Since its beginning phases in the 1970s, recycling has been offering individuals a way to “do their part” to protect the environment and create jobs, by simply placing items in a recycling bin.

Today, the good news is that recycling is still here to offer that “feel good” feeling every time you properly throw away a recyclable item in your bin and send it off to become something new.  Whether it is for economics, your community, or the environment – recycling just makes sense and it is easy to do.

Recycling is as easy as tossing something in the trash, except, unlike items you throw in the trash, items in your recycling bin are recovered to become something new.  Recyclables have the power to become new packaging and products.  When your recycling becomes something new; US jobs are generated, greenhouse gases are reduced and natural resources and landfill space is saved.

No more landfills please!

Currently in the U.S., the most common way that municipal solid waste (AKA trash) is disposed of, is by landfilling – that’s right, filling a large hole in the ground with our trash. While landfilling is not quite that simple, that explanation is not far off.   Landfilling is the process of placing trash in a deep pit in the ground that is lined and covered, in order to keep the trash isolated from groundwater and contact with air. Without contact to air, the trash remains in the ground, only decomposing slightly.

Cleaning up landfills for future land use is incredibly expensive and resource intensive.  Landfills do not only consume land space; they also contribute greenhouse gas emissions and generate potentially hazardous leachate (trash juice – yuck!).  When material is recycled, it is saved from going into a landfill, preventing the need for more landfills to be created and avoids wasting additional natural resources.    

Saving natural resources and creating jobs is a great idea!

Think of it this way, all of those plastic bottles, aluminum cans, paper envelopes and cardboard boxes had to come from somewhere. In most cases, it came from a natural resource, whether it be petroleum, bauxite ore (makes aluminum) or trees. These resources had to be extracted from the earth, refined, processed, shipped, and manufactured into packaging material – all using energy and precious water along the way.  It’s exhausting to think about – even more so if it all goes to waste!

When packaging and products are made with recycled content, instead of raw materials, the energy and resources that went into making the material are reused all over again. To put it into perspective, recycling 10,000 tons of material saves the energy equivalent of 20,000 barrels of oil and nearly one million gallons of gasoline.  Even when considering the transportation that happens when collecting the material and sending it to manufacturers, recycling still saves energy!

This energy savings equals a reduction in greenhouse gases. Using a model created by the US Environmental Protection Agency, a recycling program’s greenhouse gas savings can be calculated here.    

If saving the environment is not enough, recycling is also an economic driver.  Nationwide, the recycling industry is responsible for 156,000 jobs. It is estimated that just the paper recycling industry alone had a $46 billion-dollar domestic impact in 2017. Recycled materials provide valuable, energy-efficient resources to manufacturers worldwide. These economic contributions help build the green economy.

Let’s feel good about recycling the right materials.

Recycling correctly is a critical part of conserving natural resources, creating healthier air to breathe, cleaner water to drink and jobs.    

So, what are we waiting and wasting for?

Find out what can be recycled in your program here, place a recycling bin right next to your trash bin – not letting a plastic bottle or aluminum can ever go to waste again – and you too can have that “feel good” feeling.

Pretty sure you already know what to throw in your recycling bin? Check your recycling knowledge at our online quiz.