In the modern sense and despite their relative youth, recycling practices and their achievements have managed to become pretty much set in concrete. In the process of their maturation, investments in traditional recycling as well as its principal markets have reached a point of marginal return, signaling the need for expanding our horizons if we are to move genuine diversion past the 50% level. Sounds pretty simple and straightforward, but it isn’t.
Partly the situation reflects a disconnect between what we acknowledge as waste and the factors that lead to its creation, making it difficult to apply management costs where they actually belong. Thus a great many materials flow through to the end of the pipe. The misallocation of the costs is one thing, but a greater problem lies in the removal of the proper incentive for change. Rather than looking for ways to increase local processing capabilities, we seem satisfied with taking the offshore route to diversion…a situation in some instances exacerbated by public regulatory and funding initiatives.
Rather than catering to our fascination with statistical performance, we need to focus on the infrastructural underpinning of our diversion practices, not only for expanding our marketing horizons but also as a means for bringing back to our shores the squandered wealth we so negligently placed in the hands of others.