Sustainable Recycling

Toner Recycling Service and Solutions
Sustainable Recycling
Sustainable Recycling

Recycling involves processing used materials (waste) into new products to prevent waste of potentially useful materials, reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, reduce energy usage, reduce air pollution (from incineration) and water pollution (from land filling) by reducing the need for “conventional” waste disposal, and lower greenhouse gas emissions as compared to virgin production. Recycling is a key component of modern waste reduction and is the third component of the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” waste hierarchy.

Recyclable materials include many kinds of glass, paper, metal, plastic, textiles, and electronics. Although similar in effect, the composting or other reuse of biodegradable waste – such as food or garden waste – is not typically considered recycling. Materials to be recycled are either brought to a collection center or picked up from the curbside, then sorted, cleaned, and reprocessed into new materials bound for manufacturing.

In a strict sense, recycling of a material would produce a fresh supply of the same material—for example, used office paper would be converted into new office paper, or used foamed polystyrene into new polystyrene. However, this is often difficult or too expensive (compared with producing the same product from raw materials or other sources), so “recycling” of many products or materials involves their reuse in producing different materials (e.g., paperboard) instead. Another form of recycling is the salvage of certain materials from complex products, either due to their intrinsic value (e.g., lead from car batteries, or gold from computer components), or due to their hazardous nature (e.g., removal and reuse of mercury from various items). Critics dispute the net economic and environmental benefits of recycling over its costs, and suggest that proponents of recycling often make matters worse and suffer from confirmation bias. Specifically, critics argue that the costs and energy used in collection and transportation detract from (and outweigh) the costs and energy saved in the production process; also that the jobs produced by the recycling industry can be a poor trade for the jobs lost in logging, mining, and other industries associated with virgin production; and that materials such as paper pulp can only be recycled a few times before material degradation prevents further recycling. Proponents of recycling dispute each of these claims, and the validity of arguments from both sides has led to enduring controversy.

LEED vs. Green Globes

LEED and the Green Globes System are competing environmental assessment methodologies that score buildings and award a raking. These green building rating systems consist of a large set of questions relating to water efficiency, energy usage, construction materials, indoor air quality and the building site. Questions have different scoring weights and the points awarded may have little to do with the difficulty in achieving them — therefore these systems are subject to manipulation and optimization by the builder.

Despite the potential to become little more than a marketing tool like ENERGY STAR (at one point 95% of all dishwashers qualified and flat screen TV’s were only tested when powered off (standby)), these systems do force builders to think about buildings as systems and to consider the entire lifecycle. Issues like the choice of building materials, disposal of construction waste, site drainage, pest management etc. are normally considered only from the perspective of cost so any system that encourages good corporate behavior in return for a marketing advantage is good.

There is considerable overlap in these methodologies (around 80%) which is to be expected. While both promote sustainability and achieve similar rankings, they emphasize different areas of sustainability and have their own strengths and flaws.

There is a move underway to incorporate environmental assessment rating systems into federal and state law so that new government buildings would have to meet a minimum certification standard, perhaps two globes or LEED silver. This is an excellent idea if implemented in an “agnostic” way; i.e. demanding new construction to be in basic compliance with any credible and accepted green building standard. It is a bad idea if proprietary methods are enshrined into law to the exclusion of others for the benefit of industry groups that lobby government.

A good analogy would be lobbying to enact laws to have the weight watchers points system mandatory on the menus of all school lunch programs under the guise of improving student health when the real motive was having a captive market for selling food rating consulting services and the forced licensure of the trademark to school lunch suppliers.

The ideal system would be open standards based, easy to use and inexpensive. The USGBC is actively lobbying state legislatures to adopt LEED and exclude competing systems. Meanwhile Green Globe is gaining international support, is inexpensive, easy to use and is becoming an ANSI standard.

Here are some relevant links:
Green Globes is maintained by the Green Building Initiative

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Saving the Environment – Sustainable Recycling