Is recycling or the ability to recycle used as a justification for consuming more stuff that is simply disposable. We live in a time where everything is made as cheaply as possible giving the consumer the illusion of having real buying power. All it really is, is uncontrolled creation of waste. Walk into any big box store today and look at all the isles and isles of stuff that really is not intended to last. And even though many items are recycleable, how much of it does get recycled? If it it does land in the reycling bin, what does it actually cost in energy to get something processed and put back into the economy? I can tell you - the cost is to high.
Is there anyway to get back to producing products that have the intention of lasting a long time, maybe even a life time? Well my answer is yes. We are going to have to. The raw materials used at an ever increasing rate are getting harder and harder to find and extract. All the ore and cheap energy we have been able to rely on for the last 100 years is going to start getting a lot more expensive. We will have to make things last a long time and cheap disposable junk isn't going to remain in favor if you can't afford to replace it over and over again. I envision a future industry that takes apart old landfills and reclaims the junk of the past.
You can start now by looking at what you consume and try to limit one time use disposables like plastic grocery bags and plastic water bottles. Buy a high quality reusable grocery bag that is compact and easy to keep with you and will last years and years and years. Not one of the $.99 bags they sell at the checkout counter. Those are still more disposable cheap products not intended to last that long. Quality is a step towards a cleaner planet. It's all about habit. If we can change one habit it's a start. Then maybe look at another.
The concept of reusing materials is fantastic. But I do frequently wonder what kinds of materials, chemicals, and energies are used in the actual recycling process. How much consumable energy is used in recycling, and what kinds of cleaning chemicals are used? I find it immensely disturbing that the environmental experts I asked these questions to were stopped dead in their tracks and didn't have answers.
Recycling involves processing used materials into new products to prevent waste of potentially useful materials, reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, reduce energy usage, reduce air pollution (from incineration) and water pollution (from landfilling) by reducing the need for "conventional" waste disposal, and lower greenhouse gas emissions as compared to virgin production. Recycling is a key component of modern waste reduction and is the third component of the "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" waste hierarchy.
Recyclable materials include many kinds of glass, paper, metal, plastic, textiles, and electronics. Although similar in effect, the composting or other reuse of biodegradable waste – such as food or garden waste – is not typically considered recycling. Materials to be recycled are either brought to a collection center or picked up from the curbside, then sorted, cleaned, and reprocessed into new materials bound for manufacturing.
In a strict sense, recycling of a material would produce a fresh supply of the same material, for example used office paper to more office paper, or used foamed polystyrene to more polystyrene. However, this is often difficult or too expensive (compared with producing the same product from raw materials or other sources), so "recycling" of many products or materials involves their reuse in producing different materials (e.g., paperboard) instead. Another form of recycling is the ...