The Reason to Recycle

Cora Wilson 10.30.2019
This image shows a recycling facility, also known as a materials recovery facility. These facilities are specialized plants that receive, seperate and prepare recyclable materials for marketing to end-user manufacturers (Source: Waste Management World).

Recycling is defined as the action or process of converting waste into a reusable material. Today in society we know and see the word recycling used often. But how often do we actually partake in this action. Recycling occurs everyday all over the world, but maybe not as much as we should wish it does. Anywhere from restaurants to schools and from households to businesses we can see the growing trend of having a recycling bin, maybe next to the regular trash can. This is one step to helping our environment but how often is it actually used or used correctly? We should take recycling more seriously. It’s something crucial to helping our environment. Recycling reduces the need for extracting, refining and processing raw materials from our earth, and all of these activities create substantial air and water pollution. As recycling saves energy it also reduces greenhouse gas emissions, which helps to tackle the major climate change issue.

There are many benefits to recycling. In general, recycling reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators. The reduction of waste sent to landfills and incinerators is very important because of the many issues that stem from these places. Toxins, leachate, and greenhouse gases are serious issues coming from landfills. The toxins from materials containing toxic substances in landfills hurt our environment. Overtime these toxins leach into the soil and groundwater, becoming huge environmental hazards.

Environment Victoria, an independent charity with a main focus on the climate change crisis, talks about this issue concerning landfills. They state, “Waste such as televisions, computers and other electronic appliances contain a long list of hazardous substances, including mercury, arsenic, cadmium, PVC, solvents, acids and lead.” This is just one example of this issue where we can see a direct effect on our environment from the things we use everyday that are currently in high demand. Leachate, the highly toxic liquid formed when water filters through broken down waste in landfills, can also pollute the land, groundwater and water ways like toxins.

Another major benefit to recycling is that it conserves natural resources. Reprocessing used recycled materials to produce new products and packaging reduces the consumption of natural resources. According to The Department of Environmental Protection for Pennsylvania, by recycling over 1.2 million tons of steel in 2005, Pennsylvanians saved 1.4 million tons of iron ore, 829,786 tons of coal, and 71,124 tons of limestone. Recycling mixed papers like newsprint or office paper, saved the state an equivalent of 78 million tree seedlings grown for 10 years.

This image shows a common recycling bin we see day to day. The bin is full of recyclable bottles and cans (Source: Webwire).

Not only does recycling save natural resources but it saves energy. Using energy also requires the use of the scare fossil fuels and involves emissions of air and water pollutants. The steps in supplying recycled materials to industry most often use less energy than the steps it takes in supplying virgin materials to industry. Recycling saves energy because products being recycled usually require much less processing to turn them into usable materials.

Another example provided by The Department of Environmental Protection for Pennsylvania, states that in 2005, Because of recycling, Pennsylvania saved over 98 trillion BTUs of energy, which is enough energy to power 941,000 houses. The amount of energy being saved by recycling depends on the material and how that material is processed. Another huge benefit to recycling not regarding the environment is job creation. According to the EPA, recycling accounts for about 757,000 jobs and $36.6 billion in wages across the United States.

Recycling has become more relevant recently in our own school. Environmental Club has taken initiative to get the recycling program started up again and taken seriously. The club has added daily reminders to our morning announcements, reminding students to make sure to recycle in our blue recycling bins. Hopefully, as a whole, our school will be able to contribute and help the environment by doing our part to recycle. The outcome will positively impact our environment and help us develop beneficial habits to recycle.