Buy Locally - Eat Locally - But Recycle Globally? Video Explores Impact of Exporting or Landfilling Recyclables

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"Point of Return," a 17-minute video produced by the Northern California Recycling Association, explains what happens to the recyclables we collect and how we lose economic and environmental benefits when those materials are landfilled or exported. American cities have a great deal to gain by recycling more material closer to home. While many Americans recognize the value of buying from local shopkeepers and eating produce grown by local farmers, they often don't realize that reusing and recycling materials locally is also important for many of the same environmental and economic reasons.

Americans want to recycle, but the reality is that recycling is really an industrial activity, just like any other kind of manufacturing, and we need to make space for it. If we plan for this kind of sustainable infrastructure, we will reap major economic and environmental benefits in the future

"Point of Return," a 17-minute video produced by the Northern California Recycling Association (NCRA), explains what happens to the recyclables that we collect and how our communities - and our economy -- lose out on important benefits when those materials are landfilled, or sent hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Many Americans are recognizing the value of buying from local shopkeepers and eating produce grown by local farmers, keeping their dollars in the region and significantly reducing fuel use and transportation cost. Reusing and recycling materials locally is also important for many of the same environmental and economic reasons, yet many communities are exporting these benefits overseas, along with their recycled paper, plastics, and metals, or burying them in far-off landfills.

"We have so much to gain by keeping our recyclables closer to home and out of the ground," says Steve Lautze, Green Business Projects Manager with the City of Oakland, CA and past president of NCRA.

In recent months, many recycling collectors have had trouble getting orders for recyclable commodities from overseas buyers, due to a slumping global economy. If these materials were managed locally instead, communities could reap significant environmental and economic benefits, including significant transportation savings and more green-collar jobs.

But many communities around the U.S. have failed, for example, to create regional compost facilities that can recycle yard waste and food scraps into valuable soil amendments, displacing petroleum-based fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. Similarly, construction materials recycling facilities can turn torn-up pavement into materials for new construction. But such vital facilities are often difficult to site due to scarcity of industrial land or Not In My Back Yard, aka "NIMBY" syndrome.

"Americans want to recycle, but the reality is that recycling is really an industrial activity, just like any other kind of manufacturing, and we need to make space for it. If we plan for this kind of sustainable infrastructure, we will reap major economic and environmental benefits in the future," says Lautze.

The "Point of Return" video asks viewers to consider whether it makes more sense to use an item once, whether for five minutes or for five years, then to (1) bury it in a big hole or (2) recycle it by shipping it half-way around the world, where its processed into a new product and sold back to us as something else, or (3) to expand recycling facilities locally in our own economy.

"People care about jobs. They care about the environment. But they don't often see them as the same problem. And they are," says Patty Moore, president of Moore Recycling Associates and a member of the Northern California Recycling Association. "When we fully integrate recycling into our local economies, we create jobs and protect the environment, solving two problems at once."

To learn more, watch the video online at http://www.ncrarecycles.org/video/video3.html.

About the Northern California Recycling Association
The Northern California Recycling Association (NCRA) is an association of recycling businesses, community groups, municipalities, and individuals committed to promoting, expanding, and institutionalizing recycling. NCRA promotes waste reduction, reuse, salvaging, recycling, and composting as vital tools for resource and energy conservation, and as cost-effective, environmentally sound methods of disposing of discarded materials. Learn more at http://www.ncrarecycles.org.

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