Do you have too much recycling?

Whenever people learn where I work, they almost instantly begin to share with me how they manage their waste at their home.

A lot of these people very proudly exclaim “I recycle so much!  Each week I put out five Blue Boxes and they’re almost always overflowing.”

Outwardly, I’m very excited about this great effort to recycle, but privately, my heart sinks a little bit when I think about all that waste.

Are you consuming too much just because you have a Blue Box?

Are you consuming too much just because you have a Blue Box?

Remember, the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) isn’t just a slogan.  It’s the hierarchical order created to help guide the management our waste.  So while recycling is great, it is only the third step.  We must reduce and reuse first.

Let me be very clear: if you have acceptable materials, I want you to put them in your Blue Box for recycling.  Recycling makes a huge difference, and everyone needs to participate.

But a question does need to be asked: “Why do you have so much recycling in the first place?”

Are you buying a lot of single use, disposable items?  What about items with excess packaging? Could you drink from the tap and avoid plastic water bottles?

Some weeks, my house only has one half-full Blue Box.  We don’t have a lot of papers because we don’t subscribe to any print newspapers (I read news online) and we have paperless billing for almost all services (hydro, phone, etc.).  We don’t buy bottled water in my family, and very rarely do we have pop cans or bottles (trying to avoid unnecessary sugar).

Interestingly, a recent study indicates that when people have access to recycling, they tend to consume and waste more.  Basically, individuals feel less guilty about wasting if they can recycle something.

If you have items that can be recycled, then recycle them.  But take a moment to look at your consumption and generation of those items.  Is it truly necessary?

About John Watson

I'm a communicator, educator and project manager with a focus on environmental and public works issues. Previously, I was the Onboarding Director for ReCollect Systems, where I implemented digital communication products for municipalities and non-profits. For eight years, I was the Waste Diversion Educator Coordinator for Halton Region, where I implemented award winning communications and outreach programs.
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1 Response to Do you have too much recycling?

  1. cherith@Pnewko says:

    Good points John! I do catch myself feeling less guilty when we know that the packaging is being recycled. I agree, it is important to keep examining if there are alternatives to buying overly packaged products. Buying the items with less packaging is usually easier on the wallet. 🙂

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