By participating in recycling, you are helping to reuse commonly manufactured items like cardboard, plastic, and paper. This in turn can help save energy, natural resources, and the environment.
- Americans use 2,500,000 plastic bottles every hour and most of them are thrown away.
- Some studies show that upwards of 70% of what we throw away is recyclable.
- Paper is the most common item found in the trash.
- There is no limit to the amount of times that aluminum can be recycled.
- If you throw away a tin can or a plastic bottle, it will most likely never decompose in a landfill in your lifetime. Styrofoam never decomposes, ever!
- For the most part, recycling reduces energy consumption and causes less air pollution.
Reduce and Reuse before Recycling
Recycling is a great thing to do, but there are many things you can do before recycling to think and act sustainably. You can help reduce or eliminate the production of unneeded materials. Listed below are some examples of how to think sustainably before recycling:
- Buying in bulk (which uses less packaging per product).
- Purchasing recycled materials (encourages companies to use recycled materials).
- Give your extra cardboard boxes to a friend who is moving.
- Remove your name from mailing lists. For example, www.catalogchoice.org is a free service that allows you to remove your name from lists that databrokers sell to marketers. By reducing phone books and catalogs received in your home, you can help reduce waste.
- Use cloth grocery bags.
- Purchase a sturdy water bottle instead of using single use bottles of water.
- Learn to do without. See this website for 25 things that are easy to avoid using: https://www.recyclebank.com/live-green/25-wasteful-things-you-can-probably-get-along-without/
The “Sustainability Hierarchy” graphic illustrates what we discussed in the previous paragraph. The one thing we have not yet discussed is “waste to energy.” A waste to energy plant takes trash and burns it to make energy in a process called incineration.
We see from this graph that the best things to do are to reduce, reuse, and recycle. We should always do our best to keep resources from going to landfill, because a landfill for a plastic bottle or aluminum can is a “graveyard of no return.”