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Where does your recycling end up?

November 6, 2009

After spending a month at the Pacific Garbage Patch I know the unfortunate answer to this question. But that’s only when things go awry. GOOD magazine, and iStanford all have answers to where your recycling should end up. Sometimes it gets turned into new products like carpeting, shoes or counter tops. Other times it gets shipped halfway around the world for sale on the commodities market.

Below you’ll find:

1) a photo slide show

2) An info graphic and

3) An audio slide show that attempt to answer the same question

GOOD waste management

Earlier this year, photographer Mathieu Young posted a photo slide show on GOOD‘s website that went behind the scenes at a Materials Recovery Facility or MRF. That’s just a fancy way of saying this is where the materials are sorted before they’re actually recycled. The recycling often takes place at another center.

For my the blog

And recently showcased an infographic that diagrams your recyclables’ journey. The funds for this project by Justine Sharrock were all crowd-sourced just as the funds for my garbage patch story were. It’s a very cool visual.

And while at Stanford I produced an audio slide show that also took a look at an MRF facility here in the Bay Area. I interviewed a Stanford student to see if she knew where her recycling ended up–the results were surprising.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Matt Ward permalink
    November 12, 2009 12:58 am

    Hey Lindsey

    Thanks for your NY times article on the garbage patch. People really need to know about this. If you are looking for some hard hitting photos to illustrate how much harm this garbage patch does you should definitely look at these: – they are hard hitting but certainly get the message across.



  2. Greg permalink
    November 12, 2009 11:03 pm

    Thanks for the video on what happens to recyclables.

    There are of course many different facilities and processes for plastic recycling. And there usually is a significant – up to 20% or more – residual left over after the process that cannot be separated or recycled further. It’s a sort of amorphous combination of bits of plastic, paper and metal which is usually disposed of or incinerated…

    Recycling really isn’t all that great, waste reduction is where it’s at.

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