Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
In that order.
I have long been bugged by something. During the evening news, or the news magazine shows, they very often show some artist who is using trash to create art. Each artist is presented as “new” and “unique”. The commenter makes some comment about how “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Then of course everyone feels great about the increase in recycling.
I’m thinking “Where’s the recycling?”
To me, I usually just see a big pile of trash. Eventually, this piece of art will find it’s way to the landfill. Most art does, eventually. How is this recycling? I will grant it is reusing, but it is not recycling.
The best example of recycling is Aluminum, or steel. Aluminum cans can be remelted and turned into more aluminum cans or airplanes. Steel cans can be turned into cars, which can be turned into bridges, which can be turned into steel cans again. Recycling means to complete a cycle. This cannot be said for most substances.
Plastic water bottles can be mixed into lower grade shampoo bottles, which can be turned into artificial fleece, which must be tossed. This is not recycling, it’s reusing. Turning a 2-liter pop bottle into a bird feeder is not recycling. To be recycled, it would need to be made back into a 2-liter pop bottle eventually, and the technology to do this does not exist yet.
If you really want to help the environment, make recycling your third priority. Your first priority, though the most uncomfortable, should be to reduce. Don’t buy a 2-liter bottle of pop or make your own pop in recyclable glass bottles. Buy things in metal, glass or paper containers, even if it costs a little more. Bring your own coffee cup into Starbucks, etc. The web is filled with great ideas.
Your second priority should be to reuse. Bread bags can be turned into vegetable or bulk food bags at the grocery store. (Just cross out the UPC bars!) Plastic grocery bags can be used 2-5 times before they wear out and also make good garbage bags. (Have you ever thought about explaining the concept of grocery bags to a child? “Mommy, what are these for?” ”After we buy these, I’m going to throw them away!”)
Some stores will allow you to reuse old deli containers; some states actually ban this. For another option, see page 7. After a few dozen uses, the old deli container is broken. Now is the time to place it in the recycle bin. This is most likely the first option when it comes to aluminum cans and glass bottles. There actually are some good reasons not to recycle paper and plastic — to be discussed later.
Please comment below, and stay tuned for more recycling myths, and why I say Reduce, Reuse, Recycle— In that order!