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Blog: Our future depends on our actions. So, what are we wasting for?

By The Recycling Partnership Team

We live on a planet that is well known for having finite resources (and yes, some renewable ones, many of which we’re depleting at a rate that surpasses the rate of replacement).  If we keep buying things that are made out of these finite and depleting resources, and throwing them into the ground, without finding ways to re-use and recycle them, we are going to run out of these resources. Period. End of story. Game over as kids say.

No matter how effective “modern landfills” are, we have only been using landfills in their modern form for less than a century. We have no way of knowing the long-term, potentially toxic consequences of what we’re burying when things get to the end of their usable life. And that’s not to mention the emissions associated with landfills and their impact on the Earth, the climate and our health.

The vast majority of recycling services in the U.S. are offered as a voluntary activity.  American families thus choose to recycle and they do so by the millions every day across the country. They do this just like they choose to use libraries, parks, and other public services. By making the choice to recycle, Americans contribute voluntarily to delivering the enormous environmental benefits from recycling.By choosing to recycle, Americans also drive an enormous amount of job-creating economic activity in the U.S. – in fact, in 2017, the recycling industry generated $117 billion in economic activity and $13.2 billion in tax revenue and employed 156,000 men and women nationwide.

Recycling is also an increasingly important provider of valuable, energy-efficient materials to manufacturers worldwide. A wide variety of American companies have chosen to build their businesses around recycling and work every day in an open market to procure recyclable materials and make new products from those materials, which Americans can then choose to buy.

Companies are increasingly choosing to commit more resources and effort to support recycling because it is what their consumers want. A November 2018 survey conducted by The Recycling Partnership of 2,000 Americans showed that:

  • 73 percent recycle because it helps reduce landfills;
  • 72 percent of consumers expect companies that sell packaged goods to make their packaging recyclable;
  • And 62 percent expect Consumer Packaged Goods to use recycled materials in their packaging.

Even more recently, our 2019 Earth Day survey showed that more than 82 percent of millennials say services – like recycling – that reduce climate change are valuable, and nearly 90 percent say they recycle at least some of the items they buy that are recyclable.

Millennials have spoken. They want to live in a world where we waste less and recycle more. That could mean wearing clothing or shoes made of recycled materials, or biking to work, or purchasing products that are recyclable or use recyclable packaging. Millennials are very aware of the impacts their individual actions and the actions of companies they buy from have on creating a sustainable future. More than ever, we need highly-valued public services, like recycling, to continue to drive waste reduction, lower our carbon footprint, and protect our Earth’s precious and finite natural resources.  Our future depends on it. So, what are we wasting for?