September 23 2021
This is part of our ongoing series, called DTL (that stands for Down to Learn), where we take deep dives into the odd, nuanced and mysterious world of sustainability. Each article in our series should give you a good icebreaker for your next Zoom, or perhaps even inspire you. Today, a little discussion about the stinky stuff.
When something gets recycled the old fashioned way, it goes from its original form and gets turned into something else. That something else is usually actually less recyclable than the original item-- think plastic, which gets more brittle each time it gets recycled, and has a finite limit on how many times it actually can be functionally recycled, or when glass gets recycled into sand.
Closed loop recycling happens when something has infinite potential to come back as itself or something new, over and over again, because of its ability to be reused or recycled. Cork, steel and aluminum have a lot of potential for closed loop recycling, along with some forms of glass and rubber. If a glass bottle can live a fruitful life as a glass bottle, and then another and another in a closed loop recycling program, that's preferable to the diminishing returns of "regular" recycling.
Only about 2% of items put into the blue bin get closed loop recycled, according to the MacArthur Foundation, which means there's a lot of room for improvement up ahead. If you've got the option to be part of a closed loop recycling program (whether it's a refill program or a reuse program!), we say go for it-- it's way more reliably sustainable than rolling the dice on recycling something via curbside or commercial recycling programs.