Why Recycling is Worth It

Wed, 2014-07-30 11:03

Knowing that I work in the field of sustainability, people often ask me questions about whether or not I recycle. My typical response is a fervent “Of course I recycle!” and a whole list of reasons why everyone else should too. For me, it’s what I write about and what I believe in (a practice what you preach kind of mentality). Each individual act makes a difference, and we all have a responsibility to make a difference by being good caretakers of the Earth.

Despite the compelling energy savings that accrue from recycling, Americans are not recycling as much as other countries. The United States only recycles 52% of its cans. This is rather low compared to 89% of cans being recycled in Germany, 90.9% in Japan, and 94.4% in Brazil. The global average of aluminum recycling is at 63%, still 11% higher than the amount of recycling in the U.S.

Greg Wittbecker, the director of Corporate Metal Recycling for Alcoa, is a big proponent of boosting the amount the U.S. recycles to 75%. “If we could recover and recycle 75% of the aluminum cans being currently tossed into landfills—600,000 metric tons of aluminum—we could save 1286 megawatts of generated electricity. That’s the amount produced by two coal fired power plants, and consumed by two aluminum plants,” says Greg. “Replacing this production with recycling would keep 11.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from being generated and released into the atmosphere.” It would also reduce the amount of mercury going into the environment, since power plants emit polluting mercury when they burn coal.


5 Reasons Why People Should Recycle

Still wondering why you should recycle or looking for reasons to convince others to start? Here are five reasons why people should recycle:

1) Recycling saves energy.

As mentioned above, recycling saves energy because the manufacturer doesn’t have to produce something new from raw natural resources. By using recycled materials, we save on energy consumption, which keeps production costs down. According to Alcoa, recycling a ton of aluminum uses just 5% of the energy required to make virgin metal. Every ton of recycled aluminum that Alcoa uses saves about 14,000 kilowatt hours of electricity.

2) Recycling reduces landfills.

Recycling reduces the need for more landfills. No one wants to live next to a landfill.

3) Recycling preserves our resources and protects wildlife.  

By recycling, we reduce the need to destroy habitats for animals. Paper recycling alone saves millions of trees. 

4) Recycling is good for the economy.

Recycling and purchasing recycled products creates a greater demand for more recycled goods. Goods made from recycled materials use less water, create less pollution, and use less energy.

5) Recycling helps our climate problems.

Recycling produces considerably less carbon, which reduces the amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

Get Started!

To find locations where you can recycle, check out Earth911. You can also contact your city administrator or solid waste manager to urge them to make community recycling easier for everyone in your community.

By Danielle Whitman


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