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The Death of Recycling?

2 minutes

Not too long ago, I brought home a delicious Chipotle burrito for lunch. I always love to read the bags. This one said, “Recycling turns things into other things. Which is like magic.” The napkin followed up on the humor:

Most of us have come to love recycling. At least, those of us who live in a town with curbside recycling pickup, with no more sorting, have come to feel very good about giving what-would-be-trash a second chance at life. And we feel good about buying products that are recycled.

But there has been some debate…

Is recycling actually worse for the environment than landfilling or incinerating our trash?

Like manufacturing, re-manufacturing has costs: energy costs, waste costs, and quality costs. For certain materials (such as uncommon plastics and fiberboard, for example), some contend that these costs might outweigh the potential benefits of recycling.

But some arguments go deeper than a cost/benefit analysis. Some theorists say that recycling makes us even more dependent on consumption of materials instead of looking for reusable, longterm solutions. What do you think? Are you more apt to buy a bottled water if you intend to recycle the container? Another argument against recycling has always been that quality on a closed loop recycling system is not sustainable. When you consistently re-recycle materials again and again, quality eventually degrades.

So what happens when something that is good doesn’t turn out to be quite as magical as we hoped?

Table that question for a moment.

Look at your business processes and workday routine. There are probably a few recycled habits in there, aren’t there? They probably started off as productive, loved, and even magical, but now, are you so dependent on that process or routine that you aren’t looking for new solutions? After being recycled for weeks, months, or years, have your once-magical strategies lost their punch and morphed into something that saps time and energy from your day?

Maybe it’s the first thing you do when you sit (or stand!) at your desk. Maybe it’s your email routine. Maybe it’s your billing process. Whatever your habits are, they could be great, or they could need a little attention.

Back to recycling.

When it comes down to it, recycling isn’t perfect, but for the most part it is much better for the environment than current alternatives (especially paper, see here for a few quick facts). But if we keep pushing the process, we can create more and efficient recycling processes, or even eliminate the need for recycling altogether by creating a world of re-usable, renewable products. The same thing goes for your business and workday. Most of your routines are probably great, but it’s always worth it to step back, examine, and find areas for improvement.

What parts of your workday do you recycle?