24 Oct Zero Waste: Recycling
Or how to design products that recycle easily
Recycling efforts make a huge difference to our environment in reducing waste. However, the process of recycling could be improved upon by leaps and bounds. Countless items are thrown into the trash each day because the recycling process often takes a lot of effort. Simply including instructions for recycling with products and/or easy options for difficult to recycle products would make a drastic difference in reducing needless waste.
While it may take more time to initially set up recycling programs to follow this type of method it would be well worth the effort in the long run. A huge impact could be made by manufacturers of electronics. When you purchase their product an envelope could be included with a guaranteed shipping label. When the product is fully used or breaks past its warranty it can be put into the envelope and tossed into the mail. So simple! Another way of handling this issue could be to register products with each company’s website where you could print a shipping label when it is time for the product to be recycled.
Planning for this kind of effort should not be difficult but it might take a little time to figure out how to cost effectively initiate the plan. To achieve a zero waste society we need to have an end destination for each recyclable material. In other words the recyclable material needs to end up at a plant that can actually handle the material and convert it or recondition it for reuse. If recyclable materials just sit at a recovery facility then it is still a waste product. The goal needs to be the end result not the middle ground of throwing recyclables into a bin and moving on.
Redesigning recovery procedures is essential to the zero-waste effort. Creation, execution and maintenance of a proficient system for recovering and transporting recyclable materials should be one of the top priorities when moving toward zero waste. It is important that we change the current habit of outsourcing recycling to other countries. The less transport required of materials the less impact they have on the environment. It is also imperative that people helping with this process understand the value placed in recycling these products; they are not simply dealing with trash but important resources.
Vital to the zero-waste goal is reducing the production of “disposable” materials. Many inexpensive products are designed to only last for a short time. When these products break they invariably end up in the trash. Creating more efficient products that are designed with components meant to be reused or repurposed would reduce an enormous amount of waste.
Finally, it would take some education of consumers to take these steps and turn them into a reality. Without the understanding of how a new system works consumers would continue to create atrocious amounts of waste. Drive down any residential street on garbage day and you can see just a small part of what goes to landfills every day. It is time to make even bigger changes than we have over the past few decades.