Green Products, Green Thoughts

Recycled Products are Outside of the Budget

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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.

1 Comment

  1. Megan Struble

    This is all very true, and the idea of taking an item, and turning it into something else, or repurposing an item is an excellent practice that needs to keep happening. Just perhaps these items are more expensive because that tile is made from other tile all over the country or in some cases the world. Your tile that you are recycling goes from your house, to the landfill, on a truck, and taken possibly an hour away or across the country to a facility that collects your recycled tile and turns it into something else. Which leaves you to think is this tile really that sustainable? Or is the process of recycling doing more harm then good in this case? The smashing, melting, compacting, re-packing, and shipping of a product sometimes overrides being sustainable. Maybe the new product you are buying is made in your state, and uses products made in your area, and is shipped locally? I think we need to stop buying “green” products because they say they used recycled content and processed using biofuels, and buy items that are instead locally sourced, and shipped with in your region, and will last the length of time. We too often buy products at home depot or furniture at Ikea that is complete cardboard, made in Japan, and will probably be back at the landfill in 10yrs. If we instead focus buying our goods based on being locally sourced, grown, sustainably made, and to withstand the length of time, it doesn’t really matter if the product is new or recycled content. I think sometimes we do ourselves more harm then good buying too many recycled or green items not knowing where they came from or how they are made, and why they are so expensive. The problem is that is takes sooooo much research as a consumer to know these things, and to find these products or goods. I think eventually we will get there, as most supermarkets are trying to use locally grown or sourced produce….maybe homedepot will start doing the same!

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