A Redefining Moment

Msw As Blog

I remember when it was sort of a joke to change the title of “Janitor” to “Custodial Engineer.” But as society evolves, I don’t think of it as a joke anymore. If a change in terminology can redefine a person’s view of their own vocation so that they can take more pride in their work, then I’m all for that change. 

It’s being suggested that we need a new vocabulary when it comes to dealing with the world’s plastic crisis. Fortune.com posted an article about its Global Sustainability Forum titled, “‘Resource,’ Not ‘Waste.’ ‘Customer,’ Not ‘Consumer:’ The World’s Plastic Crisis Needs a New Vocabulary.” The forum was recently held in Yunnan, China. One discussion included a panel of investors, business innovatorsand the director of the 2016 documentary, “A Plastic Ocean.” While talking about different ways of handling the issue, they all did agree “on the need for a fundamental shift in the ways we talk about the plastic waste problem, like no longer describing post-use plastic as ‘waste or calling plastic purchasers ‘consumers.’”  

According to Fortune.comCraig Leeson, the man who directed the plastic documentary, says confronting the issue requires changing “the economic and financial paradigms with which we operate as a society, because the systems that we have in place right now aren’t working.” He added that this change must be carried out “collectively, on a global scale.”  

Considering plastic as a resource is fundamentally different than considering plastic as waste. Craig Leeson, the director of “A Plastic Ocean,” is quoted in the article saying, “We need to change the terminology. This isn’t post-consumer waste—it’s not waste. This is a resource.” Leeson said confronting the issue requires changing “the economic and financial paradigms with which we operate as a society, because the systems that we have in place right now aren’t working.” He added that this change must be carried out “collectively, on a global scale.”   

But is all of this possible amid the chaos of the effects China’s National Sword is having? The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) recently issued a report from its Applied Research Foundation. Part of the press release announcing the report says, “National Sword has contributed substantially to a 50% reduction in the revenues received from the sale of recyclables recovered through curbside recycling. In addition, it has resulted in increased processing costs and residue rates at material recovery facilities (MRFs). 

‘The China National Sword policy is providing recycling program managers with an opportunity to reevaluate the costs, funding mechanisms and materials targeted by their curbside recycling programs in an effort to make them more sustainable and effective,’ says Jeremy O’Brien, P.E., SWANA’s Director of Applied Research.” 

It continues, “China’s National Sword policy underscores the need to address the high contamination levels of incoming single stream recycling loads that are processed at MRFs. Contamination is costing curbside recycling programs over $1 billion per year on a national basis when additional collection and processing costs associated with contamination are considered. While contamination has not been caused by National Sword, the need to clean up recyclable streams has been highlighted by the new restrictions. 

You can read the full press release and follow a link to the full report here. 

We have a lot of prioritizing to do. 

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