Top Five Reasons Why You Need to Recycle
Slowly but surely recycling has become more mainstream. I remember just 10 short years ago not a single one of my neighbors recycled. Most of them said that it was too much of a hassle or that it wasn't worth their time to recycle. In other words, recycling was something that sounded good yet was really an inconvenience for most people. However, I did make an effort to recycle back then. I remember bagging up aluminum cans and then taking them down to the local (about 20 miles away actually) scrap metal dealer to have them recycled. This was actually a monthly tradition for me a my family. We also recycled cardboard and used motor oil whenever we had the opportunity.
Today, we live in a much different society. Many communities now have recycling programs that encourage (and sometimes require) you to recycle your paper, plastic, aluminum, and glass refuse. Many business owners have also found ways for recycling to be profitable as well as beneficial to the industries that they support. This is a huge driving force in making recycling a mainstream activity. So if you haven't started making the effort to recycle already, here are five reasons why you should start today.
1. Recycling Promotes Economic Growth
There are two main ways that recycling can help promote economic growth. The first way it can help the economy is that many business can save money by recycling or purchasing recycled materials. This helps businesses reduce there expenditures giving them the ability to hire more workers or offer their products at a lower price. For a great example of how recycling can benefit a business consider the story of the Mall of America in Minnesota. Before the mall was ever constructed, recycling was a key component of the mall's design. The key features of this mall that makes it a model for recycling are:
- 50 to 60% of food waste is delivered to local farmers for consumption by pigs
- Before it leaves the property, a staff of 20 waste managers sort trash produced by customers every day
- Aluminum cans are donated to a local charity which turns around and sells them.
- Paper and cardboard materials are sold to a local paper mill
- Batteries and fluorescent light bulbs are recycled through contracts with specialty recyclers
- Tenants at the mall must agree to recycle when they sign the lease (there are penalties for not recycling as well)
The second reason that recycling promotes the economy is that it creates jobs. There have been many studies on the effects that recycling has on jobs growth, and they all come to the same conclusion: Recycling creates more jobs than just sending things to a landfill does. From a numbers standpoint, 5,000 tons of trash could create 3 jobs if it were sent to a landfill. If it were recycled instead, 18 jobs could be created. In addition to this, recycling related jobs generally pay a higher salary and require more skills than those of the landfill related ones.
2. Recycling Reduces Our Reliance on Mining
Mining is one of man's ugly secrets. Not only is it a deadly occupation, averaging between 50 and 100 deaths annually in the USA, it causes disease (Miner's Lung), destroys the environment, and is the root cause of many wars. Mines can significantly alter the landscape and create problems for wildlife, natural drainage, and even our groundwater supplies. Although mining is a necessary evil, its environmental impacts can be reduced simply by recycling more.
Recycling conserves natural resources which greatly reduces the need to mine raw materials. For example, did you know that when one ton of steel is recycled, it prevents 2,500lbs of iron ore and 1,400lbs of coal from being excavated? Over a period of time, this can add up to be a significant amount of materials. What about aluminum? Bauxite mining (from which Aluminum is made from) is a very destructive industry that literally strips the land. Luckily for us, aluminum is a very easy material to recycle.
3. Recycling Reduces the Need for Landfills
Recycling our waste makes sense. Logically, the more stuff that can be reused or re-purposed, the less stuff that is sent to a landfill. Why would anyone want to fill a hole in the ground with valuable and useful materials? As much as 80% of the materials and waste that are sent to landfills could have actually been recycled instead. Did you know that 1 ton of paper requires 3 cubic yards of landfill space? Take aluminum for example. Only 40-50% of the aluminum sold to consumers is actually recycled. The rest ends up in a landfill. These are some very significant statistics; can you imagine all of the valuable material that is currently sitting in landfills all over the country? It is quite foreseeable that in the near future old landfills will be reopened and mined for their precious materials.
4. Recycling Saves Trees
It is a fact that the world needs paper. The average American uses between 650 and 700 pounds of paper each year. This includes writing paper, paper packaging, cardboard, and mail. If all of that paper was recycled instead of thrown away, up 100 million tons of wood could be saved each year. Since paper can only be recycled 5-7 times before the fibers become to weak to use, our use of virgin trees may never be completely eliminated. However, recycling paper can still have a significant impact on the amount of trees that we cut down.
The good thing is that America is making progress on this issue. Today, there are more trees in the United States than there were 85 years ago. This is largely the results of replanting and tree farming efforts, but some of it can be attributed to recycling. Trees are a very important natural resource (and asset) because they produce oxygen, create habitats, and improve human morale.
5. Recycling Reduces Pollution
Did you know that recycling at least 30% of our waste reduces greenhouse gas emissions as much as removing nearly 25 million cars from the road? Simply put, recycling saves more energy and produce less carbon dioxide emissions than any other method of waste management. Air pollution is reduced because there is significantly less energy consumed during the manufacturing and distribution processes (as opposed to using raw materials instead). In one study performed by some environmental consultants out of Washington, it was shown that utilizing recycled materials used as much as 48% less energy than the same process did using new materials.
References and Resources
A Recycling Revolution. Recycling Benefits: The Many Reasons Why. 2011. <http://www.recycling-revolution.com/recycling-benefits.html>
All Recycling Facts. Recycling Benefits to the Economy. 2011. <http://www.all-recycling-facts.com/recycling-benefits.html>
Environmental Protection Agency. Recycling Case Studies: America's Marketplace Recycles! September 27, 2011. <http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/rrr/rogo/documents/amrguide/chapter5.pdf>
Harrison, Paul. Benefits of Recycling: Aluminum. 2011. <http://www.benefits-of-recycling.com/recyclealuminum.html>
Idea Connection. Environmental Impacts from Mining. 2011. <http://www.ideaconnection.com/solutions/1430-Environmental-impacts-from-mining.html>
I Love a San Diego. Why is Recycling Important? 2011. <http://www.ilacsd.org/recycle/r_why.php>
National Resources Defense Council. Greening Advisor: Recycling. 2011. <http://www.nrdc.org/enterprise/greeningadvisor/wm-recycling.asp>