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There are plenty of facts out there on why recycling is important. The world population is growing, not shrinking, and currently, each human being adds significant waste to the planet over his or her lifetime. In New York alone, people produce enough trash in one day to fill the entire Empire State building.
The frustrating thing is, in most developed countries, it’s not that difficult to make a difference. And what a difference we can make. If everyone repurposed their copy of a single edition of The New York Times, we could save 75,000 trees.
What Exactly Is Recycling?
Every day we use a variety of products in our households and workplaces to fulfill our basic needs. Most of these products and their packaging are wasted and dumped in bins, which end up in landfill sites. Consumers place recyclable materials over to your local waste facility by placing it in a designated disposal container. Then it is taken to a recycling facility and/or transported to a location when that material can be reused for a new purpose. A recyclable product is turned back into a raw form that can be used to create a new and different product.
Not only are natural resources limited, but recycling efforts can significantly reduce additional waste that will not only harm the planet today but for future generations as well. The natural resources on our planet earth are limited so we must make the most to conserve, recycle and reuse whenever possible.
Recycling things involves using a product, in part or as a whole, in the production of similar or same products again. In regular production, the use of raw materials is sourced directly from natural resources. For example, fresh pulp from cut down trees is used to create first-generation paper. Recycled paper can be used in producing new paper without vastly compromising the quality of the final product. The same applies to most other materials like metal, glass and plastics.
What Can I Recycle?
What you can recycle depends on your area, not all materials may be recyclable. Check with your local recycling center to find out what you can and cannot recycle. You’ll notice that recyclable products are labeled with numbers from 1 to 7, 1 being the most recyclable, and 7 being the least recyclable. Learn more about what recycling codes mean.
Also, check with your city to make sure that you have the correct disposal containers available to ensure your efforts are being put to good use and heading to the recycling center rather than the landfill you are working so hard to avoid!
Ways To Reduce Trash You Create
In general consumption of goods, we ignore the fact that a major portion of our waste can be reduced or reused before resorting to recycling. It would be very responsible of us if we could reduce the consumption of products to the maximum extent possible. So, the three R’s of sustainability are Reduce, Reuse…and then Recycle.
Simply cutting down on the amount of non-recyclable materials you throw out is easier than you think. Here are some tips to reduce waste.
- Bring your own reusable tote bags to purchase groceries. If you forget, insist on paper, and pack as many goods in one bag as possible, without double bagging.
- Try to reduce the amount of packaging you purchase by buying products in bulk.
- Switch from mail to paperless statements (bills, financial statements, newsletters, etc.) and have them e-mailed to you instead.
- Buy products that are packaged in cardboard or paper board instead of Styrofoam.
- Avoid disposable items such as paper plates, cups, and utensils.
- When wrapping presents, opt for reusable gift bags instead of wrapping paper – or maybe even reuse wrapping paper.
Donate Your Clothing & Home Goods To Charity
- Most likely your city has many charity shops (like Goodwill and the Salvation Army) that will take your gently used clothes, electronics, furniture and other household items to resell as income for these non-profit organizations. You can even donate your car. These donations help others and are typically a tax deduction for you too.
- Shop at and sell your clothing on an online thrift store. Simply send in your items to sell them yourself or have them take care of the sale for a higher fee. Your trash just may be someone else’s treasure!
- Composting is the simple step of setting aside your fruit peels and pits along with other select food waste and putting it into a compost pile. This will not only reduce trash and create a much cleaner smelling kitchen but also produce great nutrients for your garden. Read more about Composting Bins
Why Recycling Is Important
There are many good reasons for adding recycling to your routine, ranging from a personal level to a global advantage.
Recycling your waste makes you more conscious in how you use and dispose of goods. Studies show that people who recycle instinctively cut back on buying unnecessary things. They think of how to dispose of the packaging or the product after use before even buying it. As a result, people end up saving a considerable amount of money while also saving the planet.
Individuals, governing bodies and companies can take pride in minimizing their waste as they are helping to reduce global environmental damage and making this earth a better place to live. It is a direct contribution that everyone can make.
Apart from the environmental and emotional benefits, there is an economic impact via employment generated. When you put your waste in different bins for paper, plastics, glass and so on, the contents of each are further segregated and taken to recycling plants. The manpower involved in the logistics and processing of your waste is considerable and thus, you are helping to provide jobs and aid in the welfare of their families. Some will argue that the manpower and steps to recycle are more expensive than trash, but multiple organizations insist that the benefits significantly outweigh the additional resources and costs.
