A Response to Recent Recycling News

Author: Aaron Young, Sustainability Planning Manager, East-West Gateway Council of Governments

You may have seen articles recently about the state of recycling. NPR recently posted this article about the problems with recycling. In it, the author states that plastic is not recyclable based on a study by Greenpeace USA. The cited requirement is that 30% of a category of plastic that is produced must actually be recycled for it to be considered “recyclable”. Looking at national statistics using this lense, no plastic is “recyclable”. But when you consider the situation locally, that statistic becomes less relevant. It’s difficult to determine how much of the plastic we use in the St. Louis region gets recycled, but if you use our local recycling system right, there’s a much greater chance than the 5% cited in the Greenpeace study. You’ve got to Stick with the Six items our single stream recyclers take, and you’ve got to make sure the materials are empty, clean and dry. You can refer to this graphic to see where our recyclable materials go, and what they are turned into.

With all this said though, the motto is Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. And that is the order of importance. It is important to recycle, but it is more important to reduce your use of plastic. Remember to bring your reusable tote bags to the store. Not just the grocery store either. Use them at the home improvement store, the pharmacy, and the department store.

You can also tune into our next Sustainability Lab @ T-Rex and learn about the Circular Economy in St. Louis.