If you recycle, there is a thought that has probably crossed your mind: “I’m going to recycle as much as I can because recycling is helpful for the environment!” It is true that recycling is helpful for the environment, BUT (you knew there was a but coming, right?) just like in sports, there are rules that should be followed for it to be successful. The main thing people do not realize about recycled materials is that, like with most things, it comes down to money and profit.
While a lot of people recycle to help reduce waste and help the environment, recycling companies actually do it as a way to make money. Recycling companies used to have a high demand for the recycled materials they collected, but as the demand for recycled materials decreases in other countries, the need for cleaner recycled materials is grows. If the correct, clean materials are not recycled, then they are not purchased. If the recycled goods are not being purchased then recycling companies do not make a profit, and if they do not make a profit, recycling could go away all together. Basically, now that there is a lot of recycled materials to choose from, buyers want to make sure they are getting the cleanest materials and the correct materials. This is why it is important for each person – that’s right…you and me – to stop the problem at the source and make sure we are all recycling the correct things.
If you are unsure if something is recyclable or not, with technology today, it is easier than ever to find out! You can check out what to recycle for your locality using the askHRgreen.org Recycling and Disposal Guide. Here at HRSD, Waste Management collects our recycling, and their web page has good information and is user-friendly. To make it even easier, Waste Management has three simple rules everyone can use:
- Recycle clean bottles, cans, paper, and cardboard.
- Keep food and liquid out of your recycling.
- No loose plastic bags AND do not dispose of your recyclables in a plastic bag.
I have heard numerous people say they are trying to do good by recycling as much as they can, but that could end up hurting the recycling industry in the long run. It can be difficult to learn to do things in a different way, but it can be done! Learning how to recycle right is the first step towards ensuring the recycling industry sticks around, which will enable us to continue to help the environment.
Paul Singer, “Recycling Is in Trouble – And It Might Be Your Fault,” USA Today, April 28, 2017,
“Recycle Right,” Waste Management, 2020,
Blog contributed by Lisa Bolen, Public Information Specialist with HRSD.