Why I Try Hard Not To Recycle

Jacquelyn Ottman Posted by Jacquelyn Ottman.

Jacquelyn is the founder of J. Ottman Consulting, Inc., which helps businesses develop and market the next generation of products designed with sustainability in mind.

Why I Try Hard Not To Recycle

(Image: Alex Eaves)

Not too long ago, things weren’t just thrown away. Plastic wasn’t in everyday use, pre-packaged food wasn’t as prevalent, and things were used over and over. Then, beginning in the 1960’s, the use of plastic exploded and single-use versions of things started appearing everywhere: plates, napkins, bags, etc. A disposable society was born and throwing things away became the norm.

But in the 1970’s, people started recognizing that creating all of that waste was a problem. Landfill space ran out in some cities and burning the trash created pollution.

Their Solution: Recycling

In the 1980’s, recycling took off. It became commonplace in most major cities around the U.S. If you wanted to do something to ‘save the planet’, the go-to action was recycling. Special bins were created to pick up recyclables at the end of the driveway. Recycling drives were set up. It was taught in schools. And I was one of the people that it was taught to.

reuse documentary eaves

Alex Eaves got sick and tired of seeing all the plastic bottles that were going to waste at concert venues. (Image: Alex Eaves)

For Me, Recycling Became a No Brainer.

I recycled whenever possible. And when I toured with bands in the 2000’s, I was disgusted at the number of plastic water bottles that ended up in the trash or that most concert venues didn’t recycle. But then around 2005 or so, something changed. I realized that recycling actually wasn’t the solution to our waste problem. Not having all of that waste in the first place was the solution.

I Began Wondering, “Why Aren’t We Talking About Reusing More?”

When compared to reusing, recycling just falls short. Sure, recycling keeps stuff out of the landfills and it captures resources to be put back into the manufacturing process. But what about all of the resources used for picking the recycling up, for processing it, and turning it into something new? It seemed like a waste.

So, in 2009, I was so driven to showcase the difference between the two, that I created the slogan, “REUSE! Because You Can’t Recycle The Planet.” That slogan became a t-shirt for my reuse apparel brand, STAY VOCAL. It became my lifestyle. And it became the title of my documentary.

My REUSE! Documentary

In 2013, I successfully funded my documentary project through Kickstarter and that summer, I traveled through all 48 contiguous US states. My videographers and I sought out businesses, organizations and people who were reusing in original ways. We came across everything from skateboards made out of wine barrels in California to a community garden made with tornado debris in Mississippi.

On my journey, I found endless reuse solutions for our waste problem that are not only sustainable, but many of which are easy and fun! And I learned just how reuse truly benefits people, planet, and wallet.

Watch the REUSE! Documentary trailer

Listen, I’m not saying that I don’t recycle and that we shouldn’t recycle. After all, we can only reuse a piece of paper so many times. I’m just saying that we already have all of this stuff here in our houses, in thrift stores, in the landfills. Let’s reuse that as much as we can and avoid using resources to recycle or make new stuff. Let’s go back to that time not so long ago when things weren’t just thrown away; when things were used over and over. Doesn’t that just make sense?

Take Action to Promote Reuse

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