Throughout the 1990s and into the early 21st century, recycling bins became a more and more common sight on British streets. Along with fuel-efficient cars and the never-ending hunt for cheap electricity, recycling bins are a symbol of a more environmentally-conscious age. If you want to save money with your energy provider, Ovo Energy is a good option and they operate across Britain. But not everyone has faith in the benefits of recycling. Myths about what happens to your bottles and cans when they’re taken away are common; some contain a grain of truth, but many are simply folklore. Here are a few of the most common.
“Collecting recycling wastes more energy than it saves, you know.”
This myth is commonly-heard, possibly because it gives the person repeating it the air of a wise cynic, someone who perceives the waste that governments have somehow failed to notice themselves. In fact, this belief rests on a false foundation – while collecting recyclables does use up energy and generate pollution, the alternative would be to collect recyclable items with the rubbish. The energy use and pollution would happen either way, a fact that the people who repeat this myth tend to ignore.
“Turning recycled waste into new products is less energy-efficient than manufacturing new ones.”
Many recycling myths have some origin in a misunderstanding or distortion of the statistics, but this one is just plain wrong. In fact, using recycled waste to make new plastic, glass and metal products is much more energy-efficient than using new raw materials. Creating products from new raw materials uses more than twice as much energy as using recycled materials, making recycling a much more effective method of creating new products.
“Hand sorting recyclables is unnecessary.”
Of all the common recycling myths, this one has the most truth at its core. Many commercial recycling firms are “single-stream” recyclers, taking all recyclable materials together. These are then separated not by hand but by machine. Some people resent having to sort their own recyclables, given that recycling companies seem to be able to do it themselves. However, this myth does seem to exaggerate the difficulty of sorting recyclables. Critics always seem to rephrase it as “rooting through the bins,” but the whole point is that recycled items don’t go in the bin in the first place.
“Recycled products are never as good.”
When the first recycled paper began to appear on the market, this myth might have been true. Writing paper made from recycled products was coarse, dark and fragile, making it inadequate for most purposes. However, modern recycled products are indistinguishable from their non-recycled counterparts. Bottles, plastic containers, paper products and more all contain recycled material, whether recycled from industrial waste (which is the case with many paper products) or from post-consumer waste.
“Recycled waste just goes to the landfill anyway.”
There have been a few high-profile cases of recycled waste being sent to landfill rather than recycled. When these occur, they attract a lot of attention, creating the impression that this practice is common. Fortunately, this is not the case for most recycled waste, partly because it was never common in the first place and partly because high-profile cases have caused the government to tighten the regulations. According to Recycle for London, only 3% of waste marked for recycling in London goes to landfill. In most cases, this is because non-recyclable waste has been mistakenly included in a recycling bin.
All these myths tend to downplay the effectiveness of recycling, but even when they’re based on fact they exaggerate or distort reality. The truth of the matter is that, for all its faults, recycling saves energy, reduces landfill use and helps the environment.