You read about how buying and reusing glass bottles instead of disposable cans helps Zimbabwe - but have you thought about how recycling can help you? Recycling, or using old products to make new ones, has lots of benefits - it saves energy, cuts down on pollution, preserves the limited resources of our planet, creates jobs and saves money.
Did you know that...
- If you take all the trash that is created and divide it among everybody on the planet, each of us would get 4 pounds every day, which comes out to roughly three quarters of a ton (1,500 lbs.) of garbage per year!
- Almost nothing biodegrades quickly in modern landfills, which keep out the water and air needed for biodegradation. Renowned "garbologist" Dr. William Rathje, whose garbage project has dug through old landfills, has dug up 40-year-old, perfectly readable newspapers, 20-year-old carrots and corn, and lots of other things you would normally think of as biodegradable.
- The U.S. sent nearly 60% of its garbage to landfills in 1995, but only recycled or composted about 30%.
- The main items that fill up our landfills aren't metals or plastics - but something as easily recycled as paper. In fact, about one third of the volume in our landfills is paper. Other materials, by volume, include plastic (24%), yard wastes (8%) and metals (10%).
Recycling takes less energy than making something new. For example, recycling paper uses 60 percent less energy than manufacturing paper from virgin timber and recycled aluminum takes 95% less energy than new aluminum. Recycling a glass jar saves enough energy to light a light bulb for four hours.
Recycling conserves valuable natural resources, like trees and minerals. Making products from recycled materials usually creates less air pollution and water pollution than making products from virgin materials. When the materials that you recycle go into new products, they don't go into landfills or incinerators, so landfill space is conserved. The recycling process creates far more jobs than landfills or incinerators, and recycling can frequently be the least expensive waste management method for cities and towns.
So if recycling is so great - why isn't everyone doing it? People usually don't recycle simple because it's easier to throw something away without thinking about what happens to it afterwards.
What You Can Do
- Figure out how well your school is recycling, and check out your home, too. Just take a look at what's being thrown away that could just as easily be recycled. You can sometimes see bottles and cans being thrown in with wrappers and other non-recyclables.
- In a lot of countries, the majority of communities are recycling these days. So all you usually have to do to get people recycling cans and bottles is just set out a separate container - even an old box will do - and put a sign on it or next to it saying bottles and cans only.
- But who will take them away and recycle them? Well, you have a few options:
- See if a janitor or someone wants to recycle them. Let them keep the money they get for it.
- Call the recycling company and see if they'll come and get them. Because they make money doing this, they just might make a special trip once in a while.
- Or do it yourself! Find out where you can take them, and make it your weekly job to take them in. Then YOU get to keep the money!
What If People Are Throwing Away Paper?
Paper is sometimes harder since many schools or even communities don't recycle paper. BUT, in a lot of countries, communities are recycling newspaper these days. Soooo, what if you set out a box for paper, and then you and your friends once a week put this paper out with someone's newspapers? Tricky, huh? For the people recycling newspaper it's all the same, and you just saved a lot of trees and landfill space!