When recycling doesn’t work

Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.

Why yes, I recycle. That being said, I harbor no doubt that what I recycle may not always get recycled. I’ve heard too many stories (some of them verified, some of them not) of recycling being dumped, burned, and generally not-recycled. This is especially true of electronics.

The best way to cure this? Stop creating e-waste. Which means stop buying so many damn new electronics and stop trashing what you’ve got. Fix the printer and hang on to it. I had one printer for more than ten years before I finally just couldn’t make it work any more. I found a second one just like it minus the cords, which I salvaged from the old printer. In the end, I don’t print enough to own one (I just use Kinko’s instead) so I gave it to a mom and her two kids on Freecycle. I don’t buy new computers, I upgrade my old one. Old components can be given away to people that will use them. Try Craigslist or Freecycle if you don’t know anyone. I’ll upgrade from a CRT one day, but for now my monitor works very well (and is about seven years old).

And don’t own more than you need. Yeah, a laptop would be really fucking cool. But my desktop is easier to mess with and I’m not in school anymore. If I need internet access on the go, I use the internet browser I bought for my Nintendo DS. Now it plays games and surfs the web. It doesn’t do it as well, but for what I need (quick directions, random info) it works great.

This holds true for other recycling as well. Reduce before you reuse, reuse before you recycle. I believe very firmly that if you want it done right, you have to do it yourself. Which means that I don’t trust my local recycling center to actually recycle my trash. I take it over there anyway, because the worst that can happen is the same thing that would happen if I tossed it in the trash. Call me paranoid, if you will. Just remember what I said, “the greenest product is the one that is never produced in the first place.

If you want to ensure that recycling makes economic sense, close the damn loop. Buy recycled products. Pick it up and read the label. If it doesn’t mention it’s made from recycled products, put it down and buy one that does. Email companies and tell them you chose (or didn’t choose) their product because of the recycled materials content. They may not pay attention, but it can’t hurt. Seventh Generation makes a line of recycled paper and plastic products. Other companies are starting to jump on the bandwagon.

So reduce, reuse, and recycle. Yes, in that order.

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