Holding Manufacturers Accountable for Symbols

Recycling centers in Los Angeles may be dealing with less materials if legislators in Sacramento get their way. State Senator Ben Allen is the lead sponsor of a bill in the Senate which would ban companies from utilizing the familiar recycling arrows symbol unless those companies can prove that the material they use is indeed recycled in most of California’s municipalities, and is then reused to create new products.

The New York Times has recently reported on this measure which is expected to be signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom. The astounding piece of information to come out of the article is not about the measure itself but the fact that only 10% of plastic gets recycled. Consumers may just be getting hoodwinked into thinking they’re doing something positive for the environment when they drop something into the recycling bin—especially items with that recycling arrow symbol.

Plastic vs scrap metal recycling Los Angeles
Plastic vs scrap metal recycling Los Angeles

It turns out that about 90% of plastics we use end up in landfills or incinerated. The U.S. has also been shipping much of its plastic waste to other countries in the past even though there are now agreements in place worldwide which forbid such shipping.

What this new proposed law would do is prevent manufacturers from using the recycling logo on products that either cannot be recycled or which have not been created from recycled materials. Without the logo, consumers will be less likely to place such items in recycling bins.

Scrap metal recycling in L.A. may be better than recycling plastic

The NYT article mentions some of the most common non-recyclable  items that people routinely put in those familiar blue bins. One of them is the plastic grocery bag. Apparently these bags also play a devious role by causing stoppage of recycling machines when they get stuck in the works.

This aside, it makes more sense to use and reuse metals. In the case of nonferrous metals there is no doubt that most can be sold for scrap and recycled. The demand for metal as opposed to plastic continues to grow. Yes there is a time and place for plastic recycling—and the plastic that gets recycled most is that used in our ubiquitous water bottles—but metals, both the use and recycling of, seem to be the better choice for the environment.