By Alison Malawey
In 2018, China enacted a new policy, the “National Sword” policy, which banned the import of most plastics and other materials. Before 2018, many countries around the world, including the United States, shipped their waste to China for it to be recycled. China dealt with nearly half of the world’s recyclable waste for the past quarter century.
The country decided on the ban because they continually received unrecyclable materials mixed in with the recyclable which overwhelmed their recycling centers and created environmental issues that were not their doing.
The rest of the world never created the infrastructure to be able to recycle their own waste, and the recycling industry, particularly when it comes to plastics, has come to a standstill.
According to the Product Stewardship Institute, only 9% of plastics get recycled, but big companies continue to make single-use plastics and mark them as “recyclable.” This puts the majority of the responsibility onto the consumer.
In early June 2021, the city of Lawton start to “offer” recycling services. However, the offer includes citizens of the city signing up for a subscription service through a third-party company called recyclops (fee $15 per month/ $144 annually for pickup every two weeks as well as a $10 set up) on top of the waste services they pay for through the water department. Recyclops requires that at least 100 people sign up in order to start services in any location which was obtained for Lawton in mid July 2021.
Recyclops tout that with their services you can recycle “at home plastic, aluminum, paper, & cardboard” with an option to add glass recycling for an additional $7 a month. The subscriber bags their recyclables in recyclops provided bags which they pick up on scheduled days. After your bags are picked up, they are taken to a nearby recycling facility where they are emptied, sorted, and processed.
Lawton’s recycling facility is listed as Republic Paperboard which only includes old cardboard containers, unprinted newspapers and lightly printed office paper as their recycled resources for making their paper product.
So, what happens to the at home plastic, aluminum and possibly glass recyclables that subscribers are paying recyclops to get recycled?
Could this be considered “greenwashing?”
Greenwashing is when a company or organization shows superficial or insincere displays of concern for the environment with claims on their products or services being eco-friendly without having anything to really back it up.
When soda companies redesign their soda bottles to be more “recyclable,” they are really just putting the weight of the ecological impact of their product onto the consumer. It then comes down to the consumer to recycle the product. However, as previously stated, there’s not a lot of infrastructure for recycling in the US so even if a consumer does recycle, there’s still a large chance that a lot of their recyclables end up in landfills.
Have you ever gone to a restaurant and their trash bins have a hole for trash and a hole for recyclables? Most recyclables need to be relatively clean and things like plastic straws are not recyclable. In spite of the customer putting something in the recycling bin, there’s a large change the restaurant is just throwing it in the dumpster with the rest of the trash. Several places don’t even bother having two different trash bins and will have one large bin in a cabinet with two holes, one for recycling and one for waste.
Companies have started greenwashing in an effort to appear more appealing to consumers. In the 1960s, hotels used to advertise themselves as being conscientious of the water usage by suggesting customers reuse their towels. They argued that if the consumers reused their towels, the hotel would be able to conserve water by not having to wash it.
However, in his essay from 1986, environmentalist Jay Westerveld revealed that hotels were just trying to save money on their laundry, and he had found that many of them were making no other efforts to be sustainable when it came to water.
Greenwashing is not only misleading but dangerous especially the last example. There are quality recycling resources. People think they are recycling, but companies mislead them to make a profit.
If you are looking for a better recycling facility in Lawton, Fort Sill has a recycling center that accepts aluminum and steel cans, corrugated cardboard, detergent bottles, magazines, office wastepaper, old newspapers, plastic milk jugs, shredded paper and soda bottles. The bins on post are open 24/7, including holidays.
The center has reopened bins located on the corner of Sheridan and Mow-Way Roads. The staff for those bins is limited on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please contact +1 (580) 442-5712 for more questions regarding this recycling center.