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When we recycle, we are active in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, preventing global pollution, and limiting the creation of toxic bacteria.
However, to prove this is true, we must look deeper into recycling and examine a product’s life from its conception to its destruction or recycling.
17+ Environmental Reasons Why We Should Be Recycling
1. Recycling reduces landfill sites and Deposits
The human population is increasing, spreading into new habitats, and producing increasing amounts of municipal solid waste (MSW). Unfortunately, increased waste necessitates the creation of new, larger, and expanded landfill sites.
In 2018 in the U.S.A., more than 146 million tons (50%) of all municipal solid waste was landfilled. In addition, more than 34 million tons of MSW (11.8%) were combusted with the goal of energy recovery.
Recycling, however, diverts easily recyclable materials away from landfill sites and towards recycling centers. This diversion effectively reduces the accumulation of waste in landfills negating the requirement for newer and bigger sites.
Additionally, this also slows the fill rate and expansion of existing sites.
This is why recycling, and more importantly, why recycling correctly, is so crucial and remains the easiest way to influence environmental change personally.
2. recycling keeps the earth greener
Every year, the world produces over two billion tonnes of municipal solid waste, with Americans producing three times the global average.
(12% created despite only accounting for 4% of the world’s population).
Not all of this waste ends up in landfills, and large proportions can be seen littering our cities and floating in the oceans.
Additionally, waste from landfills can be an eyesore, smell noxious, attract vermin, and be wind deposited over several miles. All of these present a danger to organic life and have the potential to become environmental disasters.
Recycling sidesteps all of these problems by recovering the raw materials at the source and processing them into new products.
The best sort of waste is no waste at all!
3. Recycling reduces energy consumption
Consider how much energy it takes to create one ton of aluminum soda cans from scratch.
Be sure to think about the sourcing, extracting, transporting, and processing of the raw materials.
Also include the fossil fuels used, how they are processed, and the greenhouse gases produced.
Finally, end your thoughts with the possible manufacturing processes employed to make the soda cans.
By now, you should have amassed a fair amount of energy.
Recycling reduces all the energy-consuming processes you thought about – now you only need to have the pre-used aluminum delivered, processed, and re-manufactured.
The calculated result in energy saving is massive and mind-blowing, with 95% of the energy saved.
This energy-saving is possible because there is no sourcing, extracting, transporting, and processing, i.e., smelting of the bauxite ore.
There is also an additional saving in greenhouse gas emissions as no fossil fuels are extracted or burned for the process.
Another quick, calculated example of where recycling saves energy could be taken from the steel industry.
As the Steel Recycling Institute has calculated that recycling steel saves enough energy to power the equivalent of 18 million homes per year!
4. recycling reduces environmental damage
It is estimated that approximately 80% of all municipal solid waste (MSW) is recyclable, and that figure is slowly increasing. However, the U.S. recycling and composting figure stand at only 32.1%.
This means that we are still destroying wildlife habitats by creating environmental eyesores in the form of landfill sites and incinerators.
In fact, each landfill site has an average size of 600 acres, and toxic sludge called leachate will leach into the ground when the plastic liners eventually break down.
There is also the possibility that noxious gasses and or fire embers from landfill fires will invade the surrounding countryside within its lifetime.
Recycling reduces the amount of waste transported to landfills which slows the creation and size of future landfills.
This also provides a welcome break from the ongoing destruction and decimation of areas of natural beauty and rare wildlife habitats.
5. Almost Everything Can be Recycled
The list of recyclable materials is growing, and we can now recycle everything from batteries and plastics to food waste and even the shirt off our backs.
Conservative estimations are that at least 80% of the materials presently thrown into the trash could be captured and recycled instead.
This presents an amazing opportunity for us all.
The opportunity to be active participants in a global recycling effort that will preserve and protect our lands and recourses for both this and future generations to come.
6. Recycling existing materials Is Part Of The Solution
The more we recycle, the less trash floats indiscriminately about the world causing problems and becoming a danger to life.
Recycling keeps the waste from our cities, oceans, forests, countrysides, and places of outstanding natural beauty. It also prevents us from destroying it in the pursuit of virgin raw materials.
Land can remain undisturbed, air quality high, and wildlife flourishing.
Unsurprisingly, this type of environment stimulates the human condition promoting good physical and mental health.
Sunlight and fresh air are proven to reduce anxiety, and the outdoor environment provides social bonding opportunities that provide a shared feeling of belonging.
Therefore, recycling materials such as glass, aluminum, paper, and plastics are not only environmentally rewarding; but are essential to our physical, mental, and societal advancement.
7. recycling reduces water contamination risks
Recycling centers and recycling plants that return the materials to their raw state are heavily regulated and monitored.
