Most Americans believe strongly in the importance of recycling. Yet out of 37.4 million tons of materials that could be picked up in curbside recycling from American homes, 20 million tons are thrown in the trash. We can – and should – do better!
There are many reasons why recycling is a good idea for your community and the environment. Here are the three of the top benefits to remember, as well as a few tips for becoming a more successful recycler.
Recycling helps tackle climate change.
Did you know recycling can cut carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions that lead to climate change? If we were to fully recycle the 20 million tons of household recyclables that are thrown in the trash, we would reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 96 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. We’d achieve the same effect as taking more than 20 million cars off U.S. highways – all from recycling!
This is because taking raw materials from the earth like oil, trees, and metal ores – then processing those into packages and other materials like cardboard boxes, plastic jugs, or aluminum cans – requires a lot of energy. When we recycle these materials instead, it only requires a fraction of the energy to put that material back into use, leading to lower amounts of emissions that harm our planet.
So if you care about curbing climate change, you can make a difference by putting your family’s recyclables into the right bin on recycling day, and not the trash can. Be sure to brush up on your knowledge about what’s recyclable, too, by checking your community’s recycling guidelines.
Recycling creates jobs.
Recycling not only benefits the environment, but also the economy. If all of the 37.4 million tons of recyclable materials generated in U.S. households were collected curbside and delivered back to economic use, it would generate 370,000 new full-time equivalent jobs. These “green jobs” can involve collecting curbside recyclables, processing recycled materials, supplying the materials to companies, transporting materials, maintaining equipment, and more.
Pratt Industries is one example of a company that has shown this dynamic at work. Pratt has established five 100% recycled paper mills in the U.S., with plans to build more in the future, bringing hundreds of new jobs to each site. These mills manufacture containerboard – also known as cardboard used to make boxes – saving more than 85,000 trees every day and 3.3 cubic yards of waste for every ton of paper produced, while employing local workers and processing recyclable paper from American communities.
The positive economic effects of recycling are huge for our nation and our communities. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, recycling and reuse activities account for $37.8 billion in wages for workers and $5.5 billion in tax revenues every year.
By these calculations, recycling makes a whole lot of cents. The next time you are at school, in the office, or on the go, know that your choice to recycle is helping to strengthen your community and support workers.
Recycling saves natural resources.
Recycling puts our used materials back into action as new products, helping to create a “circular economy” that eliminates waste and allows for a continuous use of resources. Why is that important? Because the earth’s natural resources aren’t endless, but limited.
Without recycling, we have to rely on extracting raw materials and cutting down trees to supply manufacturing needs. This can result in disruption of wildlife habitats, expensive and risky mining efforts to obtain metal ores, and depleting minerals that can’t be restored. But with recycling, we can better conserve and extend these natural resources.
For example, recycling glass not only helps save space in the landfill, but also saves resources. For every ton of glass recycled, we can conserve 1,300 pounds of sand, 410 pounds of soda ash, 380 pounds of limestone, and 160 pounds of feldspar.
So don’t throw out your bottles or cans in the trash! Recycling your recyclables can make a big impact in more ways than one.
While there are many benefits to recycling, these are three key reasons why recycling is worth the effort.
“When we become better at recycling, we can create a ripple effect that spreads a positive impact far and wide, from supporting jobs for our neighbors to preserving our planet,” says Scott Mouw, Senior Director of Strategy and Research at The Recycling Partnership. “Every one of us can play a part in making this happen.”