Friday, October 5, 2012

Things you didn't know about recycling

I would be willing to bet that most people have no idea what actually happens to their recycling once it leaves the curb. Do you know where it goes or how much of an impact you and your community are having on the planet and the economy? What about the kinds of items in our everyday lives that can be and are made out or recycled materials?

Even as an avid recycler all of my life, I didn’t know the answers to all of these questions up until a few years ago. 

There are still many people in the country who don’t recycle because they believe that there are no savings in energy, pollution, or other environmental impacts. There is so much information out there about the environmental impacts of recycling and its ability to help manufacturing plants save time, energy, water, and ultimately money. Governments from local to federal benefit financially through job creation and savings from avoided hazardous clean-ups as well. From paper mills to glass plants to can manufacturers, all can see the benefits of using recycled material. But they all have to get past the hurdle at the curb.

Your recycling, much like your trash, has a long journey once it leaves your curb. There are several videos on YouTube that show what a Material Recovery Facility (MRF) does to separate recyclables but I like this one that explains each part of the process. There are plenty of videos on YouTube though that show the process as it can be different from one MRF to another. However, all MRF’s have the same purpose: to sort materials into separate saleable commodities.

This brings me to my next point of the materials we use that are made from recycled material. If we aren’t creating demand for materials made with recycled content then nothing changes. We need to close the loop and consciously buy products that have recycled content. For example, there are many play sets, park benches, and decking that is made from recycled milk jugs (#2, HDPE plastic). In fact, a company right here in Illinois does this. There are new Pilot ® pens that are made from recycled plastic bottles (#1, PET plastic). You can buy them at Wal-Mart. Speaking of the retail giant; did you know that they have a packaging scorecard? The company is actively trying to persuade vendors who sell products in their stores to “green” their packaging through recycled content, reduced amount of packaging, biodegradability, etc.  There are many active programs in the U.S. that are making small steps to help influence the demand for recycled content in products and packaging. That is what it is all about right? Baby steps to a greener life.

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