“But remember, to keep recycling working, you have to buy recycled products!” Once upon a time when I was PSA director for a community radio station, we had a PSA about recycling that we would play on the air. I don’t remember the rest of it, but this line stuck in my head. So sorting waste is not enough, eh? I have to buy recycled products?
In the 20 years since that time, I’ve always looked out for recycled products so that I could help contribute to the market for recycled raw materials. This market is what makes it profitable for each town or city to run a separate set of trucks to collect recycling and sell it to manufacturers instead of burying it in the ground.
There didn’t use to be many choices for recycled products, but these days, they are everywhere — if you know where to look. Online shopping makes it easier. Here are some of my favorites (disclaimer: with affiliate links that support this blog):
#1 Recycled toilet paper. Because paper can be recycled 7 times and your toilet should be its last stop, not its first. Marcal is a great brand from NJ – it’s cheap and feels just fine. And it was even available from the not-so-green local grocery store in Philly, good ole’ FreshGrocer.
#2 Recycled garbage bags. See above. Why send virgin plastic straight to the dump? I often buy the Seventh Generation brand, but I know many stores do not carry that. Hefty might be easier to find and they now have a 65% recycled plastic tall kitchen bag, too, for about the same price!
#3 Recycled backpacks for pre-schoolers. PET plastic bottles make a water-resistant fabric when recycled, and Apple Park makes a series of super cute backpacks and lunch bags out of it. My monkey wore this monkey to pre-school last year and it was roomy without being too big on his back.
#4 Recycled pencils. Really? Yes! These are so brilliant – they are just made of tightly rolled newspaper. The ones I have are made of Chinese newspapers, but TreeSmart makes these in the USA. What’s great about this is that it replaces wood with a recycled material that doesn’t even have to be broken down and reprocessed, so you know it’s a huge energy savings.
#5 Bike panniers that used to be billboards. These are like the pencils above – a material is simply rolled or cut or otherwise “upcycled” instead of being broken down into a raw material and then repurposed. This saves energy and is just super clever! This pannier is very easy to put on and take off your standard bike rack. It fits a lot of stuff (backpacks…six packs…) and has a rain flap to keep everything dry. Just get a good kickstand to go with it or the weight will tip your bike over as soon as you dismount. I speak from experience. Embarrassing experience.
#6 Waste-free coffee is possible – just buy bulk beans in your own container and use a French press! This one by Bodum is a sleek little number that is made of 50% recycled plastic. What happens to all those plastic tubs and bottles we recycle? Sadly, not much. Plastic is one of the hardest materials to recycle profitably, and profitability is a key consideration when towns and cities are deciding whether to have convenient recycling collection services. We can all help by drinking flavorful French press café!
#7 Recycled paper is easy to buy and so boring that it barely merits a mention here. But these “Decomposition” notebooks have a catchy name, a smooth feel, and myriad beautiful designs – what’s not to love? Compose your thoughts and sentences while knowing that they, and we all, will decompose in due course. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Of course if you prefer a DIY approach, just take a stack from the pile of abandoned print jobs at work and bind them together with duct tape. Good luck making it pretty, though.
#8 Socks made with recycled cotton yarn. These thick, warm foot sweaters by Solmate Socks will ease your transition out of bed on a chilly morning, and you’ll never grow tired of wondering who wore those cotton fibers before you did. Just be warned – because they are 100% cotton, they don’t stretch much, so maybe go for the lower cut styles if you have big calf muscles. I make sure to recycle old clothing by taking it to a thrift shop like Goodwill even if it is torn or stained (with anything that is not a biohazard).
#9 Recycled plastic toys. This one is very meta – a recycling truck made of recycled plastic! Though rather pricey, Green Toys brand trucks, stacking cups, and utensils are heavy-duty and fun to play with. They are safe for kids age 1 and up, and the colors are very pleasing in real life.
#10 Recycled paperboard puzzles. I totally love the eeBoo brand of puzzles. I don’t know what it is about them, but they feel so smooth and fit together with a super-satisfying CLICK. I have probably done this Fire Truck puzzle about 120 times, and I’m not as sick of it as you might think. Strong, durable, smooth and with great art, too!