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The Reality of Recycling

Oct 31, 2016

Today, we’re going to discuss the real good and bad sides to recycling. 

Unfortunately, recycling is not all good. We are often made to think that recycling is a god-send to save the planet. Although it can be helpful, there are significant disadvantages to recycling that are often overlooked by the public.

There are significant issues with the transportation and recycling process of paper and plastic, which can produce chemical waste. This chemical waste is not properly dealt with and can be hazardous to the environment.

When it comes to the process of recycling, there is also the debate that the blue bins are the problem because they use what’s known as “single stream recycling.” Critics believe this causes higher contamination rates, due to the cross mixing of materials, resulting in fewer products being recycled. Products contaminated with food etc. are headed for the landfill. 

The reality is it’s not all the blue bins fault. Contamination rates are about the same for both single and dual stream recycling. The real problem is the amount of different types of plastic - too many to realistically sort through. So, if they can’t turn a profit, waste management companies will simply off-load much of this waste to China.

This does not necessarily mean that you should stop recycling but rather continue to look for more innovative ways to recycle materials. Paper comes from tree farms which have been created for paper mills. So here’s an idea for recycling paper, turn the paper that is being recycled into a mulch to be fed back to the trees on the tree farms. This could make recycling paper much more efficient.

Recycling plastic, although not very efficient, does promote the reduction of the amount of plastic that infiltrates the water systems. There is the argument to be made that it’s more efficient to simply create new plastic bottles rather than recycle them, because of the energy involved in the process of melting them down and moulding them into usable form again. However, we live in a finite world, we will not always have new materials to make new bottles so we need to make as much use as we can of the materials that we do have and that can be reused.

In the end, it’s always preferable to reuse materials where possible, while always trying to find new, more efficient means of processing. Innovation is key.
Part of recycling is reducing – reduce, reuse, recycle. So if you’re really interested in being more environmentally friendly, try to reduce your consumption of material goods like newspapers, plastic bottles etc. 

Try to buy fewer products with lots of plastic packaging. Instead use reusable containers, paper bags, your own grocery bags. Reducing the plastic that you consume in general is the first step in the right direction, then recycle what you do use to the best of your ability.

As more people become environmentally aware, and the demand for plastic products goes down, so will the production of plastic goods. A single person uses roughly 100 cans per year so every person who recycles is doing the world a favour. Every little helps.

 

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