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The recycling contradiction: Why recycling alone fails to protect the environment

Friday, September 29, 2006
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
Editor of NaturalNews.com (See all articles...)
Tags: recycling, environmentalism, toxic products

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Here's some straight talk on recycling that you're unlikely to hear anywhere else. Once a week in my neighborhood, all the neighbors pull out their recycling bins and place them by the curb where recycling trucks can pick them up. Everybody talks about how recycling is good for the environment, but we never really talk about what's inside those bins. Have you taken a look at what's in there?

People are recycling old cardboard boxes from laundry detergent made with toxic ingredients and chemicals that wash down the drain and pollute the streams, groundwater and, ultimately, the ocean. They're recycling soft drink cans loaded with either high-fructose corn syrup -- the sweetener that promotes obesity and mental disorders in children -- or artificial chemical sweeteners that cause cancer and neurological malfunction.

I've seen people recycle prescription drug boxes and over-the-counter drug boxes. I've seen them recycle cans of household chemical cleaning products and personal care products made with all sorts of cancer-causing chemicals. I've actually looked into some of these bins and found antibacterial soap (toxic chemicals), lawn pesticide containers (more chemicals), and perfume bottles (extremely toxic to the ecosystems of waterways).

It all makes me wonder. What's the point of recycling all this packaging if the products being purchased and consumed are toxic to the environment in the first place?

Recycling programs are created to eliminate consumer guilt

Do you know what occurs to me in all of this? Recycling isn't about saving the planet. If it were about saving the planet, people wouldn't buy these products in the first place. Recycling is a system for eliminating consumer guilt. It is designed to give everyday consumers a token measure that they can feel good about.

Recycling lets them believe they are saving the planet while they are flushing all these chemicals down the drain and spreading them on their lawns and gardens. They are putting toxic products in their cars, on their hair and into their mouths and bodies. Recycling is then presented as a solution to make these people feel good even as they are destroying the environment with every single product they consume.

Purchasing choices are far more important than recycling

You know what's really important in protecting the environment? Buying eco-friendly products in the first place.

When you live a healthy lifestyle, a lifestyle that truly prioritizes respect for the planet, you don't end up with a lot of excess packaging to recycle in the first place. You don't end up with aluminum cans around the house or plastic bottles of diet soda. When you buy fresh, raw ingredients, the only thing you are left with are some plastic or paper bags, both of which are easily recycled.

The way to save the environment is to make better decisions at the point of purchase. Don't buy lawn products containing chemicals that damage the environment. Don't buy laundry detergent in any form unless it's fragrance-free and eco-friendly. Don't buy skin care products you wouldn't eat, because most things you put on your skin get absorbed into your body anyway. That's how you save the environment: Through purchasing decisions, not by recycling the discarded boxes of toxic products.

There is great hypocrisy in the recycling system. If it is about saving the planet, you shouldn't be buying those products in the first place. If it is about saving the planet, stop putting those pesticides on your lawn. If it is about saving the planet, stop poisoning your body with prescription drugs. There are detectable levels of prescription drugs (like antidepressants) in municipal water supplies today.

You might wonder if I am against recycling. No, not at all. I whole-heartedly support recycling. I think it is important to reuse materials. Instead of cutting down new trees, we should be using old paper and old cardboard. Instead of mining new metals out of the ground, we should be recycling old aluminum and tin. This is especially true with computers and electronics. We should be disposing of these products in environmentally conscious ways. I am not against recycling.

What I am against is the idea that people think they are saving the planet because they put a bin of plastic bottles out by the street every week. That's ridiculous. The products I saw in my neighbors' bins are so toxic to the planet and the environment that the recycling effort hardly seems to matter. It's sort of like saying, "Let's poison all the fish with these chemicals, and then recycle the box they came in so we can save the planet!"

Recycling consumer delusions

I have also visited friends or been in other people's houses where their pantries and refrigerators were full of the most toxic products you can imagine. Their house smelled of fragrance, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, perfumes, colognes and shampoos. I could just sense the toxicity of their environment, and yet they were avid recyclers.

They dutifully sorted the containers of all their toxic products into different recycling bins without even a hint of awareness about their level of self-delusion. As I saw this, I thought to myself, "You people are insane; you're not saving the planet. You're only saving yourself from guilt." What they were really recycling, it turns out, is the same delusion shared by most consumers: that it's okay to dump anything you want into the environment as long as you recycle the box it came in.

But recycling is not some game where the more you recycle, the more you are saving the planet. In reality, the less packaging you buy in the first place, the more you're helping protect the environment. You shouldn't be buying products in overstuffed packages, wasteful food containers and plastic snack bags. You could be buying from local co-ops. Get your whole grains by the pound. You could buy raw fruits and vegetables that don't require fancy packaging. For soaps, you could be buying Dr. Bronner's soaps, which come in economy-sized bottles. Those are the types of products you buy when you genuinely care about the planet.

