Recycling is the third step that should be resorted to when deciding what to do with an item that no longer has initial use. After reduce and reuse, recycling is the option that takes the item out of your home and into a factory.
Certain items are ideal for recycling because they can be remade into new products that are of the same (or very close to it) quality. Other materials have little benefit when it comes to recycling because the quality of the ‘new’ material will be so poor it will not be useful for many things.
Paper is one of the materials that are beneficial to recycle. When paper is broken down and recycled into new paper products, it is of the same quality. It may not always be turned into a material of equal quality, such as recycled content toilet paper or paper towels, but it has the capability to be turned back into usable paper.
Glass and metal can also be turned into new products of equal (or greater) quality than the original product. It is hard to know the portion of recycled glass or metal in the things that you buy, because unlike plastic and paper, manufacturers do not currently advertise the level of recycled content in packaging made of glass or metal. However, these two materials are the second easiest to recycle, as well as being the sturdiest materials that can be recycled.
Plastic, in contrast, is one of the materials that cannot be turned into a new product of equal quality. It is instead turned into a lesser quality product, such as fake lumber, which is not technically recycling. When an object loses its quality and cannot be remade into what it was originally, it is considered down-cycling instead.
It is for this reason that despite being able to recycle plastic, it is more beneficial to the planet to just avoid it whenever possible. Recycling is better that simply dumping it in the trash. So if you do end up with some plastic, metal, glass or paper that you have no reusable purpose for, recycling is a viable option.
The less packaging and products that end up in the landfills, the better. Remember that recycling is the third in importance from all of the three R’s and therefore it should be the option you consider third. Support the recycling business by purchasing items that are made of post-consumer recycled content. This will keep the process running full circle, which will benefit both you and the environment.