4 Minute Read:
Many men and women are interested in doing their part to help the environment. For most, this means recycling.
While recycling seems like an easy enough concept, there are several “myths” about recycling that can cloud people’s knowledge.
Myth 1: Bioplastics are an Eco-Friendly Alternative to Traditional Plastics
Commonly used plastics are usually made of petrochemical products, which makes them non-renewable and non-degradable.
Bioplastics are plastics that are made from a plant base, such as cornstarch, sugars, woods, and vegetable oils.
Polylactic acid (PLA) and polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) are the most widely used bioplastics today. While bioplastics may be made from more environmentally friendly materials, they can still be harmful to the environment.
The agriculture to produce the crops needed would require a significant deal of deforestation as well as the use of fertilizers, pesticides, excessive amounts of water, and carbon-emitting farming equipment.
Because of the increasingly detrimental effects of crop agriculture, we may have to come up with even more sustainable ways to replace plastic.
Myth 2: Biodegradable Plastics Can Break Down in Nature
The popular opinion of biodegradable products is often very positive. Based on the name “biodegradable,” it is safe to assume that these products are made from more natural products and can easily break down in nature.
Most bioplastics are biodegradable because they can break down in water or under the right temperature, oxygen, and light conditions.
Because of the specific conditions needed, biodegradable products often need to be broken down in specialized facilities. Due to the high cost of these facilities, they are not as affordable in less-wealthy countries, and so, a lot of biodegradable plastics end up in the landfill.
Since landfills lack oxygen and light, biodegradable products maintain their forms and never break down.
Myth 3: Recycling Uses More Energy Than It Takes to Make Something New
If this were true, it would make recycling obsolete.
While reducing the amount of plastic floating around is still a goal of recycling, the real goal is to reduce strain on the environment. If we ended up wasting more energy to make products out of recyclable materials, it would be both costly and create an even worse outcome for the environment.
According to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), steel recycling in the U.S. saves enough energy to power one-fifth of American households for up to a year. Producing plastic from recycled materials uses only two-thirds of the energy required to make plastic from raw materials. And recycling tin cans saves 74 percent of the energy needed to produce them from raw materials.
As you can see, recycling is an energy-saver.
Myth 4: Everything You Sort Into Recycling Gets Thrown Into the Trash Anyway
While some garbage carriers may choose to save themselves some work by throwing everything into the same bin, it is a myth that the majority of sorted recycling is thrown to the landfill.
In some cases, U.S. recyclers may have become overwhelmed by the volume of plastic and had to utilize landfills; however, the overall goal is to make use of these specially sorted recyclables.
As the demand for sustainable products increases, the market for recyclables is also projected to increase. With this much monetary incentive, recyclables are much more valuable.
Only 25 percent of items that are passed to recyclers cannot be recycled at their facility. The rest of the recyclables are processed and sold to various bidders to be made into new products.
Myth 5: Something Cannot Be Recycled Unless It Is Used
A product does not necessarily need to be worn or heavily used to be recycled.
Companies that carry a large amount of inventory can sometimes find products that are defective, hazardous, or expired. In this case, these materials can be professionally destroyed and disposed of.
This can have an amazing impact on the environment, as many of these products contain chemicals and properties that require careful disposal.
Myth 6: You Can Only Recycle Old TVs and Computers
As technology has become more accessible, efforts to reuse and recycle electronics have been improving over the years. You can now recycle computers, monitors, lab equipment, cell phones, servers, tablets, and more.
Even if these products cannot be shredded, they can be refurbished and repaired for reuse. This is especially important for cell phones, which people tend to replace every one to two years.
The best way to e-cycle (electronic recycling), is to find a certified e-cycler near you to help you dispose of your electronic waste properly.