Urine trouble!

Of course, if you care about the planet, you also shouldn't be taking prescription drugs and urinating them back into the water supply. How is that for polluting the planet? Don't you realize that everything you put in your mouth ends up getting flushed down the toilet? Sure, they treat the wastewater, but municipal water treatment systems don't remove pharmaceuticals (and were never designed to).

Why do you think the Gulf of Mexico is practically dead these days? The coral reefs are dying and the fish are poisoned with heavy metals and other chemicals because the Mississippi River empties into the Gulf of Mexico. It brings in all the chemicals the people of this country have flushed down their toilets and drains. Think about that the next time you have a clogged drain. Think about what you are pouring down that drain to unclog it. Those chemicals are going to end up in the environment somewhere.

So the next time you load up that curbside bin to be picked up by your local recycling company, ask yourself, "What are the environmental impacts of these products?" If you think you are saving the planet just by recycling the containers, you're kidding yourself. You are not saving anything. You are just making yourself feel better while you continue to poison the planet. If you really want to save the planet, stop buying and consuming toxic chemicals. Put the chemical companies out of business by refusing to buy their products.

I know this is not a popular view of recycling. But I am not here to be popular, I'm here to get you to think about what's really going on, and to recognize your role in it. I was once a consumer of numerous toxic products, but I recognized the error, adjusted my consumption patterns, and now I practice genuine environmental responsibility (and I still recycle, too). I urge you to do the same. Ask yourself what you're still buying that's harmful to the environment, then switch to safer, more eco-friendly products from companies like Seventh Generation, which offers laundry and home care products that are far safer for the environment than more conventional products.

Saving the planet isn't really about recycling. It's more about what you consume and flush back into the environment. If you stop poisoning the environment with common products for the home, kitchen, laundry, lawn and garage, you'll do far more good than recycling a few plastic bottles.

And then you'll actually have a real reason to feel good about your role as an environmentally-responsible consumer.


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About the author:Mike Adams (aka the "Health Ranger") is a best selling author (#1 best selling science book on Amazon.com) and a globally recognized scientific researcher in clean foods. He serves as the founding editor of NaturalNews.com and the lab science director of an internationally accredited (ISO 17025) analytical laboratory known as CWC Labs. There, he was awarded a Certificate of Excellence for achieving extremely high accuracy in the analysis of toxic elements in unknown water samples using ICP-MS instrumentation. Adams is also highly proficient in running liquid chromatography, ion chromatography and mass spectrometry time-of-flight analytical instrumentation.

Adams is a person of color whose ancestors include Africans and Native American Indians. He's also of Native American heritage, which he credits as inspiring his "Health Ranger" passion for protecting life and nature against the destruction caused by chemicals, heavy metals and other forms of pollution.

Adams is the founder and publisher of the open source science journal Natural Science Journal, the author of numerous peer-reviewed science papers published by the journal, and the author of the world's first book that published ICP-MS heavy metals analysis results for foods, dietary supplements, pet food, spices and fast food. The book is entitled Food Forensics and is published by BenBella Books.

In his laboratory research, Adams has made numerous food safety breakthroughs such as revealing rice protein products imported from Asia to be contaminated with toxic heavy metals like lead, cadmium and tungsten. Adams was the first food science researcher to document high levels of tungsten in superfoods. He also discovered over 11 ppm lead in imported mangosteen powder, and led an industry-wide voluntary agreement to limit heavy metals in rice protein products.

In addition to his lab work, Adams is also the (non-paid) executive director of the non-profit Consumer Wellness Center (CWC), an organization that redirects 100% of its donations receipts to grant programs that teach children and women how to grow their own food or vastly improve their nutrition. Through the non-profit CWC, Adams also launched Nutrition Rescue, a program that donates essential vitamins to people in need. Click here to see some of the CWC success stories.

With a background in science and software technology, Adams is the original founder of the email newsletter technology company known as Arial Software. Using his technical experience combined with his love for natural health, Adams developed and deployed the content management system currently driving NaturalNews.com. He also engineered the high-level statistical algorithms that power SCIENCE.naturalnews.com, a massive research resource featuring over 10 million scientific studies.

Adams is well known for his incredibly popular consumer activism video blowing the lid on fake blueberries used throughout the food supply. He has also exposed "strange fibers" found in Chicken McNuggets, fake academic credentials of so-called health "gurus," dangerous "detox" products imported as battery acid and sold for oral consumption, fake acai berry scams, the California raw milk raids, the vaccine research fraud revealed by industry whistleblowers and many other topics.

Adams has also helped defend the rights of home gardeners and protect the medical freedom rights of parents. Adams is widely recognized to have made a remarkable global impact on issues like GMOs, vaccines, nutrition therapies, human consciousness.

In addition to his activism, Adams is an accomplished musician who has released over a dozen popular songs covering a variety of activism topics.

Click here to read a more detailed bio on Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, at HealthRanger.com.

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