"People are often surprised to hear the truth about what's lurking in their bins"

Rudy Westerneng, AKA the Recychologist. is the Director of Research and Development at Recychology,a Canadian consulting firm based near Toronto, Ontario. He specialises in assisting organisations to get on board with recycling initiatives, including making their products more sustainable. He's also literally written the book on recycling: his work has been turned into a university course titled Recychology: Solid Waste Recycling Technology.

We decided to get in touch and find out about how recycling impacts every part of his daily life (and pick his brains about what we can and can't recycle):

Ok, if we have electronics that don't work anymore, do we just put them in the bin?

Find an electronics recycling center. Lots of good copper and other non-ferrous to be recovered.

What about greasy pizza boxes?

Great cardboard, easy to recycle. Grease isn't a huge factor as your pizza box would be mixed with cleaner product. If you had a boat load of pizza boxes that'll be another issue. (Note: be sure to check with your local council area about their specific guidelines on items such as these)

Old shoes?

Donate to thrift. There's a huge international demand. If they aren't reused locally, they get shipped to Africa for the most part.

Ok, so it seems like we can recycle pretty much everything around the house in one way or another. Is that right?

The average household doesn't have a clue about their environmental footprint. We've all been born into a society steeped with 'disposable' products manufactured from arguably non-disposable elements. Repair and reuse is the ultimate form of recycling...there's always something we can do. Unfortunately people aren't willing to make the change. We live in a horribly wasteful society. It's gotten to such a point that consumers can do very little to avoid adding to a landfill. Next time you get fast food take a look at all the packaging. That's the stuff we need to start considering.

What are three things that you're passionate about?

One: Knowledge and perspective. I'm a complete infophile, I love knowing and having my opinion shifted by new information. I enjoy being wrong, it means I'm about to learn something.

Two: The Big Picture. I enjoy a historical scope. I usually start my research projects by looking into the origins of the topic I'm dissecting. I like seeing where things are from, collecting data and building projective models. I think we need to understand our trajectory in order to change it.

Three: Cultural Perspective & Awareness. 99.9999% of people in developed countries have absolutely no clue about their personal environmental impact and subsequent costs. I love telling narratives about the journeys of different waste streams, people are often surprised to hear the truth about what's lurking in their bins.

​My day to day is always different but the theme remains the same: I advocate sustainable systems and environmental awareness for a living.​
- Rudy Westerneng

5 easy steps to quit plastic (from The Rogue Ginger)

We believe that women have enormous potential to create positive change, especially when it comes to the environment. What do you think?

I believe that we all have enormous potential and responsibility, regardless of your gender. We've all grown up in the same disposable culture so we all need to shift our perspective, get informed and advocate change.

What's an environmental issue that you care about?

I have several! My top 3 this year are worldwide micro-polymer contamination and subsequently plastic usage and application, commodity stewardship and reclamation (closing the recycling loop and creating products that are designed with recycling in mind), and chemical/pollutant/by-product leachates in our ecosystem (the simple fact that we'll eventually eat, drink, or breath everything we throw away).

What is your message to the 1 Million Women community?

We need to educate the next generation, bringing real awareness to the impact of our actions on the environment. I strongly believe that programs like Recychology should be taught in schools at a young age so we can engrain the values that our generation lacks while deconstructing uninformed perspectives.

Our actions will reverberate for hundreds, possibly thousands of years into the future and it's getting worse. Every new day is the worst day in environmental history, this cannot continue. In the near future our actions will equate to lower food quality, increased sickness and shorter lifespans. In the long run the results will be much worse. Balance with our ecosystem is the only long-term strategy, we cannot keep taking and expect everything will be fine. I believe future historians will reflect on the 21st century as the dark ages of environmentalism. We are literally killing our planet.

Sometimes I feel like one of those half-crazed doomsday prophets waving a sign on a street corner, the only issue is that the sign would read “The End is in 500 years”.
- Rudy Westerneng

What can we do?

It's always hard to motivate people with consequences they won't receive in their lifetime. So please get informed, ask questions and spread the word. The first step towards a solution is shared common knowledge.

What questions about recycling do YOU have for the Recychologist ? Leave your questions in the comments below or email us.

Images: Shutterstock

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1 Million Women is more than our name, it's our goal! We're building a movement of strong, inspirational women acting on climate change by leading low-carbon lives. To make sure that our message has an impact, we need more women adding their voice. We need to be louder. Joining us online means your voice and actions can be counted. We need you.

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