The Brutal UX of Recycling

December 04, 2023

In Boston a lot of things can be recycled. Plastic, aluminum, paper. These things are easy: place them in your blue bin. Yet I see so many folks mess this up. Junk mail might sightlessly be dropped in the waste bin. Plastic that could be rinsed and recycled is dropped into landfill. These are easy, the hard ones are even more annoying: textiles, batteries, electronics, and plastic bags (#4). Now there is a separate composting bin to figure out.

Why It Matters

The harder a city or state makes recycling, the less it will happen. All the effort that goes into sustainable packaging, compostable utensils, or using recyclable plastic matters little if folks drop it in a landfill. The difference in impact on the environment if plastic is recycled versus put in a landfill is quite large.

Some Sustainable Materials are Harder to Dispose of

  • Your steel water bottle can easily be recycled if you take it to a scrap metal place, but good luck finding one.
  • LDPE (#4 Plastic) used to make bags can be recycled, but only in special drop offs often at a grocery store.
  • Batteries and electronics contain valuable metals that can be recovered, but good luck finding a local place that will take all your items at once.

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.