With so much information on recycling available at the touch of a button, some of it being erroneous, it’s no wonder that myths come about.  Once these myths circulate for so long, they tend to become viewed as reality.  Between these myths and excuses for not recycling, they drag down the number of households participating in a recycling program.

Let’s delve into the excuses first, then tackle the myths.  Some people just plainly do not want to recycle.  They don’t want to mess with it, don’t think it’s beneficial, or just plainly don’t care.  Some myths and excuses, however, come from misinformation and lack of proper recycling education.

Excuse: Recycling costs too much.

  • Well-run recycling programs cost less than landfills and incinerators.
  • The more people recycle, the cheaper it gets.
  • Recycling helps families save money, especially in communities with pay-as-you-throw programs.”*  “Pay as you throw (PAYT) (also called trash metering, unit pricing, variable rate pricing, or user-pay) is a usage-pricing model for disposing of municipal solid waste. Users are charged a rate based on how much waste they present for collection to the municipality or local authority.”**
  • “Recycling generates revenue to help pay for itself, while incineration and landfilling do not.
  • The U.S. Recycling Economic Information (REI) Study is an unprecedented national study that demonstrates the importance of recycling and reuse to the U.S. economy.  The REI study is very comprehensive, considering direct and indirect economic impacts.    

Excuse: There are no markets for recyclables.

  • Prices may fluctuate as they do for any commodity, but domestic and international markets exist for all materials collected in curbside recycling programs.
  • Demand for recycled materials has never been greater. American manufacturers rely on recyclables to produce many of the products on your store shelves.
  • By the year 2005, the value of materials collected for recycling will surpass $5 billion per year.
  • All new steel products contain recycled steel.
  • Over 1,400 products and 310 manufacturers use post-consumer plastics.
  • In 1999, recycled paper provided more than 37% of the raw material fiber needed by U.S. paper mills.

Excuse: We are already recycling as much as we can.

  • The national recycling rate is 28%. The U.S. EPA has set a goal of 35% and many communities are recycling 50% or more.
  • Many easily recycled materials are still thrown away. For example, 73% of glass containers, 77% of magazines, 66% of plastic soda and milk bottles, and 45% of newspapers are not recycled.
  • We are nowhere near our potential, especially if manufacturers make products easier to recycle.
  • Canada set a goal of 50% diversion of solid waste from disposal by the year 2000. The province of Nova Scotia exceeded that goal through such steps as banning compostable organic materials from landfills and providing curbside collection of all organic materials for composting.

Myth: Only white paper is recyclable.

Just about any type of paper is technically recyclable, including envelopes, post-it notes, colored paper, newspaper, and magazines. Some universal restrictions are waxy or thermal paper (for older fax machines), laminated paper, and food-stained paper. However, different recycling companies require different mixes and restrictions.

Myth: It's OK to throw something away as long as it's biodegradable.

There is a lack of oxygen underground that prevents waste from decomposing. Biodegradable waste breaks down into methane in the landfill, if at all. The methane is usually released into the atmosphere, where it is a potent greenhouse gas. A better solution is to recycle the material, or even better, reuse it or reduce its use altogether. Non-biodegradable waste does not produce methane, but it also will not break down in the landfill, thus using more space. Composting biodegradables is an effective option.

Myth: Someone goes through the trash and pulls out the recyclables before it goes to the landfill.

Anything thrown into the trash will end up in the landfill. The labor required to sort through trash after it has already been mixed is prohibitive and almost never happens. The only feasible way of separating recyclables is "source separation", meaning each person separates their trash at the time they throw it away. The only effort here is the difference between throwing trash into one bin or another.”*

This last one’s my favorite.  Some companies will lead you to believe that this system of “One Truck” picking up everything and your recyclables being ever so neatly sorted out of your trash and taken to a recycling center is, well....interesting.  One of the distinguishing feature of a trash truck...or a “One Truck”, is its ability to compact material in order to fit more into the truck therefore efficiently utilizing space.  Can you imagine what happens to the bags inside of that truck when it get compacted?  Yep....wet kitchen trash bags pop open, recycling bags pop open...you get the idea.  

Our best advice to you is to call your trusted experts in recycling if you should have any questions or would like to get correct information to dispel any myths...we’d be happy to help.


*http://www.uos.harvard.edu/fmo/recycling/myths.shtml
**http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pay_as_you_throw