Almost everyone has heard that recycling is good for the planet. Many of do this because it’s not that big of a deal to dump our plastic milk cartons and soda cans into the blue bin on the sidewalk once a week. Most of us don’t even have to sort the stuff anymore. It’s easier to recycle, than not to. Except when it isn’t. What does that mean exactly? Well, there are still hundreds of cities in the United States that do not offer subsidized recycling programs.
If you want to help the planet, you really have to show some forethought. This means sorting material, yourself, and driving to a drop off location (if there is one). The reality is that if isn’t convenient, it’s probably not going to move the masses. Fortunately, there are a lot of people who care. Independent recycling companies are changing the world by offering services.
Recycling has been around in the U.S. since the Depression Era and WWII when materials were scarce. It really gained momentum in 1970 on Earth Day when environmentalists launched the campaign to raise awareness. Since then, it is slowly catching, in particular as landfill space shrinks. Each year, about 100 million tons of trash is taken to the landfill. However, recycling efforts are paying off, and 60 million tons of garbage gets recycled per year.
Besides reducing the amount in the landfill, the benefits of recycling have huge payoffs both for the planet and for the consumer’s pocket–as trash is considerably more expensive than recycling! Additionally, less resources are used to make new materials, so that adds to more profit. As for the planet, fewer resources means less fossil fuels used and less pollution in the air.
To break down how materials get broken down, here is a quick rundown of what happens to common materials at the recycling center:
- Steel from cars and building materials is melted down and made back into steel. It’s a laborious process because there is so much that has to be sorted. However, steel takes a long time to break down in the landfill, so it’s worth it to help those cumbersome pieces get scorched and reused.
- Aluminum from cans is the most cost effective to recycle, as almost 95% of the material can be reclaimed.
- Glass bottles and jars are sorted by color, blasted by lasers and melted down to tiny bits. The glass is reused to make new glass.
- Plastic is the toughest of the standard household materials to recycle because there are so many different kinds. Not all recycling centers can process each kind so it’s important to check the labeled number at the bottom to see if your center can accept it. Making plastic is tough on the environment, though, so it’s important that recycling is done whenever possible.
- E-waste can only be processed at certain locations. Recycling e-waste is crucial because it contains products like lead and chromium, which are incredibly toxic and shouldn’t be in the landfill.