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Recycling is one of the best ways to ensure the preservation of our environment, which provides us with the food and water that we need to survive (along with countless other essential materials). You’ve likely already been told why you should recycle. Because you’ve already been explained the benefits of recycling before, I really shouldn’t even be having to type this article out, but seeing as I am, the majority of you didn’t listen. I’d bet that the average person doesn’t think twice when throwing away the plastic wrapper from their peppermint wrapper or plastic water bottle at work.
What most people don’t think about is that once that item is placed in the trash it’s destined for the landfill—and if it had feelings it would totally hate your guts. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, it’ll be transported from place to place along with millions of tons of other waste (hope it’s not claustrophobic). Once it finally makes it to the landfill it’ll be dumped into one of the numerous piles where more and more trash will be added on top until no air can get to it. This is when the decomposing process begins; the decomposition is actually the scariest part, because that’s when most of the air pollution happens.
Here are five reasons why you should be conscious about where your waste is going and, hopefully, opt for the recycle bin next time you’re looking for a place to chunk your trash.
1. It Reduces Landfill Build-up
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2012 Americans generated 251 million tons of trash. Around 55% of this trash ends up in a landfill—which comes out to about 138 million tons. If you didn’t already know, landfills are places where waste is dumped into mounds to decompose. The biggest problem with landfills (environmentally) is that when the trash starts to break down in the mountains of trash it produces methane.
If carbon dioxide was Lucius Malfoy in Harry Potter, methane would be Voldemort. Just to put things in perspective, Princeton University reported that methane is roughly 30 times stronger as a heat-trapping gas than carbon dioxide.
Besides the environmental effects, landfills take up a lot of space that could be used in a countless number of other ways. Researchers at Yale concluded that there were 1,200 landfills in 2010—and I’m sure that number has risen since then. Not to mention that trash STINKS, and who wants to look at massive piles of trash as they drive down the highway?? (The correct answer is no one.)
2. It Helps Our Climate Problems
Along with the same concept stated earlier, trash contributes a great amount to the greenhouse emissions around the world. Methane, carbon dioxide, and other harmful gases are released into the air as the waste breaks down. But, with recycling, emissions are greatly reduced because trash is being re-purposed instead of broken down.
The means used to dispose of waste in landfills also involves burning fossil fuels like gas and coal, which simply add to the total greenhouse gas emissions. Although recycling does produce some gases that are hurtful to the environment, I challenge you to come up with something that doesn’t. It’s basically choosing between the lesser of two (very necessary) evils, and in this case recycling is far less detrimental.
3. It Protects Our Animals
I’m pretty sure we’ve all seen at least one here’s why you should recycle documentary, short video on Facebook, presentation at work, or pamphlet that showed an adorably helpless animal covered in garbage. But, while in the moment you looked on in horror, it probably didn’t keep you from buying that plastic water bottle to go with your Starbucks last week. So, I’ll try to scare you just enough to make you realize how much trash impacts wildlife around the globe.
Animals in the oceans aren’t the only ones who are affected by improper waste disposal. Say you finish your can of Coke halfway through a road trip and decide it’s no big deal to fling it out the car window. More than likely, that can will find it’s way down the road and it’s the area of grass, fields, or woods that fun along the side of the road.
Say, for instance, that a raccoon comes along the can and gets curious and decides to stick her hand in to see what’s inside. Now let’s imagine that the raccoon’s hand gets stuck and there’s no way for it to get out. The can will eventually rub all the fur and skin off its foot and make it nearly impossible to get around—insuring it’s death.
If you’re a little more practical than emotional, then maybe the thought of job creation will fuel your recycling fire. Recycling and buying recycled products establishes a demand for more of these goods. This is helpful in part because the process of recycling takes work, which requires workers. As for the items themselves, recycled products generally use less water and energy and generate less pollution (which means a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions). So, you’re providing more jobs while spending less money making your goods—which means more moolah in your pocket.
5. It’s Free
Probably the most mind blowing thing to me that I stress again and again to the non-recyclers of the world is that it doesn’t cost any money to do so it makes no sense not to! The vast majority (if not all) of cities provide households with recycling bins so you don’t even have to worry about going out and getting one. Recycling simply requires for you to put the trash that you were already going to dispose of into a different container—and just like that, your work is done.
By making a conscious effort to investigate what items can and can’t be recycled, checking labels, and making sure that you’re chunking something that could be reused, you’re doing your part to significantly reduce our carbon footprint.
It’s naive to think that we can tweak one error in process and all the waste in the world would magically disappear, but there are some changes that could lower greenhouse gas emissions and allow for an overall better environment.