsuccessful. Secondly, when you put waste in a bin or recycling facility of some kind, you are for some reason giving away your property for free, which is a somewhat weird and imprudent act.
nineteenthly, Jun 16 2012
  

       //i've only seen them from space//   

       ... because space travel is so much more convenient than queuing up at Heathrow?
pertinax, Jun 16 2012
  

       Soft/hard? Where would burnt toast go?
xenzag, Jun 16 2012
  

       // if you have had to resort to having someone else recycle your waste, that's a failure//   

       I would disagree. In terms of efficiency, it makes more sense to have waste collected, sorted and recycled centrally. If recycling were taken seriously, it would be transparent to the individual - all waste would just be collected in the way it was 30 years ago, and sorted at some central depot.   

       In fact, I suspect that waste-sorting by consumers is partly redundant anyway - someone, somewhere has to re-check all the waste to ensure that nobody has put a glass bottle into the plastics bin, or a polythene bag into the paper bin.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 16 2012
  

       That is close to the apparent situation here in Leicester, [MB]. Hardly any waste goes in the wheely bin here nowadays. In fact, most rubbish in them is probably there by mistake.
nineteenthly, Jun 16 2012
  

       <shrug> doesn't bug me much: everybody has those moments except those who figure it's not worth their time.
FlyingToaster, Jun 16 2012
  

       I live in a small town (pop. +/- 1,000) way out in the middle of nowhere. We recycle as much of our waste as possible, because various state and federal programs have made it cheaper for small towns to pay for their refuse to be hauled off to the recycling plant than for it to be hauled off to the dump.   

       We have a Transfer Station where we bring all our garbage (no garbage trucks here). At one time, the Transfer Station was a maze of various bins and dumpsters for sorting out the 56,000 different varieties of recyclable waste, and it was up to residents to get everything in the correct bins. This was bitter issue for many. So, after a typically rowdy town meeting involving moonshine-spiked punch and much discharging of firearms, we decided to switch to a different recycling company that would take everything all jumbled up and sort it out themselves. Now we have just two bins, a great big one for recyclables and a smaller one for trash.   

       This leads me to believe that people who don't like sorting all of their refuse into separate bins are simply poor shoppers. The solution is already available; you just have to go and look for it!
Alterother, Jun 16 2012
  

       Most recycling is a negative value proposition anyway. A few things are worth recycling—aluminum certainly is, and glass may be as well depending on the circumstances. Plastic, on the other hand, is questionable, and the act of recycling paper is the single most ridiculous waste of time and resources that society nevertheless insists on participating in. Paper is a renewable resource. Nearly all of the paper currently made is made from trees farmed for the express purpose of doing so. When all factors are considered, it costs less in terms of energy and resources to simply grow new trees for paper than to collect it, process it, break it down, and turn it into an ultimately substandard product. Landfill space, regardless of what some might have you believe, is far from a pressing issue. In the US, at least, there are numerous landfill sites that /compete/ for the privilege of storing trash, and this will be the case pretty much indefinitely. So forcing people to sort out garbage into various types of recyclables is utterly ridiculous. We should educate the public about what actually makes /sense/ to recycle, and get them to focus on just sorting those few items out.
ytk, Jun 17 2012
  

       I've settled on seperation by "flat vs other" to reduce the time spent getting off my ass to carry the recyclables to the curb.
FlyingToaster, Jun 17 2012
  

       a big colour coded label on each item, which then goes into the colour coded bin. I'm guessing that's far to simple though.   

       Anyway, it's a bit of lack of imagination, everything is burnable.   

       Break water in hydrogen and oxygen. recombines to flame of 5000 c-ish. Unless someone's throwing away old space capsule re-entry panels, it should be ok.
not_morrison_rm, Jun 17 2012
  

       There are problems with economies of scale if recycling happens in a domestic setting but this might be lessened by the kind of energy invested and the nature of the result. Paper needn't be recycled into flat sheets. It could be burnt - the fate of much of the paper here - made into papier mache, "logs" or in theory converted to alcohol or sugar. Polythene and polypropylene can be recycled in an ordinary oven, so the issue there is how efficiently they're heated. That also provides raw materials unlikely to be easily made at home.
nineteenthly, Jun 17 2012
  

       //i've only seen them from space//   

       I'm guessing HB is something of a magnet for our orbital cousins, being low bandwidth.   

