June 29, 2021
Today's guest blog is authored by Megan Byers of NERC Advisory Member The Association of Plastic Recyclers. The original post can be found here.
Did you know that recycling doesn't end at the bin?
If you're like most people, you probably already recycle your empty containers at home and on the go.
Thank you! Recycling is such an important step to keep valuable materials out of the landfill and in the economy, preventing pollution while creating green jobs.
Now it's time to complete the cycle of recycling. It's just as important to buy products made with recycled content as it is to recycle.
Our consumer choices have an impact far beyond the register. We simply have to stop extracting so much from the Earth. To unlock all those environmental and economic benefits that come with recycling, your recyclables have to transform into new products.
In other words… you already recycle. Now it's time to Buy Recycled.
Your questions, answered!
There is a lot that needs to happen to save the planet and conserve our limited resources for future generations. We all need to participate, and we all need to buy stuff occasionally. With answers to these common questions, you can make better every day purchases.
What's the difference between something that's recyclable and something with recycled content?
In a nutshell, a recyclable product means that it can be collected and remanufactured into new products. A recycled product means that it actually has been collected and remanufactured into new products.
A truly sustainable product is both recyclable and recycled. Unfortunately, not everything that is recyclable has recycled content, and not everything that has recycled content is also recyclable.
For more on this difference, read up on "Recyclable vs Recycled: What you need to know; why it matters."
Why buy recycled?
When you buy recycled, you're making sure that the empty containers you put in your recycling bin are actually made back into new products – completing the recycling circle.
Right now, environmental destruction is embedded in the economy and the way products are manufactured. Companies will keep extracting new raw materials unless you tell them to stop. The best way they'll listen? What you buy, and what you pass by. Choose recycled products over polluting ones!
What should I look for?
Find labels and product descriptions that say "made with recycled content" or "post-consumer content."
"Post-consumer" means that the recycled material used in your product came from recycling bins like yours. This is the gold standard of recycled content!
Is it easy to find recycled products?
Yes! Buying recycled is easy. In fact, recycled products are all around you. A lot of products you already purchase can be swapped for recycled versions. Check out the website BuyRecycledNow for some great resources, including A Shopper´s Guide To Buying Recycled and where to find recycled products.
Whether you're shopping at your local store or online, you're bound to find something recycled. Especially online, you'll find a huge array of choices to fit practically every need. From food, cleaning, and personal care products all the way to clothes and exercise mats!
Are recycled products cheaper?
Sometimes! Just like anything else, recycled products span a wide range of price points. Some are cheaper, some are about the same as their non-recycled equivalents, and some are more expensive. Lots of recycled products are durable and made to last, giving you more value for your dollars.
Recycled content isn't usually a main driver of price. Many companies that use recycled content are also looking at the sustainability of their product as a whole. The quality of ingredients, how they're sourced, and whether the brand is going for an upscale look will all lead to a more expensive product.
Plus, remember the old mantra: reduce, reuse, recycle. Buying recycled isn't about buying more. It's about buying smart. Sustainable shopping is being conscious about what you do and don't need in your cart.
But what about when they aren't cheaper?
When you shop, shop your values. Not every sustainable product is going to be the same or cheaper than its polluting equivalent. Some sellers do unfortunately mark up sustainable products.
That's where we come in – when we buy recycled now, we can make it the norm, bringing down the price for everyone.
Just like we demanded organic, we can demand recycled content, too. Think of organic fruits and veggies. They used to be hard to find and beyond most budgets.
But people bought them. So, more companies started producing them and they became more widely available at lower prices. By now, many grocery stores carry a selection of organic foods and they are getting more affordable over time. It's a huge win. We can do the same for recycled products!
Can my recycled product be recycled again?
The short answer is yes. Recycled plastic can absolutely be recycled again. So can recycled glass, metals, and paper.
Whether a specific product is recyclable depends on what it is and where you are. This is true of any item, regardless of whether or not it contains recycled content. Here are some general tips:
- If you have a recycled package that your local recycling system accepts – like a bottle or container – absolutely, put it in your recycling bin so it can be remade again and again.
- If you have furniture, clothing, toys, or anything that wouldn't typically go in your regular recycling bin, try to sell or donate it so someone else can enjoy it.
- If the item is damaged or can't be given away, you can probably recycle it through other programs. Call the company you bought it from to see if they will take it back for recycling or look for specialty recycling programs for that item near you.
Take the challenge!
People across the country are taking up the call to choose recycled products when they shop.
Have you bought a recycled item? Have you found a recycled product at the store?
Snap a photo with it and tag us with the #BuyRecycledNow hashtag for a chance to be featured on the Buy Recycled photo gallery. Check out the photo gallery to see it for yourself.
Join the challenge!
Disclaimer: Guest blogs represent the opinion of the writers and may not reflect the policy or position of the Northeast Recycling Council, Inc.