A reaction towards NY Times article “The Reign of Recycling,” by John Tierney
While we continue to be one of the most wasteful societies, pockets of Recycling have existed for as long as we can remember—through wartime and Industrialization, to early human civilization, people turned to recycling and reusing. Even Plato himself advocated for recycling.
In recent years, the recycling mindset and innovative product development using recycled materials has resulted from a global conversation about climate change and the protection of natural resources. However, some believe that recycling only compensates for a small amount of waste in an otherwise wasteful society, and view it as an otherwise a futile attempt to make a difference in the world and confront climate change. John Tierney’s NY Times article, “The Reign of Recycling”, suggests just this, while missing the bigger point behind why recycling has developed into a field in itself, and how it actually DOES create an impact on both an individual and societal scale.
We have seen vast changes in the packaging industry and heightened consumer acceptance of recycled content and recyclable materials. Plastic supermarket bags, newspapers, coffee to-go cups, and glassware are some everyday items that today are often made from recycled materials. An entire sustainable design sector has developed, championing furniture and textiles made from recycled materials and produced in a way that reduces environmental impact. The eco-educated younger generation has also joined the recycling conversation and proved most inclined towards promoting sustainable ideals. The use of clothing swaps and thrift and vintage shopping has become more popular. Farmer’s markets promote reusing produce containers and reducing paper and plastic consumption. Cafés and restaurants compost their waste, and the comprehensive list of recyclable materials has expanded. Thus, the act of recycling has gone beyond sorting bottles and cans, but it is the sorting of cans that is a daily reminder that other forms of recycling are possible.
At In2green, we "up-cycle" or bring higher and better uses to discarded materials, knitting our textiles with recycled cotton made from t-shirt clipping waste that would otherwise have gone into landfills. We have also most recently developed the first domestically knit throw blanket made exclusively out of post consumer plastic bottles (aka recycled polyester). Our interest in this field was born out of a commitment to spark a new conversation, add more recycled content to products, and ultimately create a shift in consumer behavior. Today, our customers see value in our items that are made locally and sustainably, while still maintaining a high level of design concept.
What the green building community has accomplished with recycled materials and what consumer product developers like us can offer in up-cycled products is extraordinary. Every little bit DOES make a difference, and can help society move towards healthier living for all. We agree that this NY Times article does little to help advance the conversation.
See Stefanie Zeldin, Co-Founder In2green’s letter to NY Times Letter to the Editor
*Another response on the recycling and landfill aspects: