Our recycling programs in the United States are not exactly up to par despite what people might think. A lot of what goes on is public perception, PR, and propaganda instituted by the local municipality that has given that concession to the recycling company. The reality is that not everything that you put in your recycling receptacle containers actually gets recycled. Most of it goes to a recycling area where humans sort it out. Depending on the type of plastic and the number the recycled item has on it, it has to eventually go in with all the other plastic containers which are the same, or extremely similar. You can’t mix and match.
Indeed, there are also organic plastics made from corn and such and they cannot be recycled along with the petroleum-based plastics (usually). If they are it messes up the entire process and then you get polymer chains that don’t work together and thus are unusable for remanufacturing. So what’s the answer you ask? One thought is to have multiple trash can containers so you can separate out each individual type of plastic, or package such as cardboard, paper, tin, aluminum, or organic material. However, the issue really is that most consumers are not smart enough to do this, or might get bored in the process, or not take the time to do it right.
In some cities they want to make it illegal to throw recyclables in with the regular trash, call it a recycling ticket, unfortunately that means you also need recycling police as part of the code enforcement to write tickets. Also it relies on neighbors to turn their neighbors in, which reminds a lot of people of the Nazi Germany of recycling and we definitely don’t want to do that. Unfortunately, some municipalities are talking about that, they are actually making it illegal to mix-and-match recyclables, or to throw them in with the regular garbage.
It is completely possible to have personal scanning machines operating on speech recognition software and artificial intelligence. Whereby the individual would say; “I think this is plastic,” or merely “plastic” and the machine would scan it and tell the individual its exact number. Then the individual would put it in the proper container, and so on. The only problem is it’s very difficult to collect all these different individual containers using a trash truck.
However if they were color-coded or had some sort of RFID tag a robotic self- driving trash truck would know the difference and load each container into the proper compartments on the garbage truck. One of the issues with this is that some of the receptacles on the trash truck would fill up before others, and therefore it would have to go back, dump its load, and get back on route which would take more fuel, time, and energy, perhaps negating benefits of the entire recycling strategy.
Perhaps a giant automatically driven artificial intelligent machine could scan each piece of garbage regardless of type and put it into the proper receptacle at the recycling center. Then you could just throw out all your trash in one big can, and let the machine sort it out, anything that was not sortable would go to the dump, which would be quite a bit less and therefore prevent our dumps from filling up so quickly. Indeed I hope you will please consider all this and think on it.