.Most of you out there have at least heard of recycling. It’s that thing that people do when they are being sustainable, or as some of my friends tell me, “hippy-dippy.” However, recycling isn’t just for tree-huggers, it’s something all of us should take into consideration for a myriad of reasons. No, it’s not going to make you money (immediately) and no it’s not going to make your life easier per se, but it will keep you out of trouble and you’ll be able to say that you are contributing to the betterment of our global community. Now isn’t that nice? Recycling saves on energy and energy is expensive and being depleted rather quickly. Learn more about energy and economics in this course.
What is Recycling?
For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past 15 years – recycling is the act of reusing something. There are different ways to interpret this like, recycling furniture to a Goodwill for someone else to use, or recycling electronics for scrappers to strip, and then there’s recycling plastics, paper, and cans to be reused by the company. While the first two examples are really fun things to talk about (who doesn’t love recycling, reusing and re-purposing items!?), we’re going to focus on the latter. It’s this method of recycling that is active in most developed countries worldwide. It depends on where you live, but some districts offer streamline recycling which basically means you don’t have to do anything. You can through all of your trash out with all of your recyclables and your lovely waste management facility sorts through it all. Some places require you to separate your goods on your own, so paper in one bin, cans in one and plastics in another – or some combination of these. Alright, so using this definition of recycling, what is considered recyclable?
- Glass bottles (these can be recycled or reused for storing things around the house!)
- Plastic bottles (these are one of the primary items to be littered – don’t do that)
- Plastic bags (all of those grocery bags you save can be dropped off at the store to be used again)
- Paper and cardboard (that pasta box you just emptied? Put that in the recycling bin.)
- Aluminum cans (yes, tin foil counts)
What are some other atypical recycling items?
- Batteries (not good for the environment)
- Electronics (e-waste can be stripped for parts or metals)
- Hazardous waste (chemicals that can seep into ground water and growing soil)
- Demolition debris (construction sites scraps can be used to build something else. If you are interested in becoming certified as a LEED green associate (eco-friendly builders) check out the LEED green associate exam prep course.)
- Metal (besides aluminum cans, you can recycle aerosol cans, steel containers, and so on)
- Motor oil (very dangerous for wildlife and our health if disposed of improperly – so take it to an oil recycling center)
Every state has different protocols for dealing with recycling materials. Here are the reasons why it’s advantageous to recycle.
1. Saves Money
Don’t shake your head no before you know. Recycling economics include an array of benefits for those who recycle. In some states like, Michigan, California, and Vermont, people are incentivized to recycle by getting a monetary compensation for turning in their materials. It won’t make you rich at five cents a can – but it can give you some extra spending cash for gas if you drink a lot of bottled or canned beverage products. Secondly, running a waste management facility is super expensive. There are a lot of bells and whistles (although you wouldn’t necessarily think so) required to keep operations running smoothly and effectively. A recycling facility, however, is much more cost-efficient than waste management deciding to dump in a landfill or incinerate trash. Lastly, U.S. companies save money by being a part of a recycling program. The more people recycle, the less companies have to spend to sell their products, and thus the less goods will cost. In theory, of course.
2. Creates Jobs
In 2011 it was estimated that over 2.3 million people worked in and around the recycling business. This includes people designing the labels for recycling all the way up the facility operators. Yes, there are a lot of industries (like waste management) that also create jobs. However, statistics show that for every 1 job in waste management there are 4 jobs in the recycling industry. Plus, waste management creates landfills and mucks up our environment. I feel like recycling is much more of a win. In addition to the people directly involved in the recycling process, there are the people involved after the recycling process. This means jobs for even more people who are paid to manufacture something new out of the recycled items.
3. Eliminates Landfill Waste
Not only are landfills total eyesores – they smell. Really bad. It sucks for communities having to live in the vicinity of one of these mountains of trash – it just keeps growing and growing and oozing out odors and potentially hazardous waste. There was a time when landlords were the norm and people didn’t think twice, but those days are over. A wave of environmental consciousness is upon us. People are no longer okay with putting trash in a hole in the ground. They want to see that all food is used for compost, cans are used to make more cans, electronics are being stripped and used for parts, paper is being recycled into more paper and so on. It’s a zero-waste kind of world and we’re all better off for it. Looking for other ways to “go green”? Read 25 green ideas to start with. You can also take this organic soil growing course to learn more about using compost as a recyclable practice in your own home.
4. Benefits the Environmental
Believe it or not, recycling does have a positive impact on the environment! Here’s why:
- Recycling reduces pollution because trash isn’t being burned and manufacturers can reuse materials instead of creating new ones which is more energy efficient.
- If even half of the people in the United States recycled regularly, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduce to the equivalent of taking 25 million cars off of the road.
- If a soda company has the resources to produce aluminum cans from recycled material it will reduce their energy consumption by 95%. For plastic bottles, recycling saves the company up to 70% in energy usage.
- Recycling hazardous waste prevents it from going into the landfill where it seeps into the ground and damages the local ecosystem and water supply.
- Speaking of ecosystems, recycling substantially cuts back on logging and mining which are destructive to wildlife habitats. Learn more about natural resources in this Geology 101 course.
- Straight out of the mouth of the National Recycling Coalition, “When one ton of steel is recycled, 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone are conserved.”
Need I say more? I think it’s pretty obvious that the benefits of recycling far outweigh not recycling. It’s not that much skin off your back to participate and the effects are felt world-wide. Do your part!