Hammarby Sjöstad got the concept first; the recycling society with "vaccumsucker waste system". The trash is stored under the ground and connected with tubes which means that bins can be closer to the house and the garbage truck can get the trash from different places in the same time, far away from the house- getting the trash without disturbing the people. The picture is from a neighbourhood close to mine in Göteborg and shows two different signs; one for "trash" and one for "waste food". They burn the "trash" and use it as heating to the houses in the region. The "waste food" in Hammarby Sjöstad goes to the production of biogas, used in their stoves.
In Hammarby they also use the system for newspapers, but have seperate bins for other things in small houses. Common to Sweden is the little "recycle bincenter" shown in next picture; packages are ordered by colored and colorless glass, metal, cardboard and plastic, and also newspapers and other papers.
The collected trash can then be recycled into new packaging. In Sweden today, three out of four packages is collected to recycling! Metals is melted down in steel and aluminum, and becomes a raw material in new products. Some plastics are melted down and used to manufacture new products. Other plastics are ground down and can be, for example noise barriers along highways. Newspapers and other paper are delivered to the paper recycling business, from there they go on to different paper mill producing for example towels, toilet paper and new newspapers.
In San Francisco it was a much easier system; you had one bin for "trash" and one for "all things that can be recycled". That means you just need two bin in your own home and you don't need to walk 400 meters to closest recycling, you can just throw it in the normal trash place were you live.
Several projects investigate to see how to make the recycling much easier for "normal people" (i.e not crazy environmentalists). The biggest failure I think is just that we don't want to have that much trash in our homes. A single household can handle it easy to have small boxes and you have your own system, but so much more complicated in a family or why not in common areas. What is what? "Should I throw this as a "trash" or as a paper/plastic whatever".
Low advanced waste reduction. "Give it to China, or India".
Picture from Treehugger.com (e-waste)
It is complicated. We have so much packages, just to carry around things. Things are also coming to our store so far away, so it has to have all the packages to not be totally damage when it finely reach your own refrigerator.
Should we use the high consumption and high use with materials as an argument for our energy supply, i.e "it can heat hour houses without use (that much) fossil fuels"?!
Everything is connected in the simple term that everything have its limits in ecological (or physical terms); second law of thermodynamics tells us that energy quality (i.e its capacity to work) decreases every time an energy conversion takes place. This applies to all energy uses, physical, metabolic, interactions, etc
The connection part also means that to reach a good society, the best thing would be to produce things closer, so we don't need all the packages (that would also mean, doesen't need that industry- oh my. sorry), or could use the bottles again (oh no, it's too old fashion!). But, hey- we have a beautiful earth to live on. We should use technology that use natural processes as narrowed as it can be. A lot of processes are almost "self sustaining" and don't use a lot of energy.
Here is an example of what I mean, it can be seen in last part "C1", found at time 4.10;