reduce, reuse, reimagine

The new book on why recycling matters, what the problems are, and how you can help.
Available now in hardback and audiobook!





A System in Trouble

The U.S. recycles only 34% of all the waste we throw out and we've been stuck at this level for decades. Individuals are a key part in making the recycling system work, because we provide a supply of materials and also a demand for products with recycled content. But, many of us don’t know what happens after those items leave our homes. We're confused by inconsistent rules and labeling of what we can and can't recycle. We might not understand the roles of other stakeholders, like companies and governments, and how we can hold them accountable for doing their part.

Our confusion is one reason why recycling is stuck.

For example, when we put incorrect items in the bin, we risk contaminating other items that are actually recyclable, decreasing the value of those recyclables. So, we end up with a lot of contaminated stuff manufacturers won’t buy. This can mean recyclables won’t go onto be used in new products or displace virgin materials that come from methods like mining and deforestation.

This new book provides answers to clear up confusion.

Recycling has measurable environmental and economic benefits. It's more than a feel-good manner to dispose of our used items. It can mean saving resources and reducing emissions that contribute to climate change. A thriving system helps manage our materials in a sustainable loop. But there are fundamental challenges in recycling that we need to untangle to see these benefits. Our recycling system is at a crossroads, but if we tackle its problems, it can stabilize and thrive.


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The Book: Sorting Out the Recycling System

I'm Beth, and I wrote Reduce, Reuse, Reimagine to fill those gaps so we can understand what our role is and why the system stagnates when we don't fulfill it. We have a powerful role in our recycling system, and our participation can unlock even greater benefits when we do it well.

The book explains:

  • A brief history of our recycling system,

  • How recycling works (and what isn’t working),

  • Why we recycle (for reasons that may surprise you),

  • How our psychology affects recycling & waste,

  • Why reduce and reuse always come first,

  • And concrete steps you can take to help boost the 3 R's in your home and community.

The Buzz: What People Are Saying

Porter delivers a thoughtful rallying cry for one of the most basic and misunderstood environmental acts we can all take. This is a helpful primer for anyone interested in the future of recycling at a moment when many are wondering if the economics behind it can still work.
— Cole Rosengren, Senior Reporter, Waste Dive

Beth Porter presents an image of recycling as a tiny acorn that with nurturing can to grow into a viable system that greatly benefits the country financially and environmentally. She then presents a history and the practice of recycling in the US. At a time when China's recycling policies are roiling the recycling world, her book is important for both specialists and the public at large.
— Neil Seldman, PhD, Director, Waste to Wealth, Institute for Local Self-Reliance

We’ve all heard that recycling isn’t working anymore in the U.S., but we’re not hearing how we can fix it. Beth Porter takes us beyond the act of recycling itself to an understanding of the ways in which we use and waste materials as a society, and maps out the solutions we can start implementing today in our communities and in our homes.
— Todd Larsen, Executive Co-Director, Green America


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Let's talk trash (and how to avoid it)

Do you have an idea for reducing waste? Reusing or repairing old items? Or perhaps a question on recycling? Please send your queries & thoughts my way! Let's connect.