Question from Jessie M.: My husband and I have been recycling for years by sorting our recyclable items into separate bins and taking them to the recycling center at the county landfill.
My husband took a load off this morning but they told him they’re no longer accepting recyclable items because research has shown that the benefits of recycling aren’t worth the effort.
They ended up throwing our recyclable items into the dumpster along with the regular garbage!
We can still take our recyclable materials to a local private recycling center, but they don’t accept plastics (which is what we usually have the most of).
What’s the real story on this? Is it worthwhile to recycle or not?
Rick’s answer: I’ve researched this topic extensively Jessie, and the answer to your question depends on the types of items being recycled.
Items that absolutely should be recycled are the ones made from materials that can be recycled at a lower cost and have a lower impact on the environment than creating those same materials from scratch.
Items that fall into this category are most anything made from aluminum, copper, steel and paper.
As odd as it might seem, plastics don’t not fall into this category.
Why? Because the recycling of plastics has been deemed worse for the environment overall than simply landfilling them and creating new plastic.
And now to add another twist to the story…
According to a recent report, recycling plastics has actually resulted in more plastic materials ending up in the world’s oceans than would be there had we never started recycling it in the first place.
This is due to the way China has traditionally handled the recyclable plastics in their possession (hint: not very well).
I know this all sounds a bit counter-intuitive, but it is what it is.
In regards to the reason the landfill operator gave you for halting their recycling program, I don’t believe that’s the true reason at all.
In all likelihood, it was simply a matter of economics. You can read more about that right here.
Bottom line: It makes sense to recycle items made from aluminum, copper, steel and paper, but not so much for other types of items.
And now, one final note: The recycling industry might not be quite what you always thought it to be. Check out the short video below to find out why.
Note: As always, you can watch the video at full screen by clicking the “square” icon that will pop up in the lower-right corner of the video after it begins playing.