We must also be aware of the emissions that result from the incineration. Sometimes the heat generated is used to generate electrical power (waste to energy plants) to offset the damage and minimize the carbon footprint. Even though this sounds positive, there are concerns about the type of waste being incinerated and if it has any toxic effects on the surrounding areas.
Recycling’s Global Impact
What happens to your recycled items after leaving the recycling bin? Plastics, in particular, can be expensive to process or some products are not recyclable due to being contaminated with food or other materials. In these cases, the goods become an internationally-traded commodity that was, until recently, shipped to China for a high price tag.
In 2018, China announced a ban on the import of plastic waste as an initiative to clean up its environment. This left other Asian countries including Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam to become the top importers of plastic scrap. However, the surge in plastic imports in those areas has encouraged unethical practices, and the local government is cracking down and shutting down those facilities. As a result, leaving the scrap to sit in abandoned facilities or stranded at seaports with no destination.
Purchase Products Made From Recycled Materials
You’re no doubt aware by now why this is so important. However, the effort involves not only recycling existing products but purchasing products that have already been recycled. Today, thanks to a strong push in the green movement recently, you’ll notice more and more products made from recycled materials.
To purchase products made from reused materials, simply look for a recycling symbol and language on the product’s packaging. Every day manufacturers are finding new ways to create items that are recyclable including paper towels, cardboard boxes, plastic containers, crayons, ink cartridges, paint, garden supplies such as hoses, furniture, wallpaper, and even garbage cans.
And don’t forget the packaging. It is often too big for the product inside and uses non-recycled materials. This is wasteful and should be minimized as well when making a purchase decision. Voting with your wallet is one of the best ways to make an impact while sending a clear message to the companies that make these products as to your desire for more attention to recycle-friendly products.
Studies have shown that:
- More than 60% of the rubbish that ends up in trash bins can be recycled.1
- Around 16% of the cost of a product is spent on its packaging, which is completely wasted if not disposed of properly.2
- 80% of a vehicle can be recycled.2
- Aluminum cans can be recycled entirely and put to use in a short time.
- Glass can be recycled 100% and reused.3
- 24 trees are cut down to make one ton of paper.4
- On the contrary, recycled paper is proved to create 70% less pollution compared to non-recycled material paper production.7
- Plastics, which can often be recycled, take around 500 years to decompose.5
- One recycled tin can saves enough energy to power a television for 2 hours.6
- 70% less energy is utilized to recycle paper compared to making it from raw materials.7
- Similarly, when you recycle one glass bottle, it can save enough energy to power a personal computer for 25 minutes.7
Reduce E-Waste Through Electronics Recycling
Due to rapid technological change, obsolescent items have created a fast-growing mass of electronic waste around the globe. E-waste (or waste from electronics) is toxic if disposed of improperly. The chemicals, metals and associated solders, glues and plastics can cause both environmental and health problems.
For this reason, the WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Directive in the European Union makes businesses, manufacturers and retailers of electrical and electronic equipment responsible for making sure their goods do not end up in landfill or incineration. Some new regulations involve dismantling of parts into metals, plastics and individually processing them.
So any working TVs, monitors, computers, cell phones, batteries and other consumer electronics can be sold or donated, thereby prolonging their useful life. Find out how you can turn your old electronics into cash by recycling them. And if they are no longer working, the same companies who will give you money for them should be able to accept them and ensure they are disposed of properly.
We Only Get One Planet
Hopefully, this article has helped you realize just how important your efforts are. Not just for us, but also our kids, grandchildren, and anyone that follows in our footsteps. Take care of your planet, and it will take care of you. When looking for ways to reduce environmental pollution and cut back on energy consumption, recycling is an important step to undertake. A sustainable lifestyle is the need of the times and we can very well adopt such beneficial changes in our daily life.
What are you doing to help reduce your carbon footprint?
Sources:  Indiana University. “Waste & Recycling.” Web Accessed April 25, 2015,  Consumer Reports,  GPI.org,  WorldAtlas.com,  Environment about.com,  Environmental Protection Agency,  RecyclingBins.co.uk
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