You might be surprised to hear my say that recycling is not the answer. Just listen to the Queen of Zero Waste Living herself, Bea Johnson.
The goal is not to recycle more. The goal is to cut as much packaging and single-use products out of our lives as possible.
Some materials have a much bigger market for recyclability than others. For example, aluminum has the highest recycling rate of any material. It takes 96% less energy to produce from recycled cans than it does to produce from raw material. Recycled glass, on the other hand, only takes 21% less energy to produce than from raw material.
But you also have to think about the energy and money that goes in to building and maintaining recycling centers. A single stream recycling center costs upwards of $8 million to build.
It’s not that recycling isn’t important. It’s that it should be the last resort. Some forms of packaging we simply can’t avoid, and it’s in those cases that recycling should be used.