Reader Lynne submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
I still love the feel of paper in my hands … real books or magazines. I cycle through my magazines relatively quickly. But yesterday as I was ripping off the address labels so I could pass them along (Purple Heart takes magazines), I had another thought. I recycle almost everything. In passing these along, is it much more likely they will end up in a landfill?
Technically, if you pass along the magazines to someone else and a second person gets use out of a product, you’re recycling. Re=again. Cycle=a full turn. An object doesn’t have to be repurposed to be recycled, it just needs to be used again. If a dairy sanitizes and reuses their glass bottles, they’re recycling (putting the bottle to use again). Simply passing along your magazines to another person is recycling, in the strictest sense of the definition.
However, I think your intention is to keep the item out of the landfill, which means you hope that the paper is repurposed. I would start by asking Purple Heart exactly what happens to the magazines after you donate them. If they’re packaged up and flown somewhere overseas, well, you have to weigh the environmental impact of the oil, exhaust, and other damage the airplane will put on the environment against the environmental impact of the recycling center you normally use to process paper. In this case, my guess is that if your desire is to have the smallest amount of environmental damage, your choices would be: Best–local recycling center, Middle–local landfill, Worst–flying them overseas. Conversely, Purple Heart might just donate them to the local VA Hospital and the hospital may have a paper recycling program of their own. So, donating to Purple Heart might be a great choice all around if the magazines are staying local. You won’t know, though, until you ask.
If you haven’t read the book No Impact Man or seen the documentary, I recommend you do. Colin Beavan talks at length about his struggles to determine what actions have the least amount of impact on the environment. You may not like Beavan’s personality (he rubs some people the wrong way), but the content of his message is still interesting.
Thank you, Lynne, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.
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