Zero Waste Challenge Day 21: Recycling

Recycling is the feel good action for everyday people. Yet, it is full of holes and misunderstandings. Let's start off with this quote. 

A zero-waste mindset doesn't mean recycling more, it means recycling less. Recycling truly is an aspirin to a much bigger problem, our overconsumption and misuse of materials. 

We simply produce too many materials globally for recycling to make a dent. 

We have to rethink materials and we have to understand more as consumers about recycling in general. 

Recycling is a business

The items you place in the recycling bin each week are not guaranteed to be magically turned into another usable item. Recycling is a business. Which means if there is no one to buy the materials we offer up to our recycling bins each week, then those items head (most likely) to a landfill or incinerator instead of renewing themselves into a product. 

Materials must have value to be used for another application. And if it doesn't have value, then there is no need in buying that material. So if we as consumers are not buying materials made from recycled products, then there is no reason for the manufacturers to buy recycled content from recyclers. Make sense? 

Recycling arrows: Not what you think they mean

You know that cute little arrow system on the bottom or side of products? When we see this we might think that the item can be recycled, but guess what? It may not be! You have to check with your local facility if that material is accepted. A arrow symbol doesn't mean it can be recycled. Which brings us to...

Recycling is not the same everywhere 

I'd love to be able to tell you what can be recycled and what can't be, but I can't. Here in the U.S. recycling is privatized, which to sum up quickly means no one is on the same page about the recovery of materials. For example, what we can recycle here in Boulder, CO, may not be accepted in Denver, CO (only 28 miles away). Likewise, what we recycle here in Boulder, like glass for instance, other places in the U.S. don't even recycle! You have to truly check your local recycling facilities requirements and what they accept and don't accept. Every place is different. 

The Challenge

Learn to recycle less! Try to take the recycling bin out one or two less times each month. How? By refusing, reducing, and reusing items that we purchase and bring into our home. Concentrate on making less plastic waste. We simply produce too much plastic to recover it all through recycling.