Recycling: The Consumer’s Crutch

Recycling started as an innocent movement; however, over time it has evolved into a way for industry to justify over-consumption. Consumers often ignore the remainder of the saying “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” The idea is to primarily reduce the amount of waste produce (i.e. purchase less products that could be harmful), reuse the products that are purchased (using plastic containers and glass jars for food storage), and LASTLY recycle what is left over.

“Trade groups representing various packaging interests–plastic, paper, glass–have become the largest proponents and financial sponsors of recycling,” according to the Forbes article “Can Recycling Be Bad for the Environment?”. These industries are able to convince consumers that their products are not harmful to the environment, because they are recyclable.

Here are some problems with recycling:

  • The public isn’t well educated about HOW to recycle. Which number plastics can I recycle? Is this container okay? These are questions that almost every person who recycles (myself included) wonders.
  • Some things that are recyclable don’t ACTUALLY get recycled.
  • Many people have to drive to a recycling plant to drop off their recyclables; if they do so often, they may end up polluting more with their car than the recycling is reducing.
  • Processing recyclables can cause pollution.

Although recycling is certainly not a terrible thing, American consumers need to stop relying on it as a crutch to consume too much. If we REALLY want to combat climate change, we, as a country, need to undergo REAL lifestyle changes, not just adopt a few habits that enable us to continue consuming in relatively the same way.






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