The recycling process can be difficult to understand, especially as guidelines for what can be recycled change and as nations change policies that how the global flow of waste is handled. Professor Kate O’Neill of the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management discusses theses topics and more on a recent episode of NPR’s Fresh Air.
In the episode, “‘Waste’ Examines The Global and Local Afterlife of Recyclables,” O’Neill speaks with Terry Gross about China’s new National Sword policy, which stopped the United States from exporting the majority of our recycling waste. She says, “[China stopped taking our waste] for some pretty good reasons. One reason was that Western countries on the whole were pretty much taking advantage of China's willingness to import plastics. So they were receiving a lot of contaminated bales—contaminated in terms of the dirty food, other kinds of actual contaminants as well as very mixed bales of waste.” O’Neill also explains how we can reduce recycling contamination ourselves by separating different types of plastics and cleaning food jars before throwing them out.
In her new book, Waste, O’Neill discusses waste as a resource and risk, with effects on local, national, and global politics. Read more about the book here.