Are you really recycling?
Are you really recycling if you are not investing in recycled products?
Avoidance is the best way to reduce your waste footprint, but there is a place for recycling. Recycling reduces the need to extract more resources from the planet. It also prevents many toxic materials entering and having to be processed by the natural environment.
How do we make recycling work better?
In order for recycling to work, we need markets for recycled products, it’s a simple case of supply and demand. There is currently not enough demand for recycled material to drive the expansion of industry in Australia that we need to process all the waste we generate.
What’s more, many products (particularly packaging) are made with mixed materials, making it difficult to recycle them.
What goes in your bin is only a part of the process...
Many of us think that if we put the right things in the right bin, then we have done our part for recycling. But what goes in your bin is only part of it.
There are more stages of the supply chain that can improve the rate of recycling. We can actively participate in recycling through what we buy. When we purchase products with high percentages of recycled materials or those that can easily be recycled again, we are truly recycling. If no one buys recycled products then it’s not really recycling.
Buying products with recycled content
Through buying products with recycled content you are encouraging the growth of design of closed-loop systems that save nature from having to absorb our waste materials.
It also encourages businesses and manufacturers to design products from highly recyclable materials to reduce their impact on the environment.
It’s not about creating more to be recycled, it’s about being smarter in what we are creating and purchasing. Through your purchase power, you can reinforce the use of recycled materials.
Take something as common as a mobile phone, which can have up to 95% of its materials recovered and used again. This includes vastly mined metals like gold, copper, silver and palladium. Many of us drop off our mobile phones to be recycled, but how many of us research what our new phone is made of or how repairable is it.
When looking for recycled products, it is firstly important to ask yourself if you really need it? Then look at if it is made from recycled materials and what percentage. If you cannot find that information, you could write to the company and ask if they use recycled content, why and why not?
The more people that ask, the more demand we create and industry will have to follow.
Our responsibility to make recycling a viable industry goes beyond the bin.
Check out Planet Ark to find a range of recycled products Recycled Products Directory - Planet Ark Recycling Near You
Article written by Sarah Child, Byron Shire Council-Resource Recovery Education Officer