The Recycling Myth – by Rebecca Mayer

It’s such a virtuous feeling – trash day – when you drag your recycling bins out to the curb and see the items inside, which you rinsed and sorted for their regeneration into new plastic and glass and cardboard items.

After all, you could have just thrown them in the trash.  But what is the truth behind recycling? As we’ve said, and keep saying, when you imagine it going away, where is AWAY?

While recycling is a useful process, the danger is that we will buy more plastic products if we think that plastic really is ecologically friendly.

For example, in my town of Telluride, Colorado, opponents of the plastic bag ban argue that a plastic bag recycling program would be more efficient, and have set up bag recycling stations in our local grocery stores.

The truth is, plastic recycling is costly and “does little to achieve recycling goals.”  For more information, read 7 Misconceptions about Plastic Recycling.

For more statistics, read The Myth of Recycling – Unraveling the Industry’s Rhetoric.

And follow these suggestions from the Ecology Center in Berkeley, California:

Five Strategies to Reduce the Environmental Impact of Plastics

1. Reduce the use
Select packaging materials that are recycled into new packaging – such as glass and paper. If people refuse plastic as a packaging material, the industry will decrease production for that purpose, and the associated problems such as energy use, pollution, and adverse health effects will diminish.

2. Reuse containers
Since refillable plastic containers can be reused about 25 times, container reuse can lead to a substantial reduction in the demand for disposable plastic, and reduced use of materials and energy, with the consequent reduced environmental impacts. Container designers will take into account the fate of the container beyond the point of sale and consider the service the container provides. “Design for service” differs sharply from “design for disposal”.

3. Require producers to take back resins
Get plastic manufacturers directly involved with plastic disposal and closing the material loop, which can stimulate them to consider the product’s life cycle from cradle to grave. Make reprocessing easier by limiting the number of container types and shapes, using only one type of resin in each container, making collapsible containers, eliminating pigments, using water-dispersible adhesives for labels, and phasing out associated metals such as aluminum seals. Container and resin makers can help develop the reprocessing infrastructure by taking back plastic from consumers.

4. Legislatively require recycled content
Requiring that all containers be composed of a percentage of post-consumer material reduces the amount of virgin material consumed.

5. Standardize labeling and inform the public
The chasing arrows symbol on plastics is an example of an ambiguous and misleading label. Significantly different standardized labels for “recycled,” “recyclable,” and “made of plastic type X” must be developed.




About bagitmovie

Bag It is a documentary film following the world wide use of plastic bags, plastic's impact on the environment and human health.
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