As more businesses are investing in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) strategies to minimize their carbon footprint and contribute to sustainable development. Recycling is often placed into the low-hanging fruit, easy-peasy category of any sustainability strategy, yet most find that it is not as simple as placing a blue bin out in the hallway or under the desk and expecting success.
Recycling is vital in reducing waste, conserving resources, and progressing your journey to net zero. However, there are many misconceptions surrounding recycling that can hinder its effectiveness. As we often tell folks ‘Recycling is complex, but not complicated’.Recycling is often touted as the quick and easy solution to reducing waste and saving the environment. But as with many things, the reality is more complicated than that. There are plenty of misconceptions surrounding recycling that can hinder its effectiveness. Don’t worry though, we’re here to set the record straight and help you make the most of your corporate recycling efforts!
Is Recycling a Myth?
Recycling has been around for centuries. In ancient times, metal and glass were melted down and reused, while in the Middle Ages, paper was recycled by soaking it in water and then using it to create new sheets*. Fast forward to modern times where the recycling movement only really began to come back into focus in the 1970s, when concerns about the environment and resource scarcity started to grow.
Recycling is often seen as a cure-all for our environmental problems. People believe that by tossing their waste willy-nilly into a recycling bin, it will magically disappear and be transformed into something new. However, the reality is much more complex. Recycling is a process that requires energy, resources, and careful planning.
Despite this, recycling does have many benefits. It conserves natural resources, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and saves energy. For example, recycling one ton of paper saves 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water, and 4,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity. **
1. Recycling is too expensive
Let’s debunk the myth that recycling is too expensive. While some businesses may shy away from recycling due to perceived high costs, the reality is that recycling can actually be more cost-effective than landfill disposal. Plus, recycling can even generate revenue through the sale of recycled materials like cardboard and aluminum- these materials are desirable commodities for many industries.
2. Everything can be recycled
While many materials can be recycled, not everything can. Contaminated materials, such as pizza boxes with grease stains, cannot be recycled and can actually harm the recycling process. Composite materials containing one or more plastic resins plus other materials are usually a no-go at many Recycling facilities. Educating your employees on what can and cannot be recycled gives them the agency to make decisions at the waste basket.
3. Recycling is always better than disposal
While recycling is a better option than disposal in a landfill, it is not always the most sustainable option. Reusing materials or reducing consumption can be a more effective means of conserving resources. This mindset also leads to folks tossing non-recyclable materials into their recycling bin, which at best causes delays in recycling and at worse can be dangerous; please do not put propane tanks or lithium batteries in your recycling- these are the #1 cause of fires at recycling facilities worldwide.***
4. Recycling is the sole responsibility of the consumer
While consumers play an important role in recycling, businesses also have a responsibility to implement effective recycling programs from procurement choices to packaging design. This includes educating employees, providing recycling bins, and ensuring proper disposal of hazardous materials.
5. Recycling is one time fix
Recycling is an ongoing process that requires continuous investment and improvement. It is not a one-time fix but a long-term solution to reduce waste and conserve resources. Ambitious corporations should take deliberate steps to ensure they are recycling in tandem with other sustainable practices.
How to Make The Most of Your Recycling Efforts
So, how can you make the most of your corporate recycling efforts? That’s where Okapi Environmental Services comes in. We’re experts in providing customized materials management solutions for businesses, beyond waste audits and employee education. We work with you to establish goals and objectives and track progress through regular reporting via our online Ecovisor dashboard. We can accelerate your pace to ESG progress and help you achieve peak sustainability performance.
Our process begins with an initial consultation to understand your organization’s goals and objectives. We will then conduct a waste audit to identify the types and quantities of waste generated by your business. Based on our findings, we will develop a customized recycling program that includes education and training for employees, as well as the implementation of recycling bins and other infrastructure. We can even broker with area recovery companies for those hard-to-recycle materials your facilities may generate.