Ever wonder how recycling works? Here's a glimpse behind the scenes at cool tech and big money.

Each year, the U.S. tosses $11.4 billion worth of recyclable containers and packaging.

Just flinging bills into the air...


And, believe it or not, the recycling rate in the U.S. has lurched along at about 34% for two decades, far lower than other industrialized countries.

That's serious money down the drain. Take aluminum cans. Making cans from recycled aluminum requires 95% less energy and creates 90% less greenhouse-gas emissions than virgin aluminum, yet more than 40 billion cans hit America's landfills every year. 40 billion.

Plastic is a particularly gnarly issue. We not only emit greenhouse gases when we create the stuff, but the environmental impacts of plastic waste (and we often toss plastic items out after only a single use) are gut-wrenching.

We've created an archipelago of plastic in the middle of the Pacific. Talking globally, plastic pollution in the oceans costs at least $13 billion a year. This is just not nice.

So why don't we do a better job of recycling?

Every recycled material (aluminum, plastic, glass, etc.) has its own story, but here's the gist:

  • A lot of U.S. plastic has been recycled in China. We get tons of fun consumer stuff from China in big shipping containers. Rather than ship the containers back empty, we've been filling them up with recyclables and sending them to China where the recyclables are sorted and recycled into more fun consumer stuff. This is changing though, since — surprise! — they don't want our smelly, gooey, dangerous recycla-mess anymore.
  • Most of our recycling plants are outdated and can't handle the mix of all the different materials we send them.
  • Our recycling system is all over the place. City recycling plants operate very differently from each other making sourcing recycled materials difficult for any company wanting to use a recycled material.
  • We don't charge high enough landfill fees. Towns and cities can still “afford" to throw stuff away.
  • 25% of us don't even have curbside recycling at all. And that's just plain sad. :(
  • Even the green-blooded enviros among us still throw recyclables away. When the recycling container isn't convenient, we use the trash.

There's a bright spot in this garbage heap of sad news.

Recycling technology has improved, in part thanks to a secret weapon called optical sorting, which uses cameras and lasers to separate out which things are not like the others. You know, like separating frogs from green beans headed for the supermarket.

I'm not kidding, this is a real example.

More relevant to recycling, we are using optical sorting to separate different types of plastic and different colors of glass. So a stream of multicolored glass bits...


...can be mechanically sorted to be all of the same color...

...bottle to bottle. Has a nice ring. Here's how that works:


Let's keep pushing for more and better recycling. And any time you're tempted to use the trash can — think money!

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

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Biden asked who Hixon's parents were as the clip begins, and is directed to his right. Hixon's wife introduces herself, and Biden says, "God love you." As he starts to walk away, a voice off-camera says something and Biden immediately turns around. The voice came from Hixon's son, Corey, and the moments that followed are what have people feeling all their feelings.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

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via Witty Buttons / Twitter

Back in 2017, when white supremacist Richard Spencer was socked in the face by someone wearing all black at Trump's inauguration, it launched an online debate, "Is it OK to punch a Nazi?"

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The English language is constantly evolving, and the faster the world changes, the faster our vocabulary changes. Some of us grew up in an age when a "wireless router" would have been assumed to be a power tool, not a way to get your laptop (which wasn't a thing when I was a kid) connected to the internet (which also wasn't a thing when I was a kid, at least not in people's homes).

It's interesting to step back and look at how much has changed just in our own lifetimes, which is why Merriam-Webster's Time Traveler tool is so fun to play with. All you do is choose a year, and it tells you what words first appeared in print that year.

For my birth year, the words "adult-onset diabetes," "playdate," and "ATM" showed up in print for the first time, and yes, that makes me feel ridiculously old.

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