What Is the “Green Thing?”

I keep hearing about companies making the decision to focus on sustainability or in other words, “Go Green.” During the last few weeks, I have had contact with various companies, as well as friends, that I have posed the question, “Just what is your definition of going green?” In nearly all cases, the answer has been, “The purchasing of items that have been recycled, or saving refuse from a home or factory, which can be reprocessed into something else to save world resources.” I then asked, “What if the cost of doing that exceeded the benefits?”

For example: You recycle plastic soda bottles. You collect them, transport them to a recycle center, which transports them to a recycle processor, who grinds them, washes the product, transports them to a manufacturer, who then makes a “Recycled Product.”

The ultimate cost of doing all of this has saved a couple of barrels of oil needed to make the original product, but at the end of the day, did it save anything? There were a lot of transportation fees involved in the movement of the product, before and after the recycling process, and a substantial amount of energy used, that is derived from oil, gas or coal, to make it into a new product. So, did we save a natural resource? I am not so sure. What we did accomplish, is the creation of jobs at every step of the process. We also reduced the content placed in our landfills. This is all very important, but (without doing a huge economic impact study) my argument is that the average person’s perception of what recycling does is not as absolute as they believe.

Universal Package, as well as many other companies in our industry, are working to protect the environment, but in a manner that is a bit different than the normal perception. We deal with reusable packaging. We sell, as well as manufacture, containers that can be reused for many years. The only cost that can be charged against this form of recycling is the cost to return the container to its original location, for refilling for the next trip. It is our experience, that once a container is no longer in working condition, a large percentage of them can simply be repaired and put back into service for more years of service, without using all the aforementioned energy sources to make new product. At some point in time, it will go to the recycler and the process starts again, as explained in the beginning of this article. In most cases, it costs less to repair and reuse than to recycle and reuse.

We can all contribute to the preservation of the environment. For future generations, we need to start the education process of recycling in the schools, as we did with reducing smoking, and using seatbelts in vehicles. For the older folks, we have to get practical and just do what is right. Let’s ensure our generations to come, that we are striving to make a world that is better than we left it.