Is Recycling Worth the Effort?

by blackspanielgallery

Recycling is worth the effort, in general. However, like most things, we must approach recycling with thought.

A recent story in the news made me reflect on the question, is recycling worth the effort? First, worth in this case has two meanings. One is economic, the other is the value to the environment. I am more concerned with the second of these than the first.

So, what could give reason to pause and reflect? Apparently, in some places recycling has become so popular that the items collected for recycling have exceeded the demand, and the result is large piles of material that is not being used as intended. Even so, there is a value to the landfill issue. Landfills are becoming overfilled. But the new piles are themselves akin to landfills.

Thinking deeper should have us arrive at the conclusion it is not time to abandon the idea of recycling. This is especially true of resources that cannot be renewed.

Another reason to continue recycling is there is no indication the problem of too much recycling is global. It may be localized, and probably is. Continue reading to find the details we need to know, but we may never be able to ascertain.

Location Is Important

If a stockpile of plastic exists in the heart of Canada, and the plant needing plastic is in Germany, the cost both economically and environmentally may be prohibitive.  However, it the plastic need be transported just a few miles it might be valuable, and recycling the plastic can make an impact.  So, where is the recycled material being sent?  That is something we are not likely to ever learn.

Material Is Important

Another important factor in recycling is to consider just what is being collected.  In my area the local government picks up items to be recycled once a week.  The items accepted are aluminum, tin, plastic, and paper.  Not among the items picked up is glass, possibly as a safety issue.


The items are all placed in a bin, and a truck comes by to collect the items.  So, some sorting is necessary later.


Aluminum is nonferrous, which means it does not have much of a magnetic characteristic.  But large magnets can move the aluminum from the other items due to its weak magnetic characteristics.  The sorting of paper and plastic is probably done by hand. 


Aluminum is a metal found in the Earth.  Once it is all used there will be no more.  Oh, a small amount will come up in volcanic eruptions, but this resource is nonrenewable.  If the mines cease to produce aluminum, we may be forced to mine landfills.


Paper comes from trees, and if the trees are harvested with reforestation as part of the operation the damage to the environment may be minimal.  Paper is a renewable resource, so finding paper piling up might be less important than stockpiling aluminum.


The point is that if there is a glut of recycle material it may be for some items, and not others.  Furthermore, nonrenewable resources have a high chance of eventually being used.



Reusing items through recycling often involves some energy usage, albeit less energy usage than one might need to work with raw materials.  In addition, landfills benefit from recycling.  But the best recycling is repurposing.


Repurposing means to find another use for the item with no or little energy usage.  For example, the eggs we buy come in plastic cartons.  Each carton holds two dozen eggs.  If one were to plant seeds for a vegetable garden these egg cartons would make excellent seed starters if filled with soil.  On a larger scale, composting is a great form of repurposing.


Many items have a multitude of uses.  People harvest boards, doors, and even doorknobs from old homes that are being demolished or renovated.  There is a demand for such items, and antique shops are willing to stock them.  The boards from an old barn might find a new use as a fence.  Old bricks from a fireplace might become pavers.


Old toys and old tools often find a second use, even of they are no longer functional, as décor in restaurants.  It is not uncommon to see old items displayed.  In some restaurants old bottles and old signs are on display.


Repurposing is not always really simple.  Old boards, and even some old toys, might have a lead-based paint.  In fact, old toy soldiers from the fifties were often made of lead.  We must be aware of dangers that were unknown when the items were made but have been found to exist since.

Extreme Approaches Are Often Problematic

As with many other things, recycling is important.  Having typed that I must add we are responsible for thinking, and we must be willing to alter out actions if a problem exists.  Extreme decisions are often made devoid of thought.  Our goal is to preserve the Earth, and if something is not being used, but energy spent in collecting it, we must be willing to minimize our carbon footprint, even if it defies what we were given as a general rule.  Always think!


Rest assured that if items are stockpiling in your area the economics of collecting a low or no demand item will cause the government to cease collecting that item.  If it is being collected, it probably is being used.


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The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

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Avoidance of Problems

In some cases, we can eliminate the question altogether by eliminating waste.  For example, bringing a reusable bag to the store when buying groceries can eliminate plastic or paper bags.  This saves not only the resources used in making the plastic and paper bags, but the energy in producing these items.  And, this relieves pressure on landfills.



The examples used are representative.  Many more possibilities of making an impact exist.


This article contains links to affiliate programs and Adsense advertising.  These must use cookies to allow for proper crediting. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


The introduction image is of our own Zazzle product,

Updated: 03/25/2019, blackspanielgallery
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blackspanielgallery on 04/02/2019

There was a drop off center, and I believe it is still there. selling to scrap metal companies is difficult because crooks began recycling copper from air conditioner units, and even electrical wiring from incompleted homes while they were under construction. In fact, my ground wire was pulled from my house even though it is occupied.

DerdriuMarriner on 04/02/2019

blackspanielgallery, Thank you for the practicalities and products. Is the only way of recycling where you are by private or public collection of set-out bins? Or is there a network of drop-off recycling centers where one may or may not get paid, for instance, by number of cans or weight of paper?

frankbeswick on 03/26/2019

We have Costco over here as well.

blackspanielgallery on 03/26/2019

Here most are cardboard, and a few Styrofoam, or something close to it. But I get eggs at a large warehouse store called Costco. They use transparent plastic, which makes viewing easy to avoid getting cracked eggs. They recycle, but reuse is better, And the eggs are caged-free eggs, which is better for the chickens.

frankbeswick on 03/26/2019

In the UK egg cartons are made of a kind of cardboard/pressed paper, so they re easily re-used/recycled.

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