Benefits of Recycling: (Why It’s Important)
Everywhere, recycling is under heavy suggestion. But why? Why is recycling so important for the Earth. Well, on average Americans throw away 185 pounds of plastic every year. It accounts for over 10% of the total waste we generate. The plastic that is thrown away with the rest of the trash goes into landfills, which contribute a lot to land and water pollution. The benefits of recycling are numerous and the more we recycle, the less waste ends up in landfills, ultimately reducing pollution.
To understand the benefits of recycling, it is important to know what recycling even is. The definition of recycling is to convert waste into reusable material. Basically, taking that soda or water bottle and transforming that plastic into a material that can a company can reuse for another bottle or other items. But, recycling includes a lot more than just plastic. You can recycle glass, metal, cardboard, tires, paper, even electronics.
There are a number of materials that can be put out with your recycling. However, some of them, depending on your specific recycling center, have some guidelines for how to recycle them. These guidelines come from how the items are actually recycled at the center. Certain things can gum up the works can even harm the machines.
Paper and Cardboard
Newspapers are special because once the recycling process is complete, the materials go back to the printing company to be made into more newspaper. They need to go in their own bin. Magazines, computer paper, and other paper products can go together in one bin. The staples that bind the magazines together are fine, however plastic wrap or rubber bands should be removed. Items that should not be grouped together with paper recycling include carbon paper, stickers, cardboard, laminated paper. Cardboard has their own specific guidelines. Cardboard boxes need to be broken down, flat, before it can be collected. In addition, wet or excessively dirty cardboard like pizza boxes can not be recycled because it can clog the sorting machines.
Plastic bottles are a highly recyclable material, in fact all plastic bottles should be recycled instead of being thrown away. However, the tops of the bottles should be thrown in with the regular recycling and not with the bottles themselves. Plastic grocery bags are another item that is highly recyclable. Of course, it is a very good idea to reuse these bags before you recycle them, as it reduces your overall plastic use. Most grocery stores also have bins outside where you can recycle plastic bags as well. Any and all plastic materials should be recycled to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills. Plastic is not biodegradable and it can take 500-1,000 years for plastic to completely degrade.
Glass and Metal
Glass is recycled according to their color. Clear, green and brown. Centers prefer it when glass is separated into those specific colors. Almost all glass containers are recyclable and accepted by recycling centers. Light bulbs have their own specific process of recycling and have to be handled with care. This is because some light bulbs contain certain chemicals that can be harmful to yourself and the environment if they are released.
When recycling food cans from cat food, dog food, or regular human food, you need to wash them out before discarding them. This is good for two reasons. One, the food can create unsanitary conditions in the machines and two, if your recycling sits in your house for a week or so, those food cans will start to really smell. Aluminum cans are actually very valuable as recyclable items and most centers request that they are not flattened.
Aluminum foil and foil packaging is important to recycle because they can be reused in mechanical components like engine parts. Paint and aerosol cans are also recyclable, but they are considered hazardous waste and need to be kept away from other recyclables. Copper is 100% recyclable, as are all its alloys like bronze and brass. The recycling of copper also only requires 15% of the total energy used in the production and extraction of copper.
When it comes to recycling electronics, you have quite a few options. Many people don't bother with electronic recycling because they find it too inconvenient. Then their electronics sit around or they get thrown into a landfill. With the following options; it's easier than it seems.
The first step would be to donate your old electronics! If it still works, why not give it to someone who could still find use in it? If not given to a friend, there are always certain charities who will gladly take them off of your hands.
Take your old electronics to a recycling center. Hop online and search for the centers in your area. Some towns and cities will even hold special collection drives where they will come to your door to collect your old gadgets.
Why is Recycling Important
There are many benefits of recycling like for its economic value, or environmental value, but why is it truly important? Plastic pollution is a serious issue and a huge contributor to all types of pollution, air, land and water. Here are some facts about plastic pollution that are happening right now.
- Just in Los Angeles, 10 tons of plastic fragments, be them from bags, straws or bottles, end up in the Pacific ocean every day. In fact, many restaurants and bars are not giving straws in drinks as a default option anymore, in an attempt to cut back on plastic use.
- 50% of all plastic we use, are used just once and thrown away. Looking at you, plastic bags and bottles.
- Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the Earth four times.
- We currently only recover 5% of the plastics we produce.
- The production of plastic uses almost 8% of the world’s oil.
- Americans throw away 35 billion plastic bottles every year.
- Plastic in the ocean breaks down into smaller segments. Pieces from one liter bottle could end up on every mile of beach throughout the world.
- 46% of plastics float and it can drift for years before eventually concentrating in the ocean gyres.
- Plastic also makes up basically 90% of all trash floating on the surface of the ocean. Almost 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile.
- About 1 million sea birds and 100,000 marine animals are killed from plastic annually.
- 44% of all seabird species, 22% of all cetaceans, all sea turtle species and a growing number of fish have been found with plastic in or on their bodies.
- Basically every piece of plastic ever made, still exists in some shape or form. With the exception of the amount that was incinerated.
- When incinerated, the chemicals in the plastic are released into the atmosphere.
- Plastic chemicals can be absorbed by the human body. In fact, 93% of Americans, age six and older, test positive for BPA.
- BPA and other chemicals have been found to alter hormones and can lead to other serious health issues including cancer.
Benefits of Recycling
Recycling is one of the best ways to leave a positive impact on the environment. The benefits of recycling are seen in both the environment as well as in human society. What is good for the Earth, is good for us.
- Recycling helps to reduce the chemicals and greenhouse gasses that are released by waste in landfills.
- It helps to reduce the pollution caused by waste.
- Recycling reduces the need for raw materials so that the rainforests, and other forests, can be better preserved. Also reduces global warming in that regard.
- Huge amounts of energy are used when making products, using raw materials. Recycling requires much less energy and therefore helps to preserve natural resources.
- Reduces the size of landfill sites.
- It can help the economy. The manufacturing of products from raw materials is expensive. Using recycled materials is much cheaper.
- Recycling is a $200 billion industry in the United States. It generates 7-10 more jobs than landfills.
- By recycling, we can significantly reduce the use of fossil fuel energy as well as CO2 emissions.
- It conserves fresh water up to 95% in the mining and manufacturing of raw materials.
Recycling and Sustainability
Sustainability and recycling go hand in hand. If we practice better sustainability methods, we will see more benefits of recycling and vice versa. The Earth has given us exactly what we need to survive, however, we are using it all at a faster and growing rate. The Earth is having trouble keeping up and if we are not careful, we could deplete the natural resources completely. By recycling, we can reduce the harmful impacts we have on the environment as well as reduce the need to keep producing products using raw materials.
The main goal of sustainability is to take advantage of renewable resources and use less energy. Recyclable products can be easily seen as a renewable resource. While, of course, not a traditional renewable resource, the fact that we can reuse the materials over and over again could rope it into the same category. Numerous products are already being made with recycled materials. Notebooks, newspapers, flower planters, cardboard boxes. In fact, almost every cardboard box is made from recycled cardboard.
Simply, we can not afford to continue with bad environmental management and irresponsible usage of natural resources. The benefits of recycling are very apparent and yet, we are only recycling about 30% of our waste. If we want to see significant changes in our environment, we need to be recycling materials every chance we get.