Why Does So Much Recyclable Plastic End Up as Trash?

100 percent "recyclable" doesn't mean recycled. Meet the man who's trying to change that.

CarbonLite’s groundbreaking recycling facility.

If you toss an empty water bottle it into a recycling bin in California, particularly the southern end of the state, there’s a good chance it will end up at CarbonLite’s bottle recycling plant in Riverside, California. CarbonLite is the largest recycler of PET (polyethylene terephthalate)—also called PETE and, when recycled, rPET—in the United States, and the second-largest in the world. This top-of-the-line plant was built with $60 million in private funds and has been operating since 2012.

Chairman and founder Leon Farahnik is on a mission to extend the life of a plastic bottle in perpetuity. CarbonLite’s bottle-to-bottle, closed-loop form of recycling creates virtually endless reuse and reduces the carbon footprint of PET plastic. “Our estimates, according to the scientists, is that we [prevent] about 60,000 tons of carbon [emissions] every year by not using virgin material,” he says.

Leon Farahnik
Chairman and Founder, Carbonlite

To put the scope of plastics produced annually in perspective, Farahnik points out that “PET plastic is used to make about 100 billion pounds of products per year.” He explains, “70 billion pounds of that goes into clothing, fiber, carpets, t-shirts, toys. Thirty billion pounds goes into packaging. About 1.8 billion pounds of it gets recycled.” What isn’t recycled ends up in our landfills, he says. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, that’s about 13 percent of the 245 million tons of trash every year.

CarbonLite is more than doing its share of keeping those plastics out of landfills and waterways. The company recycles over 300,000 pounds of PET every day, or more than 10,000 pounds per hour. When the truckloads of plastic bottles come in, about 30 percent of their net weight is lost to discarded liquid, labels, caps, and other junk, and the remaining 70 percent is processed. After the plastic is washed and sterilized, it’s melted into high-quality, food-grade resin flakes or pellets that are then sold back to manufacturers like Pepsi and Nestlé to create new bottles. In fact, Arrowhead water, which is owned by Nestlé Waters, uses 50 percent recycled plastic (rPET) in its most popular California bottle sizes, and is expanding that same percentage to more bottle sizes, representing a 40 percent increase in their use of rPET overall. This sort of shift at the corporate level will, it’s hoped, inspire similar changes in other companies.

“Recycling is the only answer because you don’t want to burn a product, which adds to the pollution, and you’d be burning good material,” Farahnik says. “So the future is recycling because you don’t want it to end up in waterways, oceans, or landfills.”

Environmentally savvy consumers do their part—especially in California, which has some of the best recycling numbers of any state—by recycling plastic bottles and containers. Yet once they go into a recycling bin, these plastics do not magically turn into another plastic product; recycling is more complex than that. For one thing, all plastic is not created equal. In fact, the seven kinds of plastic vary wildly. Denoted by numbered triangles stamped into the containers, they range from the durable and highly reusable PET—the sturdy plastic that holds soda, water, shampoo, and peanut butter—to the rarely recycled polyvinyl of PVC pipes and “pleather” purses. Although many plastic items bear a numbered triangle signifying that a product can be recycled, only about 31 percent of all plastic is actually recycled in the US. This number could easily increase, however, with more recycling activity. The biggest factor driving the recyclability of any plastic is the profit that it can provide manufacturers. And as in all manufacturing, demand is driven by the consumer.

More education is needed, however; consumers are not well versed in the differences between plastics, nor is it easy to tell with a quick glance whether a bottle is made from recycled materials. The only surefire way is to find the number in the triangle at the bottom of the container. The number 1 signals highly recyclable PET, and 2 indicates the equally recyclable HDPE. Numbers 4 (low-density polyethylene) and 5 (polypropylene) are slowly gaining popularity with recycling facilities, but they still have a way to go before they’re widely recycled. While this lack of plastic familiarity is not entirely the fault of the consumer, it is the consumer who has the power to initiate change.

Farahnik stresses the need for consumers to become savvier at reading labels and asking for what they want with the power of their dollars. He says to look for phrases such as “post-consumer recycled content,” “this bottle was made from other bottles,” or similarly worded descriptions. “The consumer is the one who must say what they want in stores,” he says. “If they demand that any product we buy should have post-consumer content, then it will happen.” CarbonLite’s success has shown this to be true.

“I’m proud that we have taken the initiative and put private money into creating a good thing for the environment,” Farahnik says.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

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