Supposing I can focus only on one type of material to recycle, choosing from paper (card board etc), aluminum (can etc) or plastic (water bottle etc), then which choice of material will help the environment most?


  • 3
    Why are you asking this hypothetical question? I fail to see its relevance, especially since it's so broad.
    – user2451
    May 27, 2019 at 15:56
  • Respectfully, this is not a hypothetical question. I am asking because, I see people focusing on card board and paper recycling, but not doing recycling of Plastic bottles and aluminum. I feel paper and card board can be get recycled by itself, but Plastic and aluminum will not in 400+ years, so wanted feedback/answer from Sustainable Living.
    – Raj
    May 27, 2019 at 16:57
  • I think, to @JanDoggen's point, a better question would be about the relative impact of the three different materials both as virgin products, and through recycling.
    – LShaver
    May 27, 2019 at 17:41
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    Then tell us about I see people focusing on card board and paper recycling to show it is not hypothetical. Why are you asking?. There may be far more factors at play (like availability of recycling services) that determine if people recycle or not.
    – user2451
    May 27, 2019 at 18:02

1 Answer 1


If the goal is sustainability and I can only choose one, I'd choose aluminum. Aluminum is relatively cost-effective to recycle and doesn't decompose on its own. Paper is middling efficient to recycle, and decomposes on its own — eventually. Plastic is relatively inefficient to recycle, and also doesn't decompose much on its own — which means we should avoid using it wherever possible, especially if we can't recycle it for whatever reasons.




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