There is a requirement that all the water used in their processes is checked and verified as clean before it is reused or returned to the environment.
In comparison, landfill and illegal dumpsites can suffer from rainwater runoff, liner leakage, and an escape of toxic bacterial build-up.
In addition, thoughtlessly discarded waste eventually finds its way into a river, ocean, or associated water source, where it quickly becomes a contaminant.
Therefore recycling directly reduces the possibility and number of water contamination occurrences by reducing the amount of waste deposited in landfills and dumpsites.
At the same time, recycling centers clean, sterilize, and process waste, and the waters are used to a high set of government-led standards that do not endanger the environment.
8. recycling reduces air toxicity
Municipal solid waste decomposing over a 600-acre landfill site will inevitably produce a strong-smelling stench from the decomposing surface matter.
These noxious fumes can be blown over large areas and can affect the well-being of local residents and wildlife.
Decomposing on the landfill surface can be food, yard trimmings, paper, cardboard, and clothing, all of which are organic and could have been recycled or composted.
Had these materials been diverted to recycling, they would not be adding to the foul surface stench or mixing with the methane-producing inner core.
The mixing occurs when the methane gas rises through the organic bacterial sludge picking up contaminants that can form a mist of hazardous smog over the surface.
Complementing the landfill is the incinerator designed for the burning of waste and energy re-capture. However, this facility also adds to the creation of greenhouse gases.
The gasses created here are mainly carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, ammonia, and various other gasses peculiar to the materials and plastics burned within the waste stream.
Therefore, diverting products at the source to be recycled removes the waste from landfills and incinerators, improving air quality.
9. recycling reduces the risk of serious disease outbreaks
Illegal dumping and the accumulation of waste in landfill sites lead to creation and emission of toxic, bacteria-laden gasses.
When inhaled, these gasses may lead to respiratory-associated diseases that adversely affect the body’s gut bacterium balance.
In addition, if the toxic liquid known as leachate contained within a landfill mass finds a way to contaminate water sources, disease outbreaks will quickly follow.
Leachate is the hazardous liquid formed when organic waste (bacterial) and non-organic waste ( metals and chemicals) break down within the landfill and mix with rainwater.
The result is a highly toxic leachate soup of bacterial colonies and hazardous substances, including mercury, arsenic, acids, and lead.
10. recycling reduces risk to the Planets ecological balance
Recycling reduces the risk of harm to the ecological balance of the planet and slows the onset of climate change by:
- Decreasing the creation of greenhouse gasses.
- Slowing the destruction of natural habitats by reducing the demand for raw material extraction.
- Reducing the demand for new landfill sites and the expansion of existing sites
- Decreasing the number of new waste-burning incinerators required for waste disposal.
- Reducing the extraction and burning of fossil fuels for material extraction, transporting, and processing.
- Creating a recycle, reuse societal trend that challenges the throwaway physiology.
- Decreases the release of air and water pollutants, both commercial and non-commercial generated.
- Decreases the danger to organic life by reducing the source material available.
- Lowers the shipping of existing waste to third world countries with lower safety regulations and poor ecological protection standards.
11. Recycling improves landfill safety
Modern landfills contain pipes and processes to siphon off and contain the many dangerous liquids and gasses that can build up over time.
The gasses are mostly methane, but the liquid is a mixture of bacteria, acids, hazardous chemicals, heavy metals, and rainwater.
This liquid can damage and block pipes, corrode and dissolve landfill liners and contaminate the surrounding areas’ soil and water sources.
Blocked pipes are of major concern as it allows for the uncontrolled build-up of large pockets of methane gas.
Recycling vastly reduces the number of hazardous source materials for this liquid and, by doing so, extends the life of the landfill and its overall manageability.
12. recycling reduces Environmental dumping
Environmental dumping happens when a rich country exports its waste to another country (usually a poor third-world country) for disposal.
The environmental advantages for the exporting country are obvious; however, there are no advantages for the receiving country.
Poor third-world countries do not have the knowledge and infrastructure to deal with large volumes of waste, so large dumpsites are created but improperly managed.
These dumpsites strip the land of its beauty and are ecological disaster zones.
One way to prevent environmental dumping and the associated waste problems is to recycle, thereby reducing the volume of waste at its source.
13. recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions
Recycling reduces the demand for new virgin materials to be extracted, transported, and processed. Consequently, fewer fossil fuels are extracted and burned, which reduces the emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
In addition, the process of recycling existing materials into new products also uses less energy and creates fewer pollutants than the processing of virgin materials.
Furthermore, This energy-efficient process of recycling existing materials can be repeated many times.
So, in reality, the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is repeated many times over from both extractions to end products.
Therefore, it is proven that recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions within its own industry but also has a positive effect on associated industries.
