Why should I recycle if it’s so inefficient?

Why should I recycle?

You’re committed to recycling and that’s great, but the fact is, not everything you dutifully put into your recycling bin actually gets recycled. There are varied reasons for this, including:

  • Improper prep and sorting on the homeowner’s end.
  • Improper handling during the recycling process.
  • Lack of return on investment for recyclers.
  • Recycling is ultra-local, meaning neighboring cities have different rules, causing confusion.

The biggest culprit? Plastic.

According to National Geographic, only 9% of plastic makes it to the recycling bin. But we can feel good about that 9%, right? Well, wrong. The plastic that does reach a recycling facility is actually “downcycled.” That means it degrades with each visit to the recycling plant. Eventually it becomes useless. To add another dark cloud: Pre-pandemic, China took much of our plastic recycling. That door is closed now.

But that doesn’t mean giving up on recycling is the right answer. Recycling is one important thing you can do to help our planet. Here are some reasons you should keep at it.

Not every recyclable has as bad a record as plastic

Metal, paper, glass and cardboard all have good records in terms of recycling. Metal tops the list. Why? It doesn’t degrade in the recycling process. It has been called “infinitely recyclable.” According to the EPA, the recycling rate for steel cans is 70.9%. Paper and cardboard: 68%. Glass brings up the rear on this list at around 31.3%. Paper, glass and aluminum are easily broken down and reformed without affecting each material’s durability.

Materials sent for recycling have a chance of being reused, while materials sent to the landfill do not

Even though plastic has a bad recycling rap, there are industries growing around transforming plastic into things like fleece, lawn furniture, patios and decks and even shoes. And glass, metal and paper are champs. So abandoning recycling because it’s not completely effective is a mistake. You can still make a difference.

Hang on, help is on the way!

Plans are underway to improve recycling in this country. Most everyone has heard about the big infrastructure bill passed in November 2021, but you may not know that it includes $350 million in grants for waste and recycling programs. The EPA is heading up this effort with the goal of recycling 50% of municipal waste by 2030. The historic investment will “transform recycling and solid waste management across the country while creating jobs.” That sounds like a win-win to us.

While continuing to recycle, it’s important to also try to reduce what you need to recycle

This is especially true when it comes to plastic. At Nature Lake, we’re committed to help our country (and the world) combat the problem of plastic recycling by providing alternatives to single-use plastic. Our tablet-based cleaning products and glass sprayer bottles do away with single-use plastic bottles that usually find their way into landfills, where they will never biodegrade. Sound like a system you might like more information about? Check this out.

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