Tuesday, August 19, 2008

To recycle or not recycle that is the question

Is recycling the answer? Is recycling the way in which I choose to contribute to trying to minimize my impact on the earth? Does it make as much difference as I think it does?

Anyone who has left their recycling in the basement for too long knows what I saying. Too long in my house that is about three weeks. There is an absolute mountain of plastic containers, plastic wrapping of all types, milk jugs, cans and bottles, and cardboard galore. All over flowing onto the basement floor, exploding out of the blue containers like a landslide of granola bar boxes and that hard plastic vacuum packaging that cannot even be cut by the strongest of scissors, slowly edging behind the washing machine.
You groan and moan as you sort out the mess telling yourself that it is better to do it here then at the recycling depot. Cursing those who did not fully rinse out the jar of mayo before putting it in the bin. Mumbling to yourself about manufacturers who apparently feel that they need to apply the label of the spaghettio can with enough glue to give it the strength to withstand forces of nature never before witnessed, as you sit there trying to pick it off one tiny strip at a time.
During moments like this I can’t help but feel that I am missing a key component, that there is more to this recycling process than I am admitting to myself. I start to wonder if I am really doing good for the environment through my religious actions of rinsing, de-labeling, crushing and sorting, or am I actually just making cleaner, neater, smaller garbage?
Has the concept of recycling become a media spin like Christmas. If you dug down deep would you find the recycling campaigns being driven by large corporations, just like the stop smoking ads are mostly sponsored by tobacco companies. Is all of the recycling hype created by the manufactures to keep us do-gooders buying and consuming at an alarming rate because we can justify it by recycling it?

There is a very interesting article in the August edition of the Alive magazine called “Think Outside the Blue Box”. It talks about how Reduce, Reuse and Recycle is not just a catchy phrase, but rather the order of the steps we are to take. Reducing should be the main way we make an environmental impact. Stop using the ever-increasing amount of resources necessary to feed our need to over- consume in the first place.
The article touches on the resources necessary to complete the recycling process. We can’t just throw our plastics, paper, glass and tin in the proper window at the depot and have garden furniture, envelopes, and a six pack pop out the back door. There are a lot of steps in the recycling process that use a lot of resource and create a lot of waste in their own right.

As I finish the sorting of my recycling I look around at the piles of paper, plastic, glass and tin, I say to myself once more that I’m not going to do that again, we will have to do better as a family at using less. And those darn kids are going to have do a neater job from now on of sorting the recycling... Hum, maybe I should go buy some more new bins that make it easier, or perhaps some of those metal stands that you hang the big bags in, or maybe I could get.....

“the best way to reduce any environmental impact is not to recycle more, but to produce and dispose of less” William McDonough, environmentalist


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