Recycling is a great place to start, but a bad place to stop

Recycling has many benefits when done right and it can be an exciting industry with new innovations. It conserves finite natural resources and reduces the amount of waste that is burnt or buried (still crazy to think we dig & drill for so much of our natural resources to then just throw it away). One of the most valuable benefits of recycling is the savings in energy, greenhouse gases and pollution that result when scrap materials are substituted for virgin. ⁠

Recycling aluminium, for example, can reduce energy consumption by as much as 95%, for plastics this is around 70% (remember these are generally downcycled a number of times then end up in landfill), 60% for steel, 40% for paper and 30% for glass. Recycling also reduces emissions of pollutants that can cause smog, acid rain and the contamination of waterways. ⁠

BUT – and it’s a big one – our recycling systems are in crisis. Certain countries are struggling badly having always shipped their items to China and other developing countries that have now closed, or are closing, their doors (and sending rubbish back). The already highly imperfect systems are in disarray. Recycling is being dumped in landfill or burned instead, companies are folding dramatically and faith in the system is low. Recycling education in a number of countries like America & Australia is also largely very poor.⁠

There’s a lot to be said on fixing this problem but firstly, we cannot recycle our way out of this. We all consume way too much stuff and recycling is not a perfect option. It still requires an enormous amount of resources and energy too. Wherever possible, cut down first (precycle). That is the only way we’re going to start to make a dent in this issue. Reduce, reduce, reduce. Buy home compostable, natural materials where you can when buying new. Reuse constantly. And when you’re lowering your waste, include your recycling in that and see if the accumulation of that can also drastically decrease alongside what you send to landfill. We need circular design of products, but we also first need to acknowledge our consumption and system failures. This is one.