Is the Fourth ‘R’ Recession?

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So, we all know the mantra “Reduce, ReUse and Recycle.” I would like to suggest that a fourth R, the Recession, is having he biggest effect on reducing solid waste.

Do you know the difference between a Recession and a Depression?  A Recession is when the light at the end of the is the end of the tunnel.  A Depression is when that light turns out to be an oncoming train.  There appears to be some truth in jest.

Let’s take me, for example. Back in the day, I had the good fortune to make good money. Therefore, I made decisions that were counter to that which I do today. There wasn’t a significant consequence when I went out and spent and consumed. Rather than look for something that was mislaid, I bought another, and had several other bad eco habits fueled by youth and a good income.

These days, I have more expenses, a family and am feeding my entrepreneurial dreams.  Now you will find me scraping out the face lotion for every last morsel. That shampoo bottle is stood on its end to utilize every last drop. Everything I print is on “fast draft” or two pages per page, all to save ink and paper. Wants are reduced to needs and gotta-haves.

I have a wallet that I have had for a very long time. It is tired, but every time I go to throw it out, I extend the life with a little duct tape. I pull it out, and a buddy comments, “Eel skin … nice.” I smile and put it back in my pocket, eager to let my wife know that someone appreciated my handiwork, as she, on the topic of my wallet, unequivocally does not.

Bottom line, I am using less, as I am buying less. I squeeze every drop, so I Reduce. I ReUse in creative ways. I am trying to Recycle more. But the catalyst, the real spark that is igniting my behavior is the Recession. And, I bet the farm that the Recession is having a profound impact on the outcomes of Reduce, ReUse and Recycle.

I read that China is growing, and there is a big challenge, as the availability of scrap is lower with folks buying fewer washers and dryers. I have a buddy who signed a deal to fill empty containers going back to China. It is a great deal, he just has to go find the scrap.

I recently toured Prima Deschecha Landfill in San Juan Capistrano.   Isn’t that really how the score is kept for the 3R game by measuring solid waste levels coming to the landfill?  Prima Deshecha is down 40% – primarily due to construction declines – which will extend the life of the landfill.

The state of California mandates that 50% of our solid waste be diverted from landfills and these requirements  facilitate less solid waste in landfills.  Coupled with the fact that several products have a defined market for recycling that encourages appropriate behaviors of recycling.  Plastic Resin Codes # 1 and # 2, glass and aluminum have predictable demand.  Things like cardboard are often dependant on market forces and what is going on in China to determine inconsistent demand cycles.

In order to really and truly make a difference, you need scale. I believe this Recession is bringing scale to the 3 Rs – a massive global scale. Let’s hope the behaviors adopted in this period carry into times of prosperity. My recommended solution is to keep investing time in educating our youth; their behaviors, coupled with their scale, can make a sustainable difference.

If you wish to “Vote Green Everyday” by leveraging your voice and purchasing power, recognizing you are a market force to be reckoned with, next time you are at Starbucks, suggest they make their Ice Coffee drinks in a Plastic Resin Code #2, which has a market, instead of #5.  Or buy post-consumer goods, as those are ABU, already been used.  Set up a Bottles and Cans recycling effort at schools to generate funds for youth sports or the PTA.  What ideas do you have?

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