How much do you recycle? Like most people, you probably make an effort to toss plastic bottles, newspapers, and glass containers into a recycle bin. Why do you do it? To protect the planet? Reduce precious landfill space?
No matter what motivates you to recycle, the truth is, your motivations are likely based on a lie. Yes, that’s a strong word, but in this case, it’s accurate.
Take a look at the lies that encourage many people to recycle.
Lie #1: We need to recycle because landfills are filling up
While it is true that the number of landfills has decreased, it doesn’t mean there’s a national shortage of landfill space. In fact, while the number of landfills has decreased, the size of landfills has actually increased.
Why do you hear about landfill shortages? At a local level, a certain town or county might be running out of room, but it doesn’t equate to a nationwide problem.
There are 1,654 landfills across 48 states, with the largest one located in Las Vegas that recently took in 3.8 million tons of garbage.
Put simply, the country isn’t running out of space. A recent EPA report even says, “the amount of landfill space is adequate for current disposal practices.”
Lie #2: If we all recycle, we’ll save resources and protect the planet
This statement has several lies wrapped into a tidy statement. For starters, we don’t all recycle. Seventy-five percent of garbage is recyclable, but only about 30% of it is actually recycled. Obviously, a lot of consumers chuck recyclables right into the trash.
Now let’s think about the resources used to recycle. For curbside pickup, large trucks traipse all over town, there’s manpower involved, large equipment is used to sort and bail recyclables, and trucks haul it to a repurposing facility.
That’s a lot of resources and very few of them protect the planet.
Lie #3: Recycling plastic keeps it out of the landfill
Tossing a plastic bottle in a recycling bin should keep it out of the landfill, but in reality, that’s happening less and less.
Why? A few years ago, China, once the largest buyer of U.S. plastics waste, started restricting what it would accept. Only about half (56%) of American waste that was once exported is still going to overseas markets.
As a result, some recyclers don’t have a place for unaccepted plastics. The problem has created a trickle-down effect that has local recyclers, like those in Washington for example, dumping plastic recyclables into the landfill.
Lie #4: Recycling is the best way to curb pollution
There are countless non-profits and coalitions that all tout recycling as the planet’s savior. While it’s important for everyone to do their part to protect the environment, the idea that consumer recycling is the solution is impossible.
Recycling alone isn’t the answer. Changing individual behaviors isn’t the answer. Everyone – from consumers to corporations – must shift their focus to a zero-waste concept. How? Companies must consciously think about their product, its packaging, and its afterlife. Consumers must support companies with a zero-waste goal and be willing to collectively make changes.
Embracing refill technology, for example, is a good place to start. Companies would ask consumers to buy a refillable bottle as opposed to a single-use bottle. When the product runs out, it’s simply refilled at a kiosk at a local retailer. These big-picture solutions are a better way to protect our planet than relying on recycling.
Want to see refill technology at a retailer near you? The technology already exists. Sign this petition today to show your interest.