A Deep Dive into Recycling

This blog is all about sustainable urban living .And the sustainability word that pops up first in our heads is “Recycling”. Recycling more often than not is ahead of words like reduce, reuse, bio-degradable, compostable and other similar noble endeavours.
We have written at length on the subject of recycling, including a guide to recycling symbols, a history of the tiny man logo and I decided that it is time get more technical about the definition of recycling.
Recycling comes in 3 flavours
Recycling is popularly defined as the process by which used or waste material is converted to useful material or objects. Otherwise the used or waste material would end up in a landfill which is a perpetual dustbin or incinerated which causes extreme air pollution.
This is the point where we need to take a deep dive.
What happens after the first round of recycling? Is the new material or object created by the first re-cycling, further recycled?
For example, I recently came across a terrific apparel company that was selling a recycled shoe made entirely from old tyres. I think it is a great idea and I want to support this brand. This process of using waste to create products of higher value is called Up-cycling.
Now after this shoe is completely worn out, what can I do with it? If I just discard it, I have only postponed the inevitable landfill fate of the original tyres by a few years. So it is imperative that I find some way of further recycling the worn out shoe, and it must be said that there no viable options. Up-cycling designers must create newer products with a very long useful life.  Up-cycling is very also useful in changing the way we perceive waste and gets us thinking more seriously about our recycling habits.
This brings us to Down-cycling. Down-cycling is the most common output of all major recycling initiatives. A very common example is plastics. Many types of plastics when recycled yield a lower grade of plastic called “hybrid plastic” which does not have the same value as the original plastic. Again we come to the same problem as with Up-cycling which is the number of recycling iterations possible. After the first iteration of down-cycling we are left with a material that will wear out but will not disappear. Once again we find ourselves staring at a growing perpetual landfill mountain.
Enter the third flavour, True Recycling. In True recycling, every iteration re-creates material that is exactly same or very close to the original material. So there is no loss in value and the original material can be used for perpetuity. The only real cost in this process of True Recycling is the energy spent in the process. I cannot think of a perfect True Recycling example involving man made materials. All examples seem to be in nature. The water-vapour-cloud-rain-water cycle powered by the sun represents True Recycling. Among man made materials, corrugated boxes have a high degree of efficiency in recycling and approach the ideal of True Recycling.  Corrugated boxes can be made with 100% recycled kraft paper which after consumer use can be collected and again converted to kraft paper.

How recyclable is the krya detergent
We have designed the krya detergent using the cradle to cradle principle which looks at the entire product life cycle from manufacture to consumer use till disposal.
The krya detergent has three major parts

  1. The detergent itself which is 100% certified organic soapberry creates a small residue after the washing cycle. This residue is bio-degradable and can be re-purposed as plant food in your garden or potted plants. Then the natural process of bio degradation will perfectly extract the nutrients although it will not create another soapberry tree!
  2. The carton is made from recycled kraft paper. So if you ensure that it is sent for recycling like old newspapers, it will be re-born as a corrugated box in time
  3. The inner cover is made from HDPE. This is virgin material will high degree of recyclability although when recycled there will be some loss in value. We are working with some exciting new technologies in plant based plastics which are fully bio-degradable.

The krya detergent unit has a high degree of recyclability although we still have work to do and of course depend on our users to help us by recycling the packaging material.
Note:

  1. True Recycling is a phrase that I used to describe my idea while Up-cycling and Down-cycling are industry standard terms.
  2. Workshop Q is a young Indian Up-cycling startup creating terrific new stuff from waste.

 

0 thoughts on “A Deep Dive into Recycling

  1. All paper products, currugated board, paper and newsprint etc, do go down in quality in that the fibre length becomes shorter when you pulp them during recycling. With each recycling cycle, teh fibre lengths shorter. So you can not go on recycling without adding virgin fiber to bring the strength to the required level. This applies to palstic also. Their molecular weight changes and you have to adjust for this. In any recycling, be it up or true, if the energy, water and materials you have to add in the recycling step to get the same performance as with virgin exceeds the amounts used to make virgin product, then we are not gaining much. So in short recycling is not always good. It all depends…..

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