Friday, December 31, 2010
A word about recycled plastic. “no deposit no return”.
Plastic is very seldom recycled it is either down-cycled or up-cycled. Confused? Up-cycling means making something more useful from trash like fleece from PET bottles. Down-cycling converts waste into something useful but less functional, like shampoo bottles into shipping pallets, into boards like this piece. Once the down-up has happened that’s the end of the line— a slight detour in a straight line toward the trash. No chasing arrows. Recycling means used over again for a similar purpose—an aluminum can becomes an aluminum can; a glass bottle becomes a glass bottle.
Feeling "green washed?" Just when you were feeling so virtuous tossing that plastic water bottle in the proper bin, you find out that the container industry has been hard at it putting the onus on the consumer—for years, instead of taking responsibility at the source, billions of bottles are spewing out. That terrible packaging for a new case for your phone, oy veh! The container industry has resisted putting a return tax, or bottle deposits and has actively moved to defeat bill after bill. Remember “no deposit no return.” The true costs of plastic are never fig'ered into the equation. But what happens next?
Cradle to Cradle http://epea-hamburg.org/
This is the most sustainable concept yet devised—make stuff in closed loops, feeding the natural cycle and the techno cycle. The natural cycle is about composting, converting "waste" to food or soil. The techno cycle is about true recycling—that a can becomes a can again idea. Creating plastic that can have several lives as the same thing. The sole of a flip-flop becomes a new sole.
And still, picking up a four pound piece of plastic and carrying it home feels like a tiny virtue. And telling about It, feels like a breath of sanity.