Do we recycle enough?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

We seem to be talking recycling all the time when really we should be talking and especially doing more of the “reuse” and the “repurpose”.

So why are the powers-that-be asking, nay commanding, us to recycle and to separate out waste into different bins for the municipal waste collection vehicles to pick it up?

The answer, I am afraid, is rather simple though cynical too. Because it is a way for them to (1) look good and (2) a way to make money. You and I sort it all nicely for them (for free) so they can sell clean and sorted recyclables without the need to employ personnel to do it. For them a total win/win situation, especially in Britain. That is also why there are no recycling centers here where people would get paid to bring steel cans, aluminum cans, glass bottles, etc. unlike in other countries, such as the USA.

Recycling has its place, don't get me wrong, but primarily we should and must first of all think reduce and then reuse and repurpose before we ever head for the recycling bins with this or that item of waste.

This applies in offices and businesses as much as in the home environment, and business not just need to think about putting waste paper into recycling bins – and how many actually do, especially their staff? – but they must first and foremost think about reducing the use of their consumables, whether paper or other stuffs, such as lumber in the building industry. Staff must be taught, encouraged and rewarded for reducing use and also for find reuses for any such waste materials.

The building industry in Britain alone throws over ten million tons of lumber and wood products into the landfill every year and much of that could be reused if they would but consider pulling out a couple of nails or such. On the other hand they could let people who want it have it. But in most cases you run into a brick wall when asking to take some of that lumber.

Glass bottles, whether in pubs or at home, should not just go into the recycling cycle but should go into a closed loop, once again, where they are returned to be cleaned and refilled and then sent out again. This loop existed not so long ago and many a child made his or her pocket money by going around picking up the bottles that others could not be bothered to return as a deposit of how ever many pennies was to be reclaimed for returning the bottles.

The same could be done with glass jars and none of those, bottles or jar, unless broken, would ever have to go into recycling to be remade into bottles, jars and other glass products.

When you see the commercial recycling vehicles, those that collect from businesses, it is horrendous what in fact is not being recycled let alone being reused and repurposed.

The big stores are some of the biggest culprits here or does a radio, a TV, a kettle, you name it, really have to be sent to destruction and the landfill simply because the box is damaged? I don't think so. The stores, on the other hand do.

I have ones tried to buy a display model of a coffee machine as they no longer had a boxed model in their store room that was the last one they had of that model. No way. I was told that display models, because they cannot guarantee that all the bits are there and as there is, maybe, no box and manual, must be sent to landfill and cannot be sold, even at a lower rate and against an indemnity that one would not make any claims against the store. You also may not dumpster diver their skips (dumpsters in the US) for any stuff they have thrown which may or may not work and you may be able to fix up. That is considered theft, even if the skips is in the open with, basically, public access.

And everyone talks recycling, especially our governments and those selfsame stores. Many of the latter claim to be leaders on recycling and in diverting waste from landfills. And how do they think they are doing that?

We must rethink and must do so yesterday and get down to a total new approach to things. If you have to recycle you have failed. You have failed in the reduce and reuse department and that should be something that we all must consider.

So, let's all say together “recycling is failure.”

© 2010