Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Best Way to Recycle a Newspaper

Above is the pile of used and enjoyed Sunday, March 1st New York Times I left on a seat in the Virgin America Terminal at LAX earlier this month. I had actually seen Moby walk by and he always gets me thinking about good, green earthy stuff like vegetarian eating, exploitation-free fair-trade rubber shoes, and recycling.

To me the jury's still out on recycling writ large. There isn't a whole lot of visibility into the process once you've outsourced your recyclable debris. A little research reveals that recycling systems vary by organization, system and complexity, which to me suggests nobody's closed the definitive book on best practices.

As an example, is it better to recycle glass bottles the way they do in Mexico, the Caribbean and many third-world countries? Simply washing them and returning them to the bottler? This 'stress induced' recycling, as Andrew Zolli would put it, is clearly the more transparent of the two pre-dominating systems and is readily borne witness by the wear scars on the necks of beer and coke bottles in Cabo.

Or are we better off with the feel good, hocus pocus of 'post-materialist' recycling as seen in Western Europe and increasingly the United States, where your recyclables are carted off, melted down and supposedly repackaged into new products?

I'm sure people can verify that this actually happens, that the Patagonia fleece I'm wearing is elementally identical to plastic Gatorade bottles, and that the Starbucks cup is in fact 10% old tax returns. But, can you prove that all of this is more cost-effective and resourceful than merely giving the glass bottle a good washing and returning to sender?

Neither can I. So in the spirit of thinking globally, acting locally, and verifying that my recycling is impactful in the sense of measurably doing the most with the resources we have, I passed the recycling bin over for an empty seat in the Terminal 6 waiting area.

And here's my evidence that it's worked:

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