This is why recycling is so important and must be practiced by all individuals across the world.
14. recycling keeps precious resources in circulation
When we recycle, we retain the precious commodities we have previously gathered or extracted from the earth.
Reprocessing these materials is easier, less costly, and more energy-efficient than extracting and processing virgin raw materials. And any excess material recovered from recycling can be captured and stored for later use.
Therefore, by retaining and reusing these materials, the demands to plunder the planet for raw materials are reduced, and habitats are saved.
Furthermore, materials such as glass and gold, and aluminum are infinitely recyclable, so it does not make sense to rape the earth to replace them constantly.
Others, such as paper and cardboard, have a limited number of recycling opportunities.
However, recycling these commodities is still important as it allows for the conservation and management of our precious and ultimately finite natural resources.
Each ton (2000 pounds) of recycled paper can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space, 4000 kilowatts of energy, and 7000 gallons of water. This represents 64% energy savings, 58% water savings, and 60 pounds less air pollution!
15. recycling prevents damage to wildlife
Many wildlife habits and fragile ecosystems such as forests, wetlands, and grasslands are destroyed when we extract raw materials to process into products.
Further damage is done when these products are thrown into the trash resulting in the creation of landfills and incinerators to dispose of them.
Unfortunately and increasingly, thoughtless people also discard these products into the environment, where they quickly become a danger to life.
I am sure that you have seen pictures of animals with their heads stuck in cans and dead birds with bellies full of plastic!
We’ve already caused enough pain and destruction, and there is no need to keep repeating the process.
16. recycling reduces the risk of environmental catastrophes
In 2018, the recycling, composting, combustion with energy recovery, and landfilling of MSW saved over 193 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2E) from being created. Source.
This is comparable to the emissions that could be reduced by taking almost 42 million cars off the road in a single year.
This reduction in emissions placed into the atmosphere arguably contributes to slowing down the catastrophic effects of global warming.
Furthermore, recycling diverts materials from landfill sites, thereby reducing the level of source materials that contribute to creating hazardous liquids within the landfill.
Further environmental catastrophes could occur once these liquids escape from the landfill, either by excessive rainfall or puncture holes within the liner.
Acidic rain, toxic bacteria-ridden soil, freshwater contamination, or a deliberating noxious smog are just a few possible examples.
17. recycling food waste aids soil enrichment
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that in 2018 there were 63 million tons of food waste. However, only 4.1% or 2.5 million tons were recycled by composting in the aerobic process.
Composting food waste reclaims essential minerals and bacteria that would otherwise be lost through other processes.
Unfortunately, the goodness locked into food waste is lost forever when it is thrown into landfills.
Here it is deprived of oxygen and eventually breaks down into methane or a poisonous sludge that can only harm the environment.
Food waste diverted to landfills in 2018 was estimated at 35 million tons or 55.9%.
This represents a massive wasted opportunity, and some form of home composting should always be encouraged.
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18. Recycling reduces the size of the ocean garbage patches
There are areas of the ocean where trash is drawn to and collects to form huge garbage piles. The ocean currents act like big whirlpools, so the trash cannot escape, and all wildlife in these areas is therefore under threat.
There are 5 of these garbage patches and the plastics within them pose the biggest threat to life. However, much of this plastic could have been captured and recycled on land, thereby removing the threat.
To give you an idea of the difference that plastic recycling could make to reducing ocean-going waste, consider this…
Less than 9% of all plastics produced get recycled, and approximately 10 million tons of plastic enter the oceans each year.
If we could increase our plastic recycling rates, imagine the difference that would make to the ocean garbage patches and all sea life!
19. Recycling reduces the vermin population
Waste laid about our city streets, growing in illegal dumpsites, or accumulating in official landfill sites all attract vermin. Rodents especially are drawn to the heat, smell, and tempting large food supply of rotting garbage.
As the vermin, e.g., cockroaches, insects, and rat populations grow, so does the likelihood of liner punctures, displacement of natural wildlife, and landfill pipe blockages.
None of these things should be encouraged.
Therefore when we increase our organic waste recycling levels, we automatically reduce the food source and attract less vermin.
Recycling and, more importantly, recycling well is crucial to our planet’s health and, ultimately, our own.
I hope this article has inspired you to investigate recycling opportunities in your area and to influence those around you.
If it has, here are a few quick tips to help reduce your personal waste:
- Always take reusable bags when you go shopping and keep a few extra in the car.
- Choose recyclable containers when grocery shopping, (avoiding single-use plastics).
- Investigate zero waste and feel free to cherry-pick from the suggestions.
- Buy in bulk whenever possible.
- Beware of double packing – or individually wrapped items that are repackaged and sold as bulk.
- Compost your food scraps and yard waste whenever possible.
- Say no to junk mail