Enough, Already. 'Recyclable' is Not Recycling


Mostly this writer steers away from the negative aspect of a story because there are plenty of others already on that bandwagon. But some things just annoy me to the point of distraction. A case in point being companies selling products by proclaiming their materials are easily recyclable. Especially when their own product does not include any of these very same materials.

To my mind this is hypocrisy. It is "do as I say, not do as I do." Recycling is a complete loop. A joined circle. You are only recycling when you are buying recycled. For example, it is a cop-out for Apple to claim as part of the green credentials for their new MacBook Air that its enclosure is "highly recyclable" aluminium. If they really wanted to make a definitive stand on recycling then all they had to do, as one of our commenters observed, was ensure that it is made from post-consumer recycled drink cans. Or pre-loved laptops.

Consider these stats from Recycle: the Essential Guide. Recycling aluminium saves 95% of the energy, and 95% in carbon dioxide emissions, compared to virgin production. Four tons of bauxite are required to produce one ton of aluminium. Worldwide, the aluminium industry uses as much electric power as the entire continent of Africa. Recycling one aluminium can save enough energy to run a TV for 3 hours or a 100 watt light bulb for 20 hours.

Now it may be that the MacBook Air does contain a percentage of recycled content, but they don't say. Saying so would lead others to follow suite and the market for recycled aluminium consumer products would expand, as would our efficiency at recovering aluminium before it was buried in landfills.

Companies like Patagonia, Nau, Mountainsmith, Osprey and Voltaic lack the $15 billion that Apple has stashed in the bank. So it might've been easily justified for these businesses to have simply used the 'highly recyclable' phrase too, for the polyester in their products. But they didn't. [And nor did Humanscale, who use 100% recycled aluminium in their line of office products.] These companies went out and sourced recycled materials for their product. They closed the loop. They truly recycled. They showed courage. They said "do as I do." They led.

Products touting 'recyclable' materials are eco-poseurs, unless those materials are also already recycled.

[This is not to decry the other worthy effort that Apple expended, to get the MacBook Air as free as possible of mercury, arsenic and PVC. Credit where due.]

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