I’ve lived in Lane County, Oregon for 44 years, far longer than I lived anywhere else, and I’ve lived in its county seat Eugene for 26 years. Since the 1970s, Oregon has been known as a “progressive” state, and Eugene has been known as an even more “progressive” city. The last Hippie Refuge, some call it. If it’s good for the environment, we Eugeneans latch on to it.
Thus you probably would not be surprised to learn that Eugeneans have been recyclers since forever, and that Lane County has been promoting recycling since almost forever. In Eugene, we had curbside comingled recycling for just about everything–paper, glass, metal, plastic. The only restriction was it had to be clean when it went in the bin. It was recycle heaven.
I say “we had” and “It was” because there is now a big exception to our recycling options: Plastic.
It seems China has been our market for plastic recycling, and China has gotten sick and tired of all the dirty, food-contaminated plastic we’ve been sending them. So they’ve stopped accepting most of it.
This applies not just to Eugene and Lane County, but nationwide. Now we in Eugene and Lane County have to throw almost all our plastic bottles and tubs and whatnot in the garbage, which goes to the landfill, which takes up more room on this poor old tired planet and leaches all kinds of nastiness into our groundwater. Every time I throw a plastic yogurt tub in the trash I feel like an earth murderer.
Actually, I’m not mad at China for this. (Although, given our quasi-adversarial history with China, could it be a kind of environmental warfare, the newest development after cyber hacking?) But giving China the benefit of the doubt, I don’t blame them for not accepting our dirty smelly plastics; I blame the lazy slobs in the U.S. who can’t be bothered to follow directions and clean out their ketchup and mustard jars.
Apologies, China. I don’t really hate you. But I sure wish you’d start accepting our plastics again.
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