Recycling Realities and Greenwashing Gimmicks: Unveiling the Multi-faceted Nature of Recyclability

David Mattersdorfer
4 min readOct 24


Key Findings:

  1. Theoretical Recyclability: Many materials have inherent recyclability, but practical constraints often hinder their actual recycling.
  2. Practical Recyclability: Existing waste management systems may lack the technology or processes to effectively recycle certain materials, despite their theoretical recyclability.
  3. Real Recyclability: Achieving real recyclability requires considering a myriad of factors including consumer behavior, collection systems, and regional waste management infrastructure.
  4. Greenwashing: Instances of greenwashing, where environmental benefits are overstated or falsely advertised, can mislead the public and obscure the true recyclability of products.
  5. Future Implications: A more comprehensive understanding and assessment of recyclability, driven by technological and systemic enhancements, is pivotal for global recycling efficacy.

In an era where the terms “recyclable” and “compostable” are often seen as synonymous with environmental responsibility, it’s crucial to understand the true essence of recyclability. This article, inspired by a paper from the Montanuniversität Leoben, aims to demystify the different facets of recyclability, making it accessible to the layman through contemporary examples.

Theoretical Recyclability

Theoretical recyclability pertains to the inherent capability of materials to be recycled based on their physical and chemical properties.

For instance, PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) bottles can theoretically be recycled due to their material constitution. However, the presence of whole-body sleeves often hampers their recognition by Near-Infrared (NIR) sensors in sorting facilities, rendering them practically non-recyclable.

This example underscores a common disconnect between theoretical and practical recyclability.



David Mattersdorfer

Circular Materials 🔄 Project & Business Development ≫ Advisor & Founder | 👇