Does Recycled Always Mean Sustainable?

In an effort to increase sales, companies are promoting more products as green, sustainable or recycled but recycled doesn’t necessarily mean sustainable. This article by Alan Harris a few years ago about real vs. artificial Christmas trees was one of the first articles to deal with what seemed to be true wasn’t true at all when it came to sustainability. Unfortunately, today as the need for profits increase companies are promoting all types of products as green and sustainable but sometimes this isn’t the case. As a consumer, you need to know what to look for in products so you don’t end up purchasing something you think is sustainable that ends up hurting the environment.


I define sustainability as meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of future generations. Following this definition, something is either sustainable or not sustainable. Paper products, for example, come from trees and forests have been shrinking rapidly. The production of paper products today does compromise the needs of future generations to have paper products. Recycling paper products puts less of a demand on future production and we see recycling, in this case, does help make paper product production sustainable. The problem with recycled products is recycled materials are often of lesser quality than the object for which the material was previously used. This process has a name – downcycling. You just can’t reuse raw materials indefinitely. For recycling to be sustainable it should not create waste that is more damaging to the environment or less efficient to create than it would be to extract, and refine from raw materials.

Irrigation Tubing

Last week in a webcast (you can hear a recording here) we learned from Mark Jablonka, a Polyethylene Research Scientist (Read – very smart guy) almost all irrigation tubing today is made from polyethylene, ultraviolet protection additives and stabilization additives. There are hundreds of different grades of polyethylene each optimized for a wide variety of applications. Polyethylene is susceptible to degradation over time. The materials used to make the tubing contribute to the performance and longevity of the tubing. Crack resistance, burst strength, toughness, flexibility, puncture resistance, impact resistance and weather resistance are all impacted.

Tubing manufactured using recycled material is more susceptible to cracking. The time it takes for the tubing wall to crack decreases steadily as the recycled content increases. This means you may be buying the recycled products (because you think it is sustainable) and use it at a much faster rate than if you started with 100% virgin material.   This would not be a sustainable practice. It is important to know Jain Irrigation uses 100% Dow fingerprint resins. This is why we are able to offer the longest warranty (10 years) in the industry and why we have confidence that our products will stand up to environmental factors. Polyethylene with high stress crack resistance, good stabilization and low contamination level are key to maximizing tubin life and eliminating the need to for excessive replacement. If you enjoyed this post please consider following me on twitter @H2oTrends. Download the Maximizing Durability and Longevity of Micro-irrigation Tubing webinar here

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