For decades now we have all felt like we are doing our part and contributing to a better world because we throw our trash into the blue bin. We site recycling as the cure-all solution for the issues surrounding our environment but, the truth is, it’s not. Recycling has a host of issues with the system that are catastrophic to the environment. From chemical runoff to air pollution, the fact is that a lot of things just can’t be recycled. Yet, we put our faith in a system that is profoundly flawed and can do the opposite of what it was meant to do.

Here are the top ways that recycling myth hurts the environment and what we can actually do to live an ecofriendly life.

  • Air Pollution

Garbage and recycling trucks both run on fossil fuels which produce exhaust that pollutes the air. With over 136,000 recycling vehicles (60% of which are over 10 years old) all burning fossil fuels, the impact is immense. And don’t even get us started on emissions from the factories….

  • Chemicals Chemicals Chemicals!

Contamination is one of the biggest issues facing the recycling industry right now. When an item is recycled and contains toxic chemicals or other contaminants, those toxins end up being passed to the next re-purposed item. This could be the building material of your home or the water bottle you’re drinking out of.

This contamination isn’t only poisoning us but our planet as well. When paper is recycled, it is turned into a pulp and turned into a new sheet of paper. The ink, paper fibers, cleaning chemicals and the rest are then burned or sent to the landfill-where they leach chemicals into the Earth and water supply.

  • Recycling is too Expensive

Because of our all-in-one system (which does not require sorting before we put materials in the bin), lack of education on what is recyclable and contamination; recycling costs cities millions. Due to the sharp decline for recycled materials after China stooped purchasing our materials, many cities can’t afford to keep their recycling programs going.

  • Most Plastics Can’t be Recycled

There are roughly seven different kinds of plastics, two of them can be recycled. Anything else you put in your blue bin that is the other five types of plastic will be processed and thrown in the landfill.

  • It Gives a False Sense of security

You probably feel like you do your part when you throw things away properly. However, there is no such thing as “away”. Recycling has been ingrained in our psyche. We assume that we can consume whatever we want without repercussions because it will just magically be melted down and turned into something new – but the reality is that it likely won’t. Recycling gives us the idea that there is an excuse to be wasteful, and as a result the U.S. alone generates 230 million tons of trash a year. So although recycling is an important piece of being ecofriendly-it isn’t the magic bullet to saving the planet.

What we Can do Instead

Now, you’ve probably gotten to the point where you are just thinking to yourself “Fine, I just won’t recycle anything anymore and throw it all in the trash!” That isn’t the goal of this article. We all need to understand how our waste systems work so we can make better choices about the products we buy, and how we dispose of them. Here is what you can do to make better choices:

  • Research what items are recyclable in your county
  • Make sure what you are recycling is clean and free of contaminants
  • Don’t put your recyclables in trash bags
  • Buy natural and organic products

The only way out of this mess is to not make a mess in the first place. In order to save the planet, we don’t need a few people doing zero waste perfectly-we need everyone limiting waste imperfectly. If you are interested in starting to reduce your waste or go zero waste, read our guide here.

We Want Refill is dedicated to helping all of us lower our waste production and eliminate the need for outdated waste removal systems in place for sustainable refill options. By refilling your soaps, detergents and lotions we can keep countless amounts of plastic from the landfill and reduce the need for it to be produced. Big businesses don’t think we are serious about sustainability-help prove them wrong! Sign the petition today and let retailers know #WeWantRefill