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Fake recycling???
By Justen Walker   View more articles by this author
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March 01

I’ve recently learned about the act of “fake recycling” from a beloved friend; a friend who I thought was an earth friendly do-gooder and recycler. Little did I know until she confessed, she was only pretending to recycle so that she wouldn’t have to listen to my words of disapproval. Then, she also confessed that she knew of a co-worker who fake recycled too! Oh dear, how do I maintain our friendship, get her to recycle, and stop the epidemic of fake recycling?

She’d tell me, “Oh just leave that on the counter, I’ll take care of it.” Only to later find out she put whatever it was I was trying to recycle into the trash once I left. Yikes, I should have just taken it with me. So, how do you convincingly persuade someone that being green is good for him or her? And what are the eco-etiquette rules? I was obviously in need of some eco-etiquette pointers myself!

I suggest that you gently remind them and yourself, if need be, that the effort is minimal for what the benefits of recycling can be. Arm yourself with random recycling facts that you can deliver smoothly without offending.

  • Recycling 1 aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV for 3 hours.
  • It takes around 20 years for a plastic bag to decompose in the landfill, 100 years for an aluminum can and up to 450 years for a plastic bottle.
  • A wine bottle can be melted down and re-formed into another wine bottle with no waste or by-products produced. Recycling one glass bottle saves enough energy to run a light bulb for four hours.
  • A study showed that 1.8 tons of oil are saved for every 1 ton of recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic produced.
  • Every ton of paper recycled saves 3,000 liters of water, 3,000 – 4,000 KWh electricity, 2.5 cubic meters of landfill space, and 17 pulpwood trees.
  • Every ton of steel recycled saves 1,433 pounds of coal.


If your recycling facts and know how doesn’t wow them, try helping them get organized for easy recycling by setting up recycling bins for them and volunteering to go with them to the recycling center. You can also introduce your fake recycling friends to curbside pickup, which they may not even realize is an option. Curbside pick up is available in many communities; check your phone book for the local waste department listing to call and find out.

It’s important to remember that we can only try to convince people so many times before they may just stop listening to us. We can’t guilt anyone into recycling. I’ve tried. They have to want to do it themselves; we can only try and help them to understand the benefits.

If you’re a recovering fake recycler yourself, and even if you’re not, please spread the word and help others find their way to the recycling bin and a better planet.

Next step composting!

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