On paper, the greenest products to recycle are those that have zero greenhouse gas emissions and require minimal processing to recycle, according to the Canadian Greenest Energy Association (CGAA).
These are the products that are used for packaging and other products, such as paper, cardboard, glass, wood, leather, metal and metal-coated ceramic.
But in practice, it can be tricky to distinguish between the green and the environmentally friendly.
Here are some of the key issues for recycling: What is recycled?
Many of the products you recycle need to meet specific criteria to be considered green.
For example, it’s not always clear which products meet these criteria and are also environmentally friendly, said CGAA president and CEO Richard Bessett.
“Some of these are not really green, and that’s where you need to be careful, because there’s a lot of uncertainty,” said Bessetts.
“There are a lot more of these things that you can recycle, but the quality of them doesn’t really seem to be all that important.”
For example: paper used to be a common material that would have to be processed before it was recycled.
The U.S. National Recycling Association says that is no longer the case, as most recycling companies are now using paper from recycled paper products.
But there is still an issue with recycling paper, said Bressett.
The material can still contain hazardous substances, and the plastic fibers can be harmful.
And while the recycled paper is less prone to leaching contaminants from the recycled materials, it is still hazardous to reuse it, said Jennifer Laughlin, president of the U.K. and U.N. Environment Programme.
“So we’re really worried about recycling that, so we’re trying to get it recycled responsibly,” she said.
“The paper industry in the U, U.P. is still not really going green.”
So if you’re looking for recycling products that meet the criteria, use recycled paper and cardboard instead of recycled plastic, and recycle at home rather than in the landfill, said Laughlin.
That means you’ll have a cleaner environment to recycle in, and you’ll also have fewer environmental impacts.
What about plastics?
A number of factors affect the amount of plastics that can be recycled, including how much plastic you buy and whether or not you recycle.
“We’re seeing more plastics being recycled, but that’s still not all that great,” said Laffer.
For one, plastics can be harder to recycle than other types of waste.
“Plastics are made from two kinds of plastic, carbon nanotubes and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or polyethylenetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), and they’re really hard to recycle,” said D’Ann Taylor, a spokeswoman for the National Recycle Coalition.
“And that’s why you need the recycling process, which involves washing and scrubbing, to get rid of them,” said Taylor.
She added that there are also issues with plastics that are more resistant to washing, such to polyethylenes and polypropylene.
“But overall, plastics are definitely a big problem,” said CGRU’s Bessets.
“They’re not just plastics, they’re a part of the environment.”
How do you decide which products to use?
The greenest items to recycle can be identified by their use in packaging, said Taylor, adding that it’s important to take the time to consider all the benefits and disadvantages of each product.
For instance, she said, you might choose to recycle plastic that’s not green because it’s less expensive, less toxic, and it’s also a more environmentally friendly product.
“It’s important that you consider the environmental benefits of using a green product and then the environmental costs of recycling,” said Vicky Besset, director of the CGAA’s recycling program.
“You need to do your homework, and there are many green products out there, and some of them are really good,” said she.
“When you have an item that is not green, it might not be a good choice.”
What to look for in a green recycling process article In general, the best recycling process is one that includes both a chemical and physical process, said John McAllister, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and director of its Centre for Sustainable Recycled Materials.
The former is done by heating, drying and rinsing the product to remove any organic contaminants, and then heating it again, he said.
The latter involves heating and heating the product and releasing the heat, and this process releases the carbon dioxide, he explained.
This process, he added, is called anaerobic heating.
The process also involves the use of compost, which is a waste product that can help reduce soil erosion and improve water quality.
This compost, combined with water, can also be used to fertilize plants