Why does something that is made from raw materials cost less than a product made from recycled materials? According to Earth911, this is the No. 1 question they are asked regarding recycled products. You would think that the initial process of finding and taking the raw virgin materials and making them into some kind of building product or consumer product that we use every day would be more expensive than reusing another product that is no longer needed. It is as if we are being double charged for the product. If the material goes into the landfill or is shipped out to the sea after the end of its “first life”, it still costs something to take it away. This money comes from everyone, via trash removal costs. We also pay to build landfills and pay for the barges that take the trash out to sea. Should we get a credit if some of this garbage is being made into a new material for someone to enjoy for many years? Or can we use this cost to offer recycled product makers a bonus? I would say yes. Why can’t the charges for trash that is going to be taken to a landfill or our ocean water be significantly increased to create the impetus to recycle aggressively and consequently foster creativity in this arena? It makes sense to me. Perhaps the cost could be passed back to the manufacturers of items devoid of recycled content? This way, recycled building materials, if made by a company who practices sustainable manufacturing process, can lower their prices, making their products more accessible to a bigger range of buyers.
This issue is on my mind because my daughter is in the middle of a renovation project and recycled building materials are way outside of her budget. Twenty dollars per square foot for recycled glass tile verse two dollars for new tile, puts the recycled tile right out of the running. This is no different than organic food products costing more. It would seem like not adding pesticides to our foods would cause the foods to cost less. They should not only be for the rich and famous, who are installing high-end recycled items in their 8,000 square foot homes. It should be for everyone. Thinking sustainably should be the first thought and making it affordable for all. We are all in this together, and we should foster reuse of whatever we can, creating “new” things that we can keep recycling.