       Suggest enormously larger flash banners from now on.
not_morrison_rm, Jun 17 2012
  

       I can't figure out on the east coast of what / where you are! I've recycled for many years and it usually goes like this:
glass (separate colours)
paper (newspaper,cardboard or misc.)
aluminium
plastics
other metals
hazardous liquids (oil,paint, etc)
yard waste
I compost at home (veg. scraps,leaves,organic material)
garbage (it's what's left) Not much!
xandram, Jun 18 2012
  

       I agree with [Jesus] and [Max] that the burden of doing the tedious sorting of recycling should not fall to the end user. Where I live, the council has a recycling contract with a company which does automatic sorting of recyling. This is great for us as it means that paper, cardboard, plastic, metal, glass etc. can all go in one bag, mixed together, and they'll be sorted out by the flailing robot arms in the recycling plant. Compostable waste goes on the compost heap in our garden.
hippo, Jun 19 2012
  

       That also happens here. I think this problem is probably quite local, though it may also be local in most districts.
nineteenthly, Jun 19 2012
  

       Yes, some things are more local than other things.
hippo, Jun 19 2012
  

       In the better parts of the uncouth Midwest, We have the curbside system where in a garbage truck comes and picks up the recycling, and then another comes and picks up the trash. I would be curious as to how much energy the recycling trucks burn in such efforts.
RayfordSteele, Jun 19 2012
  

       [ytk] Plastics are really a mixed value proposition as well. PET and HDPE (1 and 2) recycle easily and simply.   

       Paper makes sense in certain situations, but I'll admit that post consumer is rarely one of them. Post industrial, and for that matter offices with large amounts of white paper do recycle economically.   

       Metals and glasses pretty much always make sense, just the expense of purifying raw materials for either is worse than recycling collection expenses.   

       Coincidentally, the ones that do make sense, plastic and metal are the easiest to separate out from an either a recyling waste stream, or even a combined waste stream. Post consumer paper is one of the hardest, as it's often contaminated with non-recycleable components.   

       And [Rayford] Not much if any more than similar trucks hauling raw materials from various sources.
MechE, Jun 19 2012
  

       I doubt that. Recyling trucks have to haul their contents all over the city; raw material trucks have decidedly shorter supply routes in large part.
RayfordSteele, Jun 19 2012
  

       I don't understand how they sort the jumbled up stuff!(That would leave me questioning if they really are recycling.) We sort our own things and put them in the specified dumpsters. There are special places for batteries and electronic items. Then one has to pay to leave couches, tires, mattresses and items like those.
xandram, Jun 19 2012
  

       Well, according to [hippo], the sorting is accomplished via flailing robot arms.   

       As much as I'd love this to be true, I suspect it's rather more a case of a long conveyor belt and a bunch of very bored people wearing thick gloves and Tyvek suits tossing stuff into bins. However, I can envision some automated means by which the process might be shortened: a big magnet to pick out steel cans, a blower to sift out paper, a float tank to separate the plastics, etc.
Alterother, Jun 19 2012
  

       There are some people picking over stuff as it goes down a conveyer belt, but it really is mostly automatic - see page 2 of the linked pdf doc. Using eddy currents to throw aluminium cans off the conveyer belt was a clever thing to do, I thought.
hippo, Jun 19 2012
  

       Many locations have single-stream recycling now, where you put everything recyclable in one receptacle, and it gets taken to a facility where it's sorted by robots. You still have to separate recyclables, garbage, and compost yourself though. (But food courts, dining halls, and other places that have a compost receptacle usually have a sign with photos of the things that go in it, and some recycling receptacles have similar signs.)   

       A mall near me has recently switched its food court from having receptacles for different kinds of waste to having counters where you just drop off your tray, and a person is employed to just stand there and sort the waste. I guess that results in more accurate sorting than letting the customers do it.
notexactly, Jun 13 2015
  

       I’m more in favour of recycling at the user-end so that I get to keep all of the energy and matter instead of giving it away to someone else. I’d like a device that can accept waste stuff which it converts to all the energy our house requires, and also produces reclaimed by-products that can be converted to bitcoins, with no waste whatsoever.
Ian Tindale, Jun 13 2015
  
      
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