Recycling Is A Good Thing, Right? It Depends.
Image credit Apple Canada
Three years ago Warren wrote a glorious rant, Enough, Already. 'Recyclable' is Not Recycling, in which he complained about companies (like Apple) using the word "recyclable."
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....Products touting 'recyclable' materials are eco-poseurs, unless those materials are also already recycled.
Warren made the case that Apple should be using recycled aluminum in their computers, or they should shut up. But over at Green Building Advisor, Tristan Roberts suggests that it is not so simple.Tristan points out that even using recycled aluminum is a problem.
One clear lesson from what we know about metals and energy is this: don't use aluminum when there are good alternatives.
Recycled aluminum has drastically lower environmental impact than virgin aluminum (about one-sixth) -- so it seems like a no-brainer that recycled is the environmentally friendly choice over virgin. However, with aluminum, worldwide demand is so strong that there isn't enough recycled material to go around. Buying something with aluminum, even if it's recycled, only increases overall aluminum demand.
Once that aluminum is out there, only 42% of it will end up back in the recycling loop. If you really need aluminum for whatever it is you're doing, choose recycled, but if the incredible properties of aluminum aren't vital for the product, another material may be a greener alternative. And once you use an aluminum product, recycle it!
So even using recycled aluminum is just a feel-good measure; in fact, we have to just use less of the stuff. Interesting reading at Green Building Advisor, where Tristan also touches on my favourite greenwash: