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Recycling Facts: Does Recycling Cause Pollution?

July 1, 2019

Confused about recycling and e-waste disposal? Get your recycling facts straight with the 5 W’s of Recycling. 


Recycling is deceptively complicated. On the surface, it’s simple. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. However, in practice, there are a lot of moving parts that need to be streamlined to see real results and motivate change.

There is also a lot of misinformation out there. For example, did you know that recycling certain plastics can actually cause more pollution and harm than good?

Developing a deeper understanding of waste and where it ends up is essential as a responsible consumer and as a human being. Turns out, recycling takes a bit more than tossing items in your blue bin. Gathering all the information you can about the 5 W’s of Recycling (Who, What, Where, When, Why) will not only set you up for success but it will have a profound impact on our environment.  Thankfully, we’ve written this blog post for you so all the hard work is pretty much done.

In this post you’ll get:

  • Tips on how to be a more responsible recycler
  • A breakdown on the 5 W’s of Recycling
  • Tons of recycling facts to help inform your decisions
  • An understanding of what aspirational recycling is and how to avoid it

Want to start earning funds for your organization simply by recycling your e-waste and inkjet cartridges? Set up your free recycling account with us today and start earning right away

Recycling Facts: Does Recycling Cause Pollution?

Does Recycling Cause Pollution?

First things first, does recycling really cause pollution?

The short answer is, yes it can.

How many times have you been standing over your recycling bin with something in your hand contemplating whether or not it was recyclable or not? We’ve all been there. The problem isn’t that most people don’t know what to recycle versus what not to. The problem is that most people will recycle it regardless – even the best-intentioned people.

Another issue is that once an item that is not generally recyclable hits the blue bin, it can potentially contaminate all the other items in that batch. This means, even if you are the most diligent recycler your recycling could end up in a landfill anyway.

“It’s amazing what people put in recycling bins. Dirty diapers. Broken crockery. Old garden hoses. Some of the worst offenders are old batteries.”

“People are engaged in wish recycling,” Mark Oldfield, public affairs director at CalRecycle, told the LA Times. “They think: ‘This should be recycled. I’m going to put it in the bin.’”

“It’s amazing what people put in recycling bins,” Oldfield continues. “Dirty diapers. Broken crockery. Old garden hoses. Some of the worst offenders are old batteries.”

Recycling facts show that some recycling can cause pollution, especially if a recycling center doesn’t take important precautions. It’s one of the reasons Planet Green Recycle specifically works with E-Stewards and R2-Certified recycling partners to ensure that recycling is done safely. E-Stewards provides the highest e-waste recycling certification across the globe. Responsible Recycling Practices (R2) is a known accreditation standard.

Recycling Vs. New Manufacturing

Admittedly, recycling does have a footprint.  Every machine creates some level of pollution. However, manufacturing creates much higher levels of pollution.  For example, recycling and purchasing remanufactured inkjet cartridges help keep 400,000 tons of metal and plastic out of landfills every year. You need three pounds of resources to make one new ink cartridge. The recycling footprint is definitely smaller than the footprint of new manufacturing.


Recycling Paper

When it comes to recycling paper, paper sludge does take a toll on the environment, but we’re starting to see society make a shift to non-paper products. Statistics show that the environmental impact of only 10 million pages is 56,000 gallons of oil and 2,500 trees, not to mention the energy used and the landfill space taken up. From introducing the Kindle to creating email, we’ve taken some big steps to move away from using paper. Paperless banking, online magazines, and online newspapers offer even more ways to reduce paper use.

Recycling Plastics

Recycling facts show that many common goods use plastics that can’t be recycled, such as k-cups, which use plastic #7.

In 2013 alone, Green Mountain made enough k-cups to wrap around the world 10.5 times. We proudly recycle 100% of the plastic used in inkjet cartridges, producing remanufactured inkjet cartridges that are as reliable as the originals.

