How Does Recycling Impact the Environment?

You can find a recycling bin in just about any public area these days. However, just because a sign tells you to separate plastic from landfill trash doesn’t mean it will end up there. It’s critical that you know what happens when paper, plastic, and other recyclable materials go to a recycling center and what happens to other items that can’t be recycled. 

It’s estimated that the U.S. produces more than a quarter of the total amount of trash each year around the globe. Every American throws out about seven pounds of materials daily, which equates to more than 2,500 pounds of waste every year per person. The majority of this waste is heading to landfills or burned in incinerators, rather than being placed in recycling containers. Landfills release toxins into the air, soil, and groundwater. Burning trash produces pollution that can contaminate our land, water, air, and even cause or worsen chronic health conditions. 

The one solution to the amount of trash produced in the U.S. that has little to no negative effects is recycling. Given the effects of climate change, knowing practical ways to make your home and workplace green is vital. Here’s a look at the positive impact recycling can have on our planet and a few ways you can make recycling work in your life. 

What Is Recyclable, Anyway?

Recycling is the process of collecting and processing materials into new products. Without the process of recycling, these items would be thrown into standard trash and taken to a landfill. You may be thinking that the only materials you can recycle are paper and plastic. However, you might be surprised to discover that you can recycle many different types of products and items.

Here are just a few materials you can send to a recycling center:

  • Plastic bottles
  • Cardboard
  • Steel cans
  • Aluminum
  • Newspaper
  • Brass, copper, and other metals
  • Glass containers
  • Magazines and mixed papers
  • Electronics

Of course, there are a few items that just can’t be recycled. Most recycling centers won’t accept shredded paper. This doesn’t bode well for those who want to shred sensitive documents so that they don’t land in the hands of hackers or other criminals, but shred services can handle documents in a safe and sustainable manner. A few other items that can’t be recycled include:

  • Polystyrene containers such as egg cartons
  • Loose plastic bags
  • Broken or sharp glass
  • Plastic utensils

Benefits of Recycling

If you think the only benefit of recycling is to decrease the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, you have a thing or two to learn. Recycling has significant benefits for the future of our planet and workforce. 

The best part about recycling is that it can be done at home, work, and in your community. Some businesses are participating in eco-friendly business practices and green marketing to make an impact on the amount of trash they create.

Entire cities around the world are working diligently to meet the goals of Earth Day 2020. A few ways cities are adding to the solution of recycling include banning or taxing common single-use plastic products, creating a zero-waste plan, and launching clean energy plans. Some of the greenest cities in the U.S. include Portland, Chicago, and Boston. 

Let’s explore some of the benefits of recycling and ways you can become more eco-friendly at home, work, and even in public.

Reduces the Size of Landfills

Most of the trash you produce in a day is recyclable. Decreasing the size of landfills helps to decrease dangerous toxic emissions that can pollute drinking water, soil, and air. When trash in landfills become wet, it procedures chemicals that can’t always be removed during the water treatment process. These chemicals contaminate drinking water and can harm those in the surrounding communities. 

To do your share to decrease the size of landfills, start by creating recycling areas in your home, work, and community. Be sure to arrange bins for various types of products such as plastic, paper, and wood. You can also encourage your family and coworkers to disassemble items that contain multiple recyclable materials. Examples include packing and electronics that may be made of paper, plastic, and metal. 

Another way to decrease the size of landfills is to find specialized recycling companies that can recycle items that may not be processed by large centers. Search for companies that come to your home to recycle items such as chemicals, food scraps, and wood to see if you have these options in your city or town. 

Protects Earth’s Resources

When we don’t recycle, items that require steel or aluminum are made with raw materials. With each extraction of natural resources, not only are our resources depleted, but gases and chemicals are released that can be dangerous to humans. However, when items get a new life through the recycling process, the amount of energy and natural resources used is decreased.

You can help protect the Earth’s natural resources in several ways. First, bike more and drive less to save the amount of gas and other natural resources in the core of the planet. Use cloth grocery bags when you shop instead of plastic. Look for products produced in recyclable containers. Finally, you can volunteer at cleanups in your community to protect local natural resources.

Saves Energy

It takes more energy to create products like plastic, metal, or paper from raw resources compared to reusing goods. To understand the impact you can make to save energy, let’s consider how glass is made. When sand and other minerals are heated to very high temperatures, a molten mixture is formed. Once cooled, glass is created. It takes a significant amount of energy to melt the mixture. However, when recycled glass is re-melted into new glass products, nearly 10-15% of the amount of energy used is saved. 

An excellent method to save energy is to buy products made from recycled materials. Seek out goods that proudly use recycled materials; doing business with these brands is a great step toward becoming a conscious consumer.

Protects Personal Information

If you’re worried about your electronics getting into the hands of the wrong people, you need to recycle your digital electronic devices. Device disposal protects your personal information and decreases the amount of waste that heads to the landfill. Many stores that sell electronics offer in-store recycling options. You can also find stand-alone recycling centers near you that will take unwanted electronic devices. These centers ensure electronics are destroyed and all materials are recycled.  

Creates Jobs in Recycling and Manufacturing

The Environmental Protection Agency released a study in 2016 analyzing the number of jobs, wages, and tax revenues attributed to recycling. In one year, the study found that recycling and reuse activities in the U.S. accounted for $36.6 billion in wages, $6.7 billion in tax dollars, and 

over 750,000 jobs. This means that for every 1,000 tons of recycling, we can create more than 1.5 new jobs for Americans. 

Do Your Share to Make the Planet a Better Place

Recycling isn’t hard. It just takes a little effort and planning. Once you get started, you may be surprised to see just how easy it is to participate in daily recycling activities. Before you know it, you’ll be ready to go green and make your home more eco-friendly to leave a positive mark on the Earth that will last for years to come.

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