Closing the Loop: Products Made From Recycled Materials

Recycled Bag

Photo found on Flickr.com courtesy of elycefeliz

For recycling to work, there has to be a market for recycled goods. The more demand that there is for recycled materials, the more recycling programs can accomplish. There’s a ‘Chicken and the Egg’ problem in many areas – if there’s no one who wants to buy recycled plastic, paper, or steel, then the products might as well be dumped in a landfill. Transport and storage costs for unwanted waste can prevent programs from expanding or achieving their goals.

If you want to strengthen recycling programs in your area, make sure to purchase products made with recycled material. We need consumers to recycle their waste and we also need people who buy products made from that waste. Think of the symbol for recyclable content – it shows three arrows traveling in a never ending circle. Without people and businesses who consume recycled material, it’s as if the loop is missing that third arrow.

When “closing the loop,” every little bit helps. You can choose products made entirely out of recycled materials, or partly out of recycled materials. For some types of products, such as paper or jewelry, its easy to find 100% recycled versions of the things we use every day. For other products, such as motor oil or construction steel, it’s almost impossible to find 100 percent recycled items. Yet partially recycled options often exist – they just require a little bit of persistence to find. For example, many foundries offer steel made from either raw ore or 75% scrap.

When one ton of steel is recycled, 2500 pounds of iron ore, 1400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone are conserved.

Not only does recycling keep waste out of the landfill, but it also reduces the environmental harms of mining and transporting the raw materials. Due to these reduced costs, closing the loop can even boost the bottom line. Here are some reasons why closing the loop makes good business sense:



Photo courtesy of nickwheeleroz at Flickr.com.

1) Recycling saves money.

Many companies pay a hefty sum to dispose of their industrial waste. When that waste can be used to replace raw materials, the benefits are doubled (cost savings from eliminating the cost of disposal and cost savings up the supply chain).

2) Recycling builds a positive corporate image.

Consumers buy from companies that they like. Many people want to help businesses close the loop and will sometimes pay a premium for recycled products. Some clients even have policies that mandate buying from vendors who use recycling. At the very least, a green image will help a company stand out when consumers are choosing amongst equally priced products and services.

3) Recycling can provide a competitive edge.

After a company integrates recycled content into the supply line, they can zig when their competitors zag. Recycling provides some independence from the traditional supply chain and protects companies from unexpected price increases. The market for recycled materials often operates out of lockstep with the market for virgin materials – for instance, companies that make toys out of recycled plastic can remain profitable even when the price of oil triples and their competitors go bankrupt.

4) Recycling can motivate your workforce.

Happy workers are productive workers. If employees are committed to what their company does, then they are going to be more committed to their jobs. Going green can help the bottom line by reducing turnover, absenteeism, slacking, and other workforce costs. A recycling program helps foster an innovative work environment.

5) Recycling conserves natural resources.

Recycling can keep the costs of virgin supplies down by reducing demand. It also preserves the benefits that companies receives from the natural world, such as clean water, healthy workers, and moderate weather. Taking these benefits for granted can drive up costs in the long run.

Originally uploaded by woodleywonderworks

Recycling and using recycled materials are key steps to building a more sustainable world!