Source: quinn.anya @ Flickr

What do you do with your gum wrapper? When you pull staples out of paper, where do they go?

I’m rather diligent about recycling paper—yes, even sugar packets and RL spam (aka. junk mail). There is some debate about the energy spent to recycle paper products, but whether you’re looking at it from a micro- or macro-perspective, cutting down natural containers of CO2 sequestration only to eventually throw them away isn’t an efficient endeavor, which is why I start my impact by reducing my paper use, then reusing the paper I do use. I save cardboard boxes to ship items I sell online, I reuse wrapping and gift tissue paper (if it’s kinda crummy, my family gets it for their birthdays since they won’t really care :D), use the insides of solicitation envelopes for my shopping lists (after I finish using up the note pads they send me), and so on.

I was recently clued in on recycling staples. That’s excessive, you’re thinking, it’s just a little piece of metal! Yes, it is. But I go through a lot of staples at work, and the tiny steel pieces add up. Heck, even if I didn’t use a “lot” (whatever that means), steel is one of the easiest materials to recycle. Rather than downcycling—that is, recycling to create a new but lower quality product (which is what happens with paper)—melting down steel or any metal to recycle it nearly retains its original quality, so long as the metal is sorted first.

Every little bit counts, right? So why don’t people do more to recycle paper wrappers, plastic packaging, and steel staples?