The environmental footprint of recycled products

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

recycled productsUnless recycled products are made in our own respective countries from recyclables that are also collected there and processed there the environmental footprint of the operation and thus that of the products will be a rather large one and will not be that green an option at all.

The US company Terracycle is – now – one of those unfortunate examples, but that company as far from alone, who collects recyclables in the use (and other countries), ships them to China, Vietnam, Mexico, etc. (low wage countries with a low environmental protection record to boot) where there are processed and them made into products to be shipped back to the USA, etc. for sale. A bit like the proverbial taking of coal to Newcastle but it all has to do with economy and costs. It leaves a huge environmental footprint, however.

While Terracycle upcycles “recyclables” that are not collected in the “conventional” stream of recyclables collection the fact still remains that the upcycling does not happen on a local or even at a national level – it used to.

In general it is the same with almost all large commercial recycling and very few take the stuff collected and process the recyclables into new products in the “home” country, with the exception of some small-scale operators and those who are upcycling craftspeople.

Your recycled steel pencil bin or your recycled glass storage container may – then again may not – be made from recyclables collected in your country which are then shipped to China or such country to be made into new steel, glass etc., then made into the products, which are then, in turn, shipped back for you to buy.

Not only is this bad for the Planet but it also does nothing for “green” jobs at home. It is all about the “bottom line” and often the conditions of how this waste is processed into those recycled goods would be something that would not be against the laws in our respective countries. Still, however, consumers believe they are doing good by buying those “recycled” products. in fact, consumers, that is you and I, are being misled and deceived by marketing greenwash.

© 2014