Category Archives: Recycling

Does recycling actually conserve or preserve things?

By Samantha MacBride There are a series of assumptions behind the familiar assertion that recycling saves resources and energy, and in so doing, protects the environment. These assumptions are in the motto, “recycling saves trees.” With recycling  – one assumes – used materials stand in for raw materials. This way, recycled content cuts down on […]
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What the world misses about recycling

Recycling was never just a solution to a disposal crisis, and it did not uniformly reduce total waste management costs. Rather, it addresses a range of other concerns which are equally valid but nearly impossible to quantify.

Resources for Observing and Understanding America Recycles Day

Wednesday is America Recycles Day. It’s a day that reveals the complex history of industry, consumer, and social attitudes towards the environment.

Moving the Circular Economy Beyond Alchemy

This review of a special issue of the Journal of Industrial Ecology titled, “Exploring the Circular Economy” is a virtual tour of circular economy definitions and current directions. The authors discuss and derive new definitions of “circularity.” They cover fundamental determinants of material lifespan, such as economic demand, thermodynamics, product design, and durability.

Examining Waste as an Economic Externality

In an economic sense, it is usually municipal and state governments that account for the cost of damage waste causes to local environments when deciding how to deal with waste, but this cost is not already part of the price of goods or services that produce waste. Economists define this problem as a negative externality.

We can’t recycle our way to ‘zero waste’

Why is recycling low on the waste hierarchy?

Recycling Reconsidered: A must-read text for discard studies

If I could only recommend one text in discard studies, it would be Recycling Reconsidered by Samantha MacBride (2011, MIT Press).

“Viewed as a concept by some, a framework by others, the CE is an alternative to a traditional take-make-dispose linear economy. A CE aims to keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value at all times. The value is maintained or extracted though extension of product lifetimes by reuse, refurbishment, and remanufacturing as well as closing of resource cycles—through recycling and related strategies.”

Electronics Reuse and Recycling in Peru: A Photographic exploration

A walk down this little street in Peru’s capital provides a glimpse into an understated network that quietly plays a critical role in reducing the environmental impacts of our global production and consumption patterns of electronic devices.

The Politics of Recycling vs. Reusing

Calling reuse “recycling” a common and seemingly simple mistake, yet it is extremely important to differentiate between the two for political and environmental reasons.