Choose recycled over recyclable. What’s the difference you may ask? Well a lot when you think about it.
In simple terms, something that is made from recycled materials means the materials have been reused and have already has a previous life.
Something that is recyclable means it could go on to have a new life after you have finished with it, but it hasn’t yet, which means it is usually made from virgin materials.
If you can’t find what you are looking for made from recycled materials, make sure the materials are easily recyclable. If the product is made from a combination of materials, make sure each of the item can easily be dismantled so the individual materials can in fact be recycled at the end of the its life.
Take this vitamin bottle for example. Once the contents is finished there are four different materials that need to be dealt with. The lid is made from #5 Polypropylene plastic, inside the lid there is some sort of waxed card, the bottle is made from #4 Low Density Polyethylenel plastic and there is also a silica sachet to get rid of.
A lot of our everyday plastics are derived from virgin crude oil (which is mostly drilled out of the sea bed) Most of our milk containers, soft drink bottles, and bread bags are made from virgin plastic rather than reused materials.
Other things such as polar fleece fabric, some plastic toys and carpet can be made from recycled milk and drink bottles.
Check out these park benches made from recycled milk bottles, made right here in Wellington.
Or this tug boat from Green toys made from milk bottles.
I also love this tug boat, because it can easily be pulled apart and cleaned on the inside. But you can get trucks cars and tea sets. We bought ours from Moore Wilsons in Wellington.
And a shameless plug for my interiors business, our lampshades are partly constructed from 30% recycled plastic.
We can also do outdoor rugs made from recycled bottles like this one.
When choosing products to buy, make sure you differentiate between the two. I have often had a sales pitch or read product marketing that makes a big song and dance about something being environmentally friendly because it is recyclable at the end of its life.
Yes we have come some way from just throwing things straight into the landfill at the end of its life but we need to go much further. Choose a product that has been made from materials that have already had a previous life: recycled. Or even upcycled, but that’s for another post for another day.