As designers in today's world recyclability is a hot button issue. There is a big list of things that seem to be important regarding recycling and "going green"; make everything more recyclable, make it so things have more than one use, make products that replace one-time use products. These now reusable items include things such as, shopping bags, water bottles and coffee sleeves. As we move into a "more green" consumer culture it is easy to assume that things are starting to look up. While this is true in some cases and there are incentives to using some of these reusable products, are we really recycling more? Are fewer items ending up in landfills that could have been recycled and/or reused?
I want to take this post to look at the social aspect of recycling. Have you ever thrown something into a recycling bin (plastic, cardboard, paper) and wondered if it actually gets recycled? Does your apartment building have a spot for recycled products? Have you wondered if they actually send these items to the appropriate places or if it just ends up in the same dumpster as all your garbage? I know that I have.
According to recycleworks.org it takes quite a bit of effort to implement a recycling program in schools. They recommend involvement of students, teachers, administration and even parents. They also say that you need to "obtain top-level support from the school administration, your school district's operation and maintenance staff and your schools custodial staff." You have to select the items you'll recycle, where they will be recycled to, and establish a system for collecting the recycled items. Just looking at these few requirements it is easy to see how schools can have ineffective recycling programs or not have one at all. Programs for businesses require a similar amount of effort.
As designers it is important to know some of the logistics about recycling. We probably all know from experience how much paper we waste on proofs, misprints and reprints. Additionally we all use glass and plastic products as well as cardboard. We have old batteries, ink cartridges and other electronics that have safe ways to be recycled. When we're at home (whether and apartment or house) we should be aware of the recycling program in our building or city so that we can properly recycle or take items to a location where they will be recycled. Additionally it is important to know your place of business's recycling program. If you know what it takes to change or implement a recycling program we can easily influence our friends, family and place of business.
If you're looking to start a recycling program at a school or place of business these are some good links to get you started.