Next time your stopping by your local big box office supply store, take a good smell when you walk in the door. Sniff, sniff, sniff...Ahhhhhhh....That wonderful chemical smell is the off-gassing of PVC/Vinyl. Ok, maybe it doesn't smell "as bad" as it did a few years ago. Manufactures of three ring vinyl binders and other petroleum derived products have found alternative plastics that don't off-gas as much (polypropylenes, polyethylenes, polyolefins, etc).
Some manufactures are going as far as saying that these are "more environmentally friendly". Sure, and Marlboro Lights are probably better for you than Marlboro Reds. The fact of the matter is that with or with out the smell, these plastics will be around for several thousands of years. The plastics industry has been feeling the heat and some have started putting additives into plastics to help them break down quicker when we throw them away. They are quick to make claims that these plastics are biodegradable which is really going too far on stretching the truth. Where are the green police when you need them?! When exposed to the right elements, everything is biodegradable at some point.... including you and I. The reality is, landfills are made to entomb our garbage. Meaning when our trash gets buried underground no oxygen, moisture or sunlight is present to cause decomposition. They have actually uncovered newspapers buried in a landfill thirty years ago and they are still readable! Landfills are not the solution.
Making products recyclable is the best alternative. Commercial recycling programs around the country are slow moving but getting better. Seattle's recycling program is one of the most advanced in the country. We can throw all of our recyclables into one green bin (paper, plastic, glass, metals) - if it's listed on a sheet of acceptable items. Soda cans, wine bottles, broken down corrugated boxes, cottage cheese tubs and even wire hangers are on the list. If the product doesn't fit one of these descriptions, it gets discarded and sent to the landfill. It kills me when I see products claiming to be 100% recyclable and they really are not. In the office supply industry especially, I see plastic three ring binders that have ring metals riveted to the spine, with a large sticker on the front exclaiming 100% Recyclable Binder. Shame shame on you! Even if you did have a welding torch to remove the rings from the cover, it still would get rejected in your curbside pickup. At Sustainable Group, the philosophy behind creating the world's best recycled binder (ReBinder), was making sure that our binder was easy to recycle end of life. Our choice to use recycled corrugated cardboard and chipboard in our binder covers was knowing these two materials were easy to recycle or composted regardless of where you lived. Also, having the ability to reuse the existing ring metal assembly by just purchasing a replacement cover made financial sense as well. These philosophies carry through into the development of all products we design and bring to market.