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“If you wanted to recycle a Coke bottle, the spring of 2011 was a great time to do it. That spring, every soda bottle you dropped into the translucent blue bag in your kitchen was worth about eight times what it had been just 2½ years earlier, and four times what it would be five years later. Municipal recycling agencies (and town dumps) found themselves sitting on heaps of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic that could be spun, Rumpelstiltskin-like, into gold.
But for the companies that actually do the recycling, that spring was not so good at all. Oil had reached a two-year high, and soda bottles are made of PET, which, like all plastics, is basically just processed oil. As the price of “raw” plastic increased, recycled plastic—a natural substitute for manufacturers—became more expensive too. What was good for cities’ recycling programs was bad for the companies that did business with them. The Coca-Cola Company’s Spartanburg, South Carolina, plant, which had opened in 2009 to recycle old soda bottles into new ones, idled as recycled PET plastic prices went through the roof.
We tend to think of recycling (abstract noun) as an idea in which we are deeply, perhaps morally, invested. But recycling is also a concrete noun, a word for physical stuff with a supply chain full of rivalrous buyers and sellers whose interests are often at odds. And it is also a verb—one we use to describe what we do in our kitchens and on our streets, though that is only the first step of a Coke bottle’s long, uncertain path toward reincarnation.”
JJ Editor's Daily Picks
"With many other countries already studying the Asian playbook, the United States and Europe could benefit from doing the same."
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"‘If we get all of this because Netanyahu wants to make Trump happy, that’s fine with us,’ says local council rep in Golan Heights as plans ramp up for ‘new’ neighborhood honoring U.S. president..."
"...there is something worth paying attention to in this latest petition from fans keen to have a creative work made the way that they want it. The comments on the petition are instructive."
"The sunny job numbers and steady growth hide the fact that most people think the economy works only for people in power."
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"The logic of attributing mental states to nonhuman animals is complicated. We cannot use deductive inference, because there are no general rules..."
"As the canon of English literature slowly, gradually opens itself up to books by women and authors of color, Modern Library and Penguin Classics have just launched two new series..."
"Egalitarian couples assume their progressive ideology will carry the day. Sociologists know that it doesn’t.... sharing child care is associated with valuing gender equality..."
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"Now some 200,000 Jews live in Germany, a nation of 82 million people, and many are increasingly fearful.... 85 percent of respondents in Germany characterized anti-Semitism as a “very big” or “fairly big” problem..."