Why Is Recycling Important?

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Recycling is an increasingly important activity. The United States is one of the global leaders in the production of waste. In addition to the obvious resources used to manufacture new products, almost all products require the consumption of water and energy. Plastic bottles require oil for their manufacture. Recycling is vitally important to the health of our planet.

Function

  • Recycling is the process of creating new products from old, used products that would otherwise be destined for the landfill. Most products are recycled into like items. Glass can be recycled almost indefinitely into new glass products. Likewise paper is used to create new paper products. However, some new innovations in recycling have resulted in interesting alternatives. For example, polyester fabrics can be made from recycled plastic.

Significance

  • Products that aren't recycled will be sent to landfills or incinerators. Landfills can pollute water supplies, and incineration creates hazardous air pollution. Some waste can escape both of these alternatives and instead ends up in our oceans. This has resulted in the Pacific Garbage Patch, an area in the Pacific Ocean nearly twice the size of Texas which is filled with trash. The Pacific Garbage Patch is home to a high concentration of plastics. Plastic is a non-biodegradable material. Therefore any plastic products that are not recycled are destined to litter our planet for all of the foreseeable future.

Benefits

  • Recycling just one glass jar will save enough energy to keep a 100-watt light bulb on for four hours. One ton of recycled plastic can save up to 2,000 gallons of gasoline. Cars made from recycled aluminum reduce the pollution from the manufacturing of this item by 95 percent. Just one day of recycling the newspaper could save 41,000 tree if every person in the United States participated. The benefits of recycling are untold if enough people get involved.

Types

  • As awareness about the importance of recycling grows, new programs are continually being developed to help reduce the amount of trash sent to landfills. As many as half of all neighborhoods in the United States have access to curbside recycling programs. For those without this kind of program, there are recycling bins and recycling centers which accept a variety of materials.

Considerations

  • In addition to recycling, there are many acts that individuals can take to prevent the amount of trash headed for landfills. Most products are sold with excessive amounts of packaging. By consciously choosing items with the least amount of packaging, we can reduce our waste. Another way to reduce waste is to take reusable tote bags when shopping. An estimated 8 billion pounds of plastic bags enter the US waste stream each year. The best way to prevent this kind of waste is to cut down on the use of these bags.

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