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Recycling Is in Crisis. Could These Innovations Be the Answer?

Aug. 12, 2019

Since China stopped accepting much of the world’s recyclable waste last year, many countries have been faced with the challenge of how to deal with their own trash.

In some places, plastic, paper and other scraps have been put in landfills or stockpiled, and fires at recycling centers have underlined the environmental risks. In other places, new fees have passed the increased cost of dealing with these materials on to consumers.

Last week, leaders in Australia made bold moves toward eventually banning the export of any recyclable waste in a bid to increase onshore processing of the materials. The ultimate goal is to prevent the waste from ending up in the ocean, they said.

“It’s our waste, and it’s our responsibility,” Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, told reporters at a news conference on Friday.

Policy experts say that reducing initial consumption of materials is essential. But Australia’s commitment also involves developing new approaches to recycling that, if scaled up, might one day change where your takeout containers and coffee cups end up.

Make roads from plastic bags and glass.

Sixteen miles north of Melbourne, there is a road paved with the equivalent of 200,000 plastic bags, 63,000 glass bottles and waste toner from 4,500 printer cartridges. It is the first road in the world made of Reconophalt, a combination of recycled materials and asphalt.

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