The Truth About Recycling and The Blue Bin


Recycling and The Blue Bin

Many use the blue bin to place their recyclables to the curb for pick-up.  That's a noble effort, indeed.  The truth about where the recyclables end up is not what you're going to want to believe.  Every bit of it is eventually disposed of at the landfill.  Recycling in the United States, is essentially a farce! The recyclables are only collected in the U.S. and aren't even truly recycled- they're shipped off! Recycling became a "thing" in the U.S. when there was a financial advantage to recycle, that is- when there was a buyer of such material. But, now, China- who was once the main buyer of recyclables has now banned imported recyclables. It's affecting other countries around the world as well, even Australia was exporting their recyclables to China. They have yet to reach a solution.

As a small trash hauler and dumpster rental company in Virginia, Happy Little Dumpsters has seen very jaw-dropping conditions with large 30, 40, & 80 cubic yard recycling containers dumping clean recyclables of cardboard, glass, paper and plastic straight into the landfills.

Long Term Solutions

Recyclables have warehouses packed full and are filling our landfills now at a faster rate, and worse, the recyclables aren't being recycled.  What can be done about our trash bottle neck?

China is not the only buyer

This is true, however- Countries like Vietnam and Indonesia still import recyclables. But, they too still have their own trash problems to deal with, and the amount they import pales in comparison to what China was importing.

Reduce consumption of disposables

"Zero waste" is a buzz word many are using to reflect a lifestyle that revolves around using products that can be reused and not thrown away.  The fact is, until manufacturers are forced to stop producing disposable material, the "zero waste" lifestyle will likely just be a buzz word.

Government Intervention

More regulation often times has worse unintended consequences, and shouldn't be taken lightly; however, it seems necessary at this point, because we are in crisis mode.  This seems to be the most viable option, as this can be a huge opportunity for companies to show they care and make a difference, rather than boasting and "green washing," their useless recycling efforts. Recycling is more than just flashing the three arrows symbol around on your paper bags, or encouraging people not to use plastic straws.

The U.S. government could actually consume their own recyclables, and require U.S. manufacturing companies to use recycled commodities, even if it's more expensive to produce.  The idea is to add more value to recyclables.  We have to start somewhere- eventually it will become cheaper the more efficient we get at actually recycling and reusing, rather than collecting and shipping our recyclables.


Hopefully, this article has helped raise awareness on the trash crisis we're in. Try starting a dialogue in your local communities to convince your local municipalities involved to reach a solution to create more value for recyclables which are being tossed in our landfills




  1. Brian G on July 15, 2018 at 3:36 AM

    People get ripped off here in California. We pay CRV for all of our bottles and cans, and get about a quarter of that when turned back in.

  2. Andrew Carter on July 16, 2018 at 8:48 AM

    Believable article but needs more support to give it weight. Most importantly, the author completely skipped the major cause of the collapse of recyclable market, which is the huge surplus of permitted landfill space, especially true in Virginia.

    • Happy Little Dumpsters on July 16, 2018 at 2:09 PM

      The collapse was caused by the major buyer not buying recyclables, and consequently devaluing recyclables. The effect has been the emergent expansion of continental landfills. Recycling in the U.S. was once profitable, because China bought the recycled material at a high price. Landfill space and availability has never driven the cost of recyclables. It has always been a supplier/buyer relationship. However, due to the major buyer (China) backing out, and banning recycled imports, landfills have no choice but to accept the recycled material.

  3. Karen Little on July 16, 2018 at 12:45 PM

    So are we wasting $6/mth to County Waste for a can to separate our recyclables?

    • Happy Little Dumpsters on July 16, 2018 at 2:15 PM

      We make no representation of private companies. The fact, however- the recycling companies have lost the major buyer (China) of recyclables, and have less options for buyers of the material, and many have been forced to dispose of the recyclables at the landfill. The private companies are unlikely to admit, because it would be a sudden loss of revenue for them. They’ll claim the recyclables are “shipped” to recycling facilities, but that’s as extensive as the explanation gets. With no end-buyer of the recyclables, the recycled materials are simply being buried.

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