In fact, more people are recycling than are doing just about anything else for our environment. But is it worth all of the fuss?
A lot of people know that some recycled items just end up in landfills anyway. It’s can be expensive to buy items with recycled content, and it’s a pain to sort all of the recycled stuff. What gets recycled, what doesn’t? Is it even possible to recycle enough to be worth it?
On the other hand, why not recycle? Every little bit helps! It’s really easy to do, and a lot of the things that you can’t recycle can be reused. If you’re lucky, your township or municipality will even pick up your recycling for you without charging a dime. All you have to do is stick glass, plastics, and metals into a bin and take it to the curb.
So what’s the real deal. Is recycling worth it?
The Basics of Recycling
Recycling can be a great resource saver but, like a lot of things, it has its limitations and concerns. Recycling can be a valuable tool that we can use to maintain our current lifestyles while not completely depleting the earth of its natural resources. Plastics, metals, and glass are an integral part of our daily lives — enabling us to have a bigger variety of products in our homes and to keep these products in a convenient way. If we accept the fact that we will be using these materials for the foreseeable future, then it’s best to make the most of them and recycle them so that we use the least amount of natural resources possible.
In most places, it’s easy to recycle. Many local governments and trash collection agencies already provide recycling services (and they even provide the recycling bins too). A lot of these collection agencies also don’t require you to sort your plastics, metals, or glass. Usually, separating your paper from the rest is good enough. Call up your local trash/recycling collection agency to find out specific details.
On the other hand, recycling can get tricky. Upon seeing the recycling symbol on the bottom of a styrofoam cup I was using, I thought I could put it in with the rest of my recycling. Turns out, it isn’t accepted by my recycling agency and I would need to recycle that type of material elsewhere. In general, if your recycling symbol as a 1 or 2 on it, you’re golden. Recycling collectors usually accept more than just the numbers 1 and 2: numbers 1-6 are the most commonly recycled. The only number that seems to be rather difficult to recycle is number 7 — and it sometimes can’t be recycled at all. The trick is to become familiar with what your local recycling agency will recycle and get in the habit of checking the recycling symbol on your plastics. For even more information on specific recycling tools, see this article from obviously.com.
But won’t the stuff that I recycle end up in a landfill anyway?
Well, not usually. Recycling is an industry. The more demand there is for recycled material, the more that material gets bought and used. If there isn’t a high demand, recycled material may end up in a landfill, but at least it has the chance to get recycled first. The more you purchase consumer products with recycled content, the more demand there will be, and less recycled material will get dumped into landfills.
In addition, the more consistently you recycle, the more supply will become available, and the cost of that recycled material will go down — enabling more to be purchased and less to end up in landfills.
By not recycling because you think your materials are going to end up in a landfill, you’re actually helping to fulfill the myth that all recycling gets dumped into landfills.
Even Better Alternatives
There are always alternatives, even to recycling. Some of these happen to be even better, too. The phrase, reduce, reuse, recycle, is a great way to think about how to decrease the amount of waste you produce.
If possible, reduce.
The best way to keep things out of landfills is to not use them at all. Try to buy products with less packaging that you’ll need to get rid of once it’s home. Bring your own bag to the supermarket so you don’t have to throw away/recycle all of those plastic and paper bags. By minimizing the amount of waste you generate, you’ll have to recycle less (which is actually a good thing in this case).
Reuse what you can.
If you’ve got something you need to get rid of, whether it’s throwing it out or recycling, try to find another use for it first. We have an office shelf, for example, that’s been taken apart and put back together 5 times (literally — we should have taken photos), and each time we put it back together is a time we didn’t need to throw it away and buy a new one. Use the backs of paper to do lists or cut your plastic bottles in half and poke holes and use them as planters. You’d be amazed at what you can reuse, and reusing something is even better than recycling it.
Give away or freecycle.
If you have waste, and you can’t reuse it, try giving it away! Your old bike tire might be useful to someone else. Ask your friends, donate to your local charity. Alternatively, you could drop it off on your doorstep, post about it on the internet, and have some random person pick it up! (See Freecycle.org for that last option.) It doesn’t matter how you give your old stuff away, you’ll be helping others to reuse those items and reducing the amount of waste you produce at the same time.
So, Is Recycling Worth It?
Overall, yes it is. Recycling does help prevent items from ending up in landfills, and it really isn’t hard to do. It might take a little bit of learning and setup to make it happen, but decreasing the amount of waste we produce is important to maintaining our lifestyles while not depleting the planet’s limited resources.
Of course, reducing the amount of waste you produce in the first place and reusing items is actually better than recycling, but that isn’t always possible. For those non reusable things, put them in the green (or blue) bin!
What’s your say?
Do you recycle? If not, why? What are some other tips and tricks you do to reduce, reuse, and recycle?