As Good as New

Why can't recyclers sing the praises of recycled products? For too long, guilt trips such as "if you don't buy recycled, you're not recycling" have been used to create markets for recycled content products. Worse yet are procurement requirements that force the use of these products.

It's time for a change. Recyclers need to promote the strengths of individual recycled products and show that they are as good as or better than products made from virgin materials. Just think of the possibilities if we start boosting quality and not guilt-tripping or using force to create markets.

A newspaper ad, for instance, could simply read, "this paper is made from old newspapers - more proof that recycled products are as good as new."

A can company could show a picture of two aluminum cans. The copy could read, "can you tell which can is made from old cans and which is made from virgin aluminum? You can't except in price. The virgin can is more expensive because 95 percent more energy was used to make it than the recycled can - more proof that recycled products are as good as new."

A television commercial could show a photocopier busily making copies. The voiceover could say, "this copier already has made copies from 500 reams of recycled paper without jamming - more proof that recycled products are as good as new."

In fact, a recent U.S. Conference of Mayors, Washington, D.C., study showed that 30 percent recycled content copier paper works just as well as virgin fiber paper. Isn't this more proof that recycled products are as good as new?

Why not promote used oil and other automotive products made from recycled materials by staging a cross country road event with a car built from as many recycled products as possible and using recycled oil?

Why not use clothing made from recycled PET bottles on a variety of outdoor adventures - white water canoeing, mountain climbing and polar expeditions? That ought to make the case for durability and functionality.

I suspect that the public doesn't realize how many recycled products we already buy. Aluminum cans, glass bottles, recycled paperboard boxes, corrugated containers, newspapers, steel cans and plastic lumber already contain significant amounts of recycled materials. A television commercial or a full-page newspaper ad could show these products and say, "you use recycled products every day for hundreds of purposes - more proof that recycled products are as good as new."

Yes, it may be true that some recycled content products are more expensive than virgin products. So what? Manufacturers of consumer goods know that people will pay more if they perceive extra value in the higher priced products. For those products we need to give the public additional reasons to see extra value for extra cost.

Let's quit guilt-tripping people about buying recycled products and let's start promoting the innate qualities that recycled materials provide. It's time to start tooting our horn, not muting it.