+
Recycling was supposed to help save the planet. It's past time for us to rethink that idea.

Those of us who want a sustainable future for our grandkids try really hard to do the right things for our planet. We grew up internalizing the three R's–Reduce, Reuse, Recycle—but it appears that one of those Rs has not lived up to its promise.

We all know that plastic and excessive packaging of all kinds are problematic, but most of us don't worry about it too much because most of it can be recycled anyway, right? We cheerfully put our yogurt containers and pizza boxes and egg cartons into our curbside recycling bin, confident that we've done our part for the environment by not throwing them into a landfill.

We imagine our municipalities taking that recycling to some kind of local recycling plant, where our plastic and paper gets transformed into shiny new eco-friendly products. Right?


Wrong. That's not at all what happens, and never has been. Today, much of what we're putting into our recycling bins isn't being recycled at all—even the stuff that theoretically can be. Instead, it's ending up in landfills or polluting our oceans.

RELATED: A dead whale just washed ashore with 88 pounds of plastic waste in its stomach. This needs to stop.

How is that possible, when we've spent so much time and energy convincing Americans to recycle?

Part of the problem is that instead of recycling these things ourselves, we've spent decades shipping tons and tons of our trash across the ocean to be recycled in China and SE Asia. But last year, China announced that would no longer take most of our recyclables, including mixed paper and most plastics. That cuts out most of our household recycling, and without China buying our waste anymore, there's nowhere for it to go.

Since 2018, we've been shipping more of our plastic to other developing nations in Southeast Asia, including Thailand and Vietnam. But according to Unearthed, the investigative arm of Greenpeace, those countries don't have the environmental infrastructure to handle that waste responsibly. Some of that recycling ends up being dumped into the ocean.

Why don't we just recycle our waste ourselves? Compared to the vast amounts of recyclable materials we dispose of, we have very few recycling plants in the U.S.

According to an article by Alana Semuels in The Atlantic, that's partially individual Americans' own fault. We are notoriously terrible at keeping track of what can be recycled and what can't, so we toss all kind of non-recyclable items in the recycling bin to let others (up to now, low-paid workers in China) figure out. We're also bad at keeping recyclables separated and clean the way they have to be in order to be go through the recycling process. Since it's cost prohibitive to hire people to sort and clean recyclables, waste management companies are telling people they either have to pay a lot more for recycling or ditch it altogether.

And because money is money, most people are choosing the latter. And many localities aren't even offering people the choice.

What does all of this mean for the average American who wants to do right by the planet? First, it means we need to focus a whole lot more on reducing and reusing and stop putting all of our eggs into the recycling basket. It means avoiding plastic whenever and wherever we can and not assuming we can just toss it into a blue bin somewhere. It means utilizing reusable water bottles, shopping bags, dishes and silverware, etc. as a matter of habit, not as an afterthought.

We can also make choices with our wallets. Only buy things when absolutely necessary, and try to buy used first. Whenever possible, choose items without packaging, and when packaging seems unnecessary or excessive, question the companies who are using it. Until we pressure the powers that be to stop wrapping everything we use, we're going to continue to pollute our planet. All of that plastic eventually has to go somewhere.

RELATED: If you don't think twice about the plastic strap around a package, here's why you should.

Pretend that paper is a limited commodity. Pretend that plastic is literally destroying our home. Pretend that it's not normal to consume in excess and that very little is actually garbage.

Basically, we need to completely overhaul our approach to waste, from our own kitchens to the corporations that package what we purchase. But at the very least, we need to stop thinking of recycling as a hallmark of sustainability. We face many environmental questions in the 21st century, and it's clear that we aren't going to find the answers in the bottom of the recycling bin.

via Chewy

Adorable Dexter and his new chew toy. Thanks Chewy Claus.

True

Every holiday season, millions of kids send letters asking for everything from a new bike to a pony. Some even make altruistic requests such as peace on Earth or helping struggling families around the holidays.

