Reducing Your Recycling: Part 1

recyclablesBefore anyone starts screaming, “What, I thought I was supposed to recycle! This girl is crazy.” let me explain. I’m not advocating throwing recyclables in the trash to end up in a landfill. I’m talking about putting more focus on the first two parts of the environmentalist’s mantra – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve watched with perhaps a little too much pride as the pile of trash I’ve put out on Fridays has shrunk and the pile of recyclables I put out on Thursdays has grown. I have successfully reduced the amount of trash I generate. Recently I’ve realized that’s not enough. I need to now start reducing the amount of recycling I generate.

About a month ago, I started to see news reports stating that the demand for recyclables has dropped. The economic plunge has taken the recycling market off the cliff with it. According to an article on GreenBiz.com,

Consumers are buying fewer products made in China, and with fewer products being shipped overseas, there is a lesser need for boxes and packaging materials to move those items, according to The Journal of Commerce. Chinese producers, therefore, need fewer materials to make packaging and items.

“A lot of the material was going to China to make boxes for all the things they were shipping back to the United States,” Bruce Savage, spokesman for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries in Washington, told the Sacramento Bee. “When they aren’t producing products, they don’t need the packaging materials.”

In a sense, this is good news. We’re buying fewer products from China that are being shipped here. I’m sure this is due more to the economic state than the majority of people trying to reduce their carbon footprint, but still, it’s good for the environment. Except now there are stockpiles of recyclable items that can’t be moved because they are unwanted. They aren’t worth much money. The article goes on to say that

Scrap dealers and recycling firms across the U.S. are seeing the effects of lower demand, from companies in California stockpiling collected materials, refusing drop-offs from the public or charging customers for picking up materials, to New England communities that have seen rebates for paper and cardboard drop from more than $100 a ton to as low as $30 and $40 a ton.

What’s going to happen to all of those recyclable materials that are sitting there? I don’t know. But I do know that there will be more recyclable materials added to the pile, creating a bigger problem. What’s the solution?

I can only do my part and encourage others to do their part. On my end, the solution is to reduce the amount of things I put at the curb on Thursdays. How am I going to do that? Come back on Thursday when I’ll have practical ideas for reducing my recycling that I plan to implement.

Image courtesy of Editor B on flickr

  1. Steven Earl Ssalmony

    On the need for scientific education regarding the human overpopulation of Earth in these early years of Century XXI………..

    Dear Friends of the Sustainablog community,

    I want to at least try to gain your quick help. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but yesterday the “AWAREness Campaign on the Human Population” submitted an idea for how we think the Obama Administration could change America. It’s called “Ideas for Change in America.”

    I’ve submitted an idea and wanted to see if you could vote for it. The title is: Accepting human limits and Earth’s limitations. You can read and vote for the idea by clicking on the following link:


    The top 10 ideas are going to be presented to the Obama Administration on Inauguration Day and will be supported by a national lobbying campaign run by Change.org, MySpace, and more than a dozen leading nonprofits after the Inauguration. So each idea has a real chance at becoming policy.


    Sincerely yours,


    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on the Human Population,
    established 2001

  2. urbanworkbench

    I had this discussion with some very passionate recyclers the other day, telling them that living in a remote rural area with no processing facilities locally, environmentally it just might be better to landfill it! It got them thinking!

  3. Global Patriot

    It is an interesting paradigm, that we have worked so hard to promote recycling that it became a point of pride to fill the recycle containers to the top.

    The real need is to reduce waste at every turn, but it’s hard to celebrate nothingness – hard to pat ourselves on the back when the recycle container is empty because we learned how to minimize waste.

    The 3 Rs are fundamental to our future, but they are in order for a reason – reduce, reuse, recycle.

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