Daily Archives: March 6, 2011

It’s complicated. The pro’s and con’s for recycled material.

Hey, being green isn’t easy, or to put it in another analogy; it’s not just “black” or “green”.  There are several shades of green and determining the greenest of them all is difficult. Let’s to go back to the debate about whether recycling does more harm than good. There is evidence in favor of the negative. Using some recycled materials in products can create more chemical pollution. Here are two prime examples; bleaching recycled papers, and recycling plastic bottles , which can be a nasty chemical process.

So do the costs out weight the benefits? The benefits include using less non-renewable resources, no deforestation, no oil dependence and metal mining. However, in some cases the answer may be no. The next question we should ask would be is there a better use for recycled paper than turning it back into paper?

Old subway cars get a new life as artificial reefs, old newspapers become wrapping paper or at my house fire starters for the wood stove and paper towels can get composted, and turned into nutrient rich soil. These are all examples of re-purposing and that can be the greenest of them all.

Here’s another example; re-using shopping bags. Studies show that the making a cotton/canvas bag can actually create higher carbon emissions than making a plastic bag. According to “Ask Pablo” you would have to use a standard cloth bag at least 171 times for it to pay off its carbon emissions. Compared to the plastic bag, that surprisingly, has a smaller carbon footprint per bag. So that got me thinking, imagine if you reuse a plastic bag several times! It’s not all about emissions though, plastic bags don’t take up a lot of room in a landfill, but they do cause major damage when they enter our waterways. And a rule of thumb for buying re-usable bags; more weight equals more emissions.

Where does this leave the consumer who wants to do the right thing? In my book it still is about the 3R’s and 1C. It’s Reduce the amount of material you use, Re-use and Re-purpose, get creative, and Compost whatever will biodegrade! Mostly, keep it simple and natural whenever possible.

Check out this hilarious plastic bag movie narrated by Jeremy Irons with irony.

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