But wouldn’t the holiday season be even more magical if our pets had their wishes granted, too? That’s why Chewy Claus is stepping up to spread holiday cheer to America’s pets.

Does your dog dream of a month’s supply of treats or chew toys? Would your cat love a new tree complete with a stylish condo? How about giving your betta fish some fresh decor that’ll really tie its tank together?

Or do your pets need something more than mere creature comforts such as life-saving surgery?

Keep ReadingShow less
Photo by Jeremy Wong on Unsplash

Teen raises $186,000 to help Walmart worker retire.

In America, many people have to work well past the age of retirement to make ends meet. While some of these people choose to work past retirement age because it keeps them active, some older people, like Nola Carpenter, 81, work out of necessity.

Carpenter has been working at Walmart for 20 years, way beyond most people's retirement age just so that she can afford to continue to pay her mortgage. When 19-year-old Devan Bonagura saw the woman looking tired in the break room of the store, he posted a video to his TikTok of Carpenter with a text overlay that said, "Life shouldn't b this hard..." complete with a sad face emoji.

In the video, Carpenter is sitting at a small table looking down and appearing to be exhausted. The caption of the video reads ":/ I feel bad." Turns out, a lot of other people did too, and encouraged the teen to start a GoFundMe, which has since completed.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

US players comforting Iranian opponents after their World Cup match is humanity at its best

The politically charged match ended with several beautiful displays of genuine human connection.

US and Iranian players embrace after World Cup match-up.

The lead-up to the 2022 World Cup match between the U.S. and Iran was filled with anticipation, as the teams battled for a spot in the final 16 and long-running tensions between the two nations on the political stage rose to the surface.

The Iranian team had some internal tensions of its own to deal with as players navigated the spotlight amid human rights protests in their home country and rigid expectations of their government. According to CNN, after refusing to sing the national anthem before its match against England on November 21, the Iranian team was reportedly called into a meeting with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and told that their families would face “violence and torture” if they did not sing the anthem or engaged in any other form of protest.

Hence, before the match against the U.S., the players were shown somberly singing the anthem. Then they got down to the business they were there for—trying to win (or at least tie) a soccer match to advance to the World Cup round of 16.

It was an exciting game, with the U.S. ultimately winning 1-0. But in the end, all of the intense competition and political tensions were superseded by some truly heartwarming acts of good sportsmanship and human kindness.

Keep ReadingShow less

Philadelphia is taking the city back to the past.

Remember when calling your parents, a tow truck or a friend when you were out and about meant digging in your pocket for a quarter to make a pay phone call? Well, a Philadelphia-based collective, PhilTel, is jumping into the past with a modern twist, by installing free-to-use pay phones throughout the city.

Of course, the pay phones that many of us grew up were removed from public places years ago. There no longer seemed to be a need for them when most people had a phone in their pocket or in their hand. But it's easy to forget that not everyone has or wants that luxury. For some people, staying that connected all the time can be too much and for others, it's simply financially impossible to own a cell phone.

Keep ReadingShow less
Photo by Jaleel Akbash on Unsplash

Japanese soccer fans explain why they clean the stadium after a match.

Japanese fans at the World Cup tournament have been receiving praise for their admirable habit of cleaning up the stadium after their team's matches. It's commonplace to see Japanese fans, blue garbage sacks in hand, hanging back after the game to pick up the trash everyone has left behind in the stadium.

It's not the first time Japanese cleanliness has made headlines. Some schools in Japan don't even hire janitorial staff, as the students clean their schools themselves. Other than in specific educational programs such as Montessori (where practical skills and habits like cleaning and organizing the environment are incorporated into the pedagogy), that idea is practically unheard of in the U.S. But watching the Japanese fans picking up after a game, the automatic assumption that someone else is going to clean up after us feels like a mistake.

So what is it that compels Japanese fans to clean the stadium at the World Cup, despite the fact that there are people hired to do it already?

It generally comes down to one word: "atarimae."

Keep ReadingShow less