Disassembly, Step by Step
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ecycling is an important tenant of
sustainability, but in order to be effective, products need to be easily disassembled into component parts and separated by material. If this is difficult, these products simply end up in the landfill instead.
The worst parts, in terms of recycling, are those made from two different materials bonded together, because they can’t be easily separated. The Cradle to Cradle framework designates these as “monstrous hybrids.” A good example of this type of hybrid would be milk and juice cartons that come with circular pour spouts and caps built into the side. The plastic cap and spout can’t be recycled with the waxed cardboard, and yet there are no easy ways for recyclers to separate these quickly. While this design is particularly convenient for some users, it makes recycling nearly impossible (a good example of opposing goals). The only way to recycle these is for users to cut the plastic spout from the rest of the container before placing them both in a recycling bin.
Likewise, most modern clothing presents a particular challenge since so much of it is blended from natural and artificial fibers. That shirt with 80 percent cotton and 20 percent rayon can’t be recycled in either the compost or recycling bins. Currently, it can only go into the trash bin (and, thus, the landfill) since we have no economical way of separating the two materials.