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Swimming In Plastic

Streetwise Cycle
Wikimedia Commons

When you put your recycling into those big blue bins on the curb for garbage night, do you ever think about where all that trash goes?

For decades, much of the U.S.’s recycling was exported to China for reuse. But earlier this year, that all changed when that country decided to stop accepting most American recycling.

This hour we get down to the nitty-gritty about recycling.

We hear more about China’s recycling ban and find out how it impacts waste here in Connecticut.

And we ask an expert at Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection EEP--what really can and can’t you recycle?

Plus—millions of tons of plastic go into our oceans every year. We find out what scientists are learning about microplastics, and ask: how does all of this material affect sea creatures?

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.


  • Bob Tita - Reporter for the Wall Street Journal focusing on manufacturing (@bob_tita)
  • Kim O’Rourke - Recycling Program Coordinator for the city of Middletown
  • Sherill Baldwin -  Environmental Analyst with DEEP, and lead on Connecticut’s What’s IN What’s OUT recycling initiative
  • Evan Ward - Professor and Head of Department of Marine Sciences at UConn
  • Judy Preston - Connecticut Outreach Coordinator for the Long Island Sound Study


Wall Street Journal: We Got Lazy’: U.S. Recyclers Try Cleaning Up Their Scrap (June 2018) – “China, the biggest customer of U.S. scrap material, for years accepted loads of recyclables with as much as a fifth spoiled or trash. China’s willingness to buy low-quality scrap provided little incentive for U.S. processors and collectors to weed out trash and other contaminants from the recyclable paper, plastic and cans.”

WNPR: To Recycle Or Not: Connecticut Issues New Universal List Of Recyclable Items (Oct 2017) – “What goes in your recycling bin can be confusing. Now, the state is trying to clear up some confusion by putting out a new universal list. It’s part of a campaign called ‘What’s In. What’s Out.’”

NPR: Beer, Drinking Water And Fish: Tiny Plastic Is Everywhere (August 2018) – “Scientists call the tiny pieces "microplastics" and define them as objects smaller than 5 millimeters — about the size of one of the letters on a computer keyboard. Researchers started to pay serious attention to microplastics in the environment about 15 years ago. They're in oceans, rivers and lakes. They're also in soil. Recent research in Germany found that fertilizer made from composted household waste contains microplastics.”

Chion Wolf contributed to this show.

Lucy is the Executive Producer and Host of Connecticut Public's morning talk show, 'Where We Live.' She’s a longtime public radio reporter covering several beats including immigration, juvenile justice and child welfare issues, education, veterans affairs and the military.
Carmen Baskauf was a producer for Connecticut Public Radio's news-talk show Where We Live, hosted by Lucy Nalpathanchil from 2017-2021. She has also contributed to The Colin McEnroe Show.
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