 The 5 W’s of Recycling

Surely you’re familiar with the three R’s of recycling (reduce, reuse, recycle) but have you heard of the 5 W’s? Before you push forward with your existing recycling efforts, consider the who, what, where, when, and why behind them. You maximize your recycling efforts and engage in end-to-end recycling solutions when you ask the following:

Who is impacted by your recycling/lack of recycling?

Ask yourself who is impacted by your recycling decisions (or lack thereof). Despite even the best intentions, not all recycling ends up where you think and it can have serious health and safety implications.

What kinds of materials can or can’t be recycled?

It’s important to also know what kinds of materials can or can’t be recycled. Since it varies from state to state and city to city, start by looking up the recycling program in your municipality

Where will these items end up?

It’s so important to know where your recyclable items will end up. Just because you place something in a blue bin doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Look up the recycling program in your city and what they don’t accept, try to find a recycling plant or program that will.

When is the best time to recycle?

The best time to recycle is yesterday. Since we don’t have time machine right now works, too. It’s never a bad time to implement a new recycling program or practice. Just know your stuff going in and you’ll be on the right path.

Why does recycling your items truly matter?

Recycle for the right reasons. Recycling is cool but don’t just do it for that reason. With recycling, it’s all about strength in numbers. Know your why and you’ll attract others with the same motives. If you’re disingenuous that will come across. Be real.


What is Aspirational Recycling (And How to Avoid It)

When we recycle, we feel like we’re doing something good for the world. And of course, we are. But too often, people don’t pay as close attention as they should. Rather, they recycle anything they deem recyclable. This is what is known as aspirational or wishful recycling.

So how can you be more mindful of how you dispose of waste?

Here are a few mindful recycling tips:

  • Lower your consumption: The “discard and upgrade” mindset is a problem, and we should be encouraging consumers to keep electronics a bit longer. For example, we’re not fans of the Verizon Edge program that encourages consumers to reduce a phone’s lifecycle to only 18 months instead of 24 months. We all need to take a moment to evaluate whether we need a new gadget or another gadget in our lives.
  • Search for companies and stores that provide assistance with donating and recycling electronics by visiting You can search by the type of device and even brand, to see which companies will help you with recycling electronics. (Planet Green recycles inkjet cartridges and small electronics. See the full list of items we accept here.)
  • Recycling procedures vary from state to state and city to city. Learn about your area’s recycling program by visiting your local municipality’s website.
  • School yourself on all the recycling numbers and symbols. All plastics have labels with a number that states how recyclable that item is. Make sure you know what the numbers mean and how to most effectively and safely dispose of plastic containers.
  • Clean your recyclables before you put them in the bin.
  • Purchase new items with packaging made out of recycled content. OR better yet eliminate waste altogether by using reusable packaging.
  • If you’re unsure about something being recyclable or not, always air on the side of caution. Take the time to look up more information. Be a responsible consumer.


Go Forth and Recycle

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this blog post. Honestly, we could go on. But hopefully, you’ve gleaned enough information here to get you started on a more sustainable and responsible recycling practice.

Here is a synopsis of what we covered today:

Recycling can cause pollution: It’s true. Nothing is 100% free of leaving an ecological footprint. Do your homework, know your stuff.

Some things are harder to recycle than we think: If you’re unsure of whether to recycle something, don’t. Chances are your gut feeling is right. But make sure you do your homework and find out the answer.

Implement the 5 W’s of recycling: Know these in and out. They’ll help you be a better and more mindful consumer and decrease your ecological footprint.

Don’t be an aspirational recycler: Don’t just half-heartedly recycle so you can feel good. Do the work and always try to be better.

Start Your Own E-waste Recycling Fundraiser

Did you know that you can recycle inkjet cartridges and earn funds for your school, sports team, non-profit, or community organization? Learn more about our free recycling fundraiser program and start earning today!

*As of March 1st, 2020, Planet Green Recycle will no longer be accepting small electronics or e-waste items. We will only be accepting ink cartridges.

Start raising funds for your cause!

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