Top 5 Myths About Recycling

Written by Michael Wynands Let’s stop reusing and start reducing these so-called facts about waste management. Welcome WatchMojo’s Top 5 Myths. In today’s instalment we’re counting down the top five myths about recycling. Special thanks to our user Ashjbow for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 5 Myths About Recycling
Let’s stop reusing and start reducing these so-called facts about waste management. Welcome WatchMojo’s Top 5 Myths. In today’s instalment we’re counting down the top five myths about recycling.

#5: Recycling Was Invented To Reduce Waste
According to Samantha MacBride, author of “Recycling Reconsidered,” regardless of how wholeheartedly environmentalists adopted and championed the system, recycling programs were really never intended to save the environment or reduce waste - it was a solution by manufacturing industries to avoid legislation over packaging. When plastic became the new standard in packaging in the 60s and 70s, it quickly began to overwhelm landfills. The seemingly logical solution would’ve been to develop regulations to limit excess packaging. But no profit-maximising industry likes to be regulated. The main industries involved, especially the beverage industry, pushed for municipal recycling as a means to shift the burden, social and fiscal, off themselves on to consumers and local governments.

#4: Anything You Put in Compost or Recycling Will Just Biodegrade in a Landfill Anyways
It’s a common argument made by anyone who can’t be bothered with the multi-pronged waste management solution in their neighbourhood. The thinking behind it is that anything capable of decomposing is going to do it over time naturally, regardless of whether it’s in a compost heap, at a recycling plant or in a landfill. But here’s the thing... in order for things to biodegrade, oxygen is required, as well as a proper balance of materials. In landfills, the massive piles of garbage don't allow for enough oxygen, reducing the rate of degradation significantly. Furthermore, most recyclable materials take ages to decompose naturally. Most plastics take between 450 and 1000 years. Glass bottles will literally take millions of years to break down in a landfill.

#3: Goods Made From Recycled Materials Cost More
Marketing is largely to blame for this common misconception. Many companies charge more for products packaged or made out of recycled materials. But in reality, goods can be made from recycled materials quite cost effectively, either on par with those made from virgin materials or in some cases, at a fraction of the cost. For example, making cans from recycled aluminum takes 4% of the total energy needed to make them from virgin materials. But “made from recycled materials” is a buzzword in the packaging industry, and a great excuse to charge an extra buck. Admittedly, low-grade plastics are not yet cost effective to recycle, nor is recycling glass if it is melted down between each use. Reusing bottles however, is totally financially viable.

#2: If Recycling Were Financially Viable, It Would Be The Natural Choice of The Free Market
Among the many arguments made by Penn & Teller against recycling on their show “BS!”, is the idea that the free market should dictate our waste management solutions, pointing towards the fact that recycling programs are subsidized as proof of its failure. But with more efficient recycling systems, recycling is becoming increasingly worthwhile as an investment. Additionally, this complaint suggests that landfill waste management or incineration isn't government subsidized. While these industries are often privately contracted, government subsidies still usually apply. Furthermore, raw material industries also typically receive subsidies to encourage their growth, meaning that none of the competition is actually playing on the even “free market” playing field. Like anything else, the value of recycled materials fluctuates, but it has consistently proven itself a marketable good.

#1: Recycling Programs Consume More Energy Than Recycling Saves
Collecting recycled materials may be expensive, especially when you consider all the manpower often involved in the sorting process, but it’s far from a self-defeating system. There’s no shortage of conflicting info out there, but when the ENTIRE lifecycle of materials and their collection are taken into account, recycling proves its worth. According to Jeff Morris, an environmental consultant, on average, it takes 10.4 million Btu to manufacture products from a ton of recyclables, compared to 23.3 million Btu for virgin materials. As for the collection and processing of those recycled materials, you only need to add 0.9 million Btu. Recycling is more effective in a fair competition, even before you consider the very worthy environmental and resource-related benefits.
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