Recycling – How Does It Work?
Care2 Earth Month: Back to Basics
This year, Care2 decided to expand Earth Day into Earth Month, since there is so much to explore when it comes to the environment. Every day in April, we’ll have a post about some of the most important topics for the environment, exploring and explaining the basics. It’s a great tool to help you get started with helping the environment — or help explain it to others. See the whole series here.
Recycling is one of the most important things we can do to preserve our planet. On a daily basis, more than 100 million Americans participate in recycling used and old materials in their household and offices.
Recycling turns materials that would otherwise become waste into valuable resources. Collecting used bottles, cans, and newspapers and taking them to the curb or to a collection facility is just the first in a series of steps that generates a host of financial, environmental, and social returns. Some of these benefits accrue locally as well as globally.
Benefits of Recycling
• Recycling protects and expands US manufacturing jobs and increases US competitiveness.also
• Recycling reduces the need for landfilling and incineration.
• Recycling prevents pollution caused by the manufacturing of products from virgin materials.
• Recycling saves energy.
• Recycling decreases emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change.
• Recycling conserves natural resources such as timber, water, and minerals.
• Recycling helps sustain the environment for future generations.
How Recycling Works
1. Collecting and Processing – Collecting recyclables varies from community to community, but there are four primary methods: curbside, drop-off centers, buy-back centers, and deposit/refund programs. Once collected, recyclables are sent to a materials recovery facility to be sorted and prepared into marketable commodities for manufacturing. Recyclables are bought and sold just like any other commodity, and prices for the materials change and fluctuate with the market.
2. Manufacturing – Once cleaned and separated, the recyclables are ready to undergo the next stage. More and more of today’s products are being manufactured with total or partial recycled content. Common household items that contain recycled materials include newspapers and paper towels; aluminum, plastic, and glass soft drink containers; steel cans; and plastic laundry detergent bottles.
3. Purchasing – Purchasing recycled products completes the recycling loop. By “buying recycled,” governments, as well as businesses and individual consumers, each play an important role in making the recycling process a success. As consumers demand more environmentally sound products, manufacturers will continue to meet that demand by producing high-quality recycled products.
More Than Just The 3 Rs
Recycling is actually the third – and last – of the “3 Rs”: reduce, reuse, recycle. Together these three words make up the most effective way to cut down on the amount of waste we produce. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the amount of waste each person creates has almost doubled since 1960, from 2.7 to 4.6 pounds a day.
So here’s an idea: how about we reduce our waste by purchasing less in the first place? Then we can find ways to reuse things we purchase, which delays or even prevents them from ending up in a landfill.
Though recycling is far better for the planet than throwing things into the regular garbage, it still uses resources and causes pollution. Let’s hear it for reducing and reusing!
What do you think?
Photo Credit: andyarthur