The EPA estimates that 75% of our solid waste is recyclable, but only about 30% is actually recycled. A recent survey done by the The Social Research and Corporate Reputation Specialists shows that more than half of Americans surveyed know the benefits of recycling. 81% of respondents claimed to know that recycling reduces landfills, 69% claimed to know that it saves trees, and 62% claimed to know it conserves energy. If they know then, why is our recycling rate so low?
No Time – A lot of people claim they don’t have time to recycle. When you’re in a rush, tossing everything in the trash is much easier than holding onto recyclable items to dispose of properly. Who wants to carry around empty boxes and plastic containers anyway? Those are just WAY too heavy to carry, and plus, no one likes touching trash for longer than absolutely necessary.
No Point – Some people fail to see the big picture and think that their personal efforts can’t change the world. Since recycling is a collective effort, it’s hard to understand the benefits if you think about it as an individual.
No Memory – Let’s face it, sometimes you just don’t even think about it. There are no national policies put into place to promote or enforce recycling compliance; how can we expect everyone to remember?
No Knowledge – The “out of sight, out of mind” phenomenon has caused ignorance to spread like wildfire. People don’t tend to think about their garbage past the dumpster. In fact, many don’t even know what is recyclable. In the previously mentioned study, 77% of people thought pizza boxes were recyclable, when they are not.
No Resources – Recycling receptacles are not typically paired with trash cans, so recycling is not as simple as one might expect. It would be much easier to recycle if there were more recycling bins in public places. In Japan or Germany for example, many of the waste receptacles include separate bins for different types of recycling and trash.
The Big Picture
Recycling helps our home – Cleaning up after ourselves is a normal part of life; cleanliness is a virtue that is the basis of many children’s shows, books, and songs. If we clean and care for the home we live in, then why don’t we do the same for the planet we live on? It’s everyone’s duty as an inhabitant of the earth to keep it clean and preserve it for future generations because we all live here together.
Recycling can help with an array of issues we are facing that may prevent sustainability for future generations by helping to reduce waste in landfills, greenhouse gas emissions, and pollution. In 2011, the US produced 32 million pounds of plastic waste, but only 8% was recovered for recycling. According to Keep America Beautiful, “every pound of recycled PET plastic used in place of virgin material reduces energy use in plastic production by 84% and greenhouse gas emissions by 71%.” With the amount of plastic waste we go through, we could be recycling much more of it to make a positive impact for our home.
Recycling also saves energy and natural resources. The excessive use and misuse of natural resources has already caused irreversible damage to the place we call home. If there is any chance to help fix the world’s rate of deforestation, overflowing landfills, and waste-filled oceans, we have to take it! Why should we use new natural resources if we can reuse our old ones? Such a small effort can help us achieve a common goal: to pave a way for future generations to live a life of sustainability.
Gain knowledge & search for solutions – Take an extra minute or two to recycle and the earth will thank you. It might not feel like a personal victory at the time, but the long term effects will show. If you find it too time consuming to simply separate items that can be reused, then just hang on to the item until you can make the time to recycle it (pretty simple…) For those who can’t remember – place a recycling bin in front of the trash can so you can immediately think about recycling before wasting. Lastly, don’t say you don’t have resources if you’re currently accessing the internet. If you don’t know what’s recyclable, look it up! It can’t be hard to search for a piece of information that we are unsure about. There are also a lot of items that cannot be recycled at your local plant, but they can be recycled via websites like Terracycle, who offers recycling services for previously non-recyclable items or hard to recycle waste.
It’s important that we find solutions for our excuses because our personal choices can have much more of an impact than we realize. By recycling, everyone has a chance to make a positive impact on humankind as a whole.