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The US Produces Nearly 5 Pounds of Trash Per Day Per Person

This post started with a reader comment to my post The US Produces Nearly 5 Pounds of Trash Per Day Per Person.

Hi Mish 

I’ve followed your blog for several years now – I always enjoy your insight and analysis.

I read your post today about what to do with the garbage we generate, and it struck close to home for me. I see climate change as high blood pressure, where our overflowing landfills are a ruptured appendix.

The company I’m working with is buying the unrecycled plastic from curbside pickup to convert it into naphtha, ultra-low sulfur diesel, and paraffin wax. Here’s a video that describes it, a shameless plug since my kids are in it.

I thought you might find it interesting. Appreciate your work, Mish – enjoy southern Utah, it's a  beautiful part of the world!



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Rick's Video

That video is amazingly well produced and quite fascinating. 

It turns out things have changed a bit more than I thought, at least for a few companies.

I called Rick and asked how many other companies were doing something similar but he estimated only a handful. 

They turn commingled plastics back into wax and oil that can be reused as anything from transportation fuel to new plastic. They can even handle Styrofoam but they do not get very much of it. 

The Art of Buying Garbage

Brightmark not only takes garbage, they pay to get better quality garbage (better sorted plastic).

Much of it comes from Chicago. The city would otherwise have to pay a landfill to dump garbage. Instead, Chicago gets paid. 

Interestingly, Brightmark does not care much for the typical plastic bottles because they have too high water content and other problems. 

But that's OK because according to Rick, water bottles, clean paper, and aluminum cans are about all that does get recycled elsewhere. 

And they do like plastic grocery bags that other recyclers cannot easily deal with.

This kind of innovation is exactly what we need more of.