The Recycling Myth

Disruptive Innovation to Improve the Environment

by Jack Buffington


Recycling and sustainability programs are good for the environment. Or are they?

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Cover image for The Recycling Myth

December 2015


Pages 157
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Business/Strategy

This book states the harsh truth: that despite best intentions, our current environmental practices are doing more harm than good, and that the solution lies in creating supply chains of the future that design, produce, consume, and reuse materials in a manner that is balanced economically and environmentally.

One billion beverage containers are used on a daily basis in the United States, with at least 600 million of them ending up in landfills. Even the 400 million that are recycled—at a great cost—are not accomplishing the task of helping the environment. This economic and environmental catastrophe cannot be solved by recycling programs. From his experience as a leader in the American consumer beverage industry and a researcher in Sweden, author Jack Buffington has developed a transformational solution that seeks to not just mitigate the environmental damage but jumpstart the economy while actually achieving zero waste.

The Recycling Myth tells the story of how our current environmental practices are unintentionally doing more harm than good and how we need to create a radically different supply chain of the future that must, as best as possible, copy the natural system of growth, decay, and regrowth, and discontinue a disastrous pattern of material design and use. Backed by irrefutable evidence, the book destroys our comfortable notions of the recycling status quo; explains why recycling will never work in the United States, despite decades of attempts; and introduces a new system that will actually work—without asking consumers to consume less.


  • Supplies an informed perspective from a leader in the consumer beverage industry at one of the world's largest producers of packaged beverages and a researcher in Sweden in the fields of environmental science and supply chain logistics
  • Presents a bold counterargument to the idea that recycling and sustainability programs are inherently beneficial and introduces a new system that will benefit both our environment and economy—without asking consumers to consume less
  • Explains why recycling and sustainability programs are ineffective because they focus solely on doing less harm rather than improving both the economy and the environment
Author Info

Jack Buffington, PhD, is a supply chain executive at MillerCoors, the second largest beer manufacturer in the United States. Buffington is also a post-doctoral researcher in the fields of environmental science and supply chain for the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. Due to his cross-functional background in industry, academia, and consulting, Buffington holds professional-level board positions in supply chain associations, speaks at industry conferences on matters of supply chain and sustainability, and has authored numerous journal articles and books on business and environmental themes. Buffington earned a doctorate in industrial marketing and supply chain at the Lulea University of Technology in Lulea, Sweden.

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