Friday, 30 July 2010

The crate escape

Recycling stuff the world is done with: good. Upcycling stuff the world is done with: even better. When you can reuse instead of recycle, you're doing the earth a favour by saving energy that's otherwise swallowed up in transporting materials to and from recycling facilities (many of which are literally on the other side of the globe) and by saving the energy that's required to melt down a can or a bottle (we're talking high temps here, peeps).

So don't be too quick to recycle if you can at all upcycle instead. Containers are always a great place to start - a metal can becomes a planter, a crate becomes a shelf, and so on. But there's a worrying trend reported in the Wall Street Journal article "The Great Crate Crackdown". Companies that use plastic crates in great numbers (like Coca-Cola, Rite-Aid and Sara Lee) have noticed huge thefts of their plastic delivery containers. Thieves are apparently selling these to recycling plants to grab themselves some free money (the crate itself is worth $3 to $10 when new; a pound of recycled plastics can be sold to manufacturers for 15 cents pound). But at what needless cost to the environment? These hunter gatherers are taking objects whose use is not yet exhausted, so there's not much virtue in recycling of this kind.

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