Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Recycling, water, and the Chinese tiger

Recycling, water, and the Chinese tiger

By: Ken LaRive

While Maddy and I were sitting in a stupor in the Atlanta airport last week, an obscure reporter talked about recycling and the safety of Atlanta’s drinking water on one of the TV monitors. Several things he said got my attention.

Government testing shows drinking water all around the US to be the same water quality as anything sold in a bottle. Taste was one primary reason people are hooked to drink bottled water, along with secondary health concerns. Mostly, it is an acquired taste of a specific blend of minerals, and without it water tastes bland.

The second surprise was the amount of plastic bottles being discarded in this amazing water-guzzling phenomenon. It is still a growing industry, as soft drinks beat water sales three to one in the beverage industry.

Can Americans be made to reduce plastic consumption, to reuse containers when feasible, or to recycle? Mostly, for the individual American, it seems doubtful.

We are known the world over as energy gluts, and a self-proclaimed throw away society.

Linda Sivertsen introduced Mr. Kreigh Hampel in the July 2007 issue of Sky Magazine. He runs one of California’s most successful recycling centers right outside of Burbank.

His primary achievements come out of a real paradoxical box. Being on the west coast, he watches the constant stream of full containers coming in from China, and leaving empty. It costs just 600USD to ship to China from the US, and about 4000USD to ship from China to the US. They accept about 80 percent of what the Burbank center produces, filling otherwise empty containers with aluminum, steel, and plastic cubes that would go back empty. Smart fortune cookies?

China is so hungry for raw materials that recycling is a viable market. They run it like any profit driven business, thinking out of the proverbial box. Lafayette Consolidated Government (LCG) Environmental Quality Division might want to consider Mr. Hampel’s proven success.

In China, developing mechanical separation on a grand scale is slow because labor is cheep. They get their hands dirty. Here in America we have developed imaginative and expensive separating machines, run by highly paid “technicians” with clean hands. Unable to compete, our salvage and recycling bottom line is as red as a Chinese tiger laughing in its sleep. China grows strong stealing our creative ideas, feeds on our refuse, and uses people as an expendable commodity, and with our inhibitive Western humanitarian sensibilities as guide, competition is no contest. They are winning. Oh, you don’t think it is a contest?

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