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What Is Recycling & Why Is It Important?

By Larraine Roulston :

With the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) being taught in schools and recycling bins situated in homes, offices and on city streets, most people should have good recycling habits. The concept is simple. The process involves the breaking down of an item and reusing the materials to make either the same product or something different. By not recycling over and over again, our packaging containers and other items usually end up being thrown away as trash.3rs

The benefits that come from recycling are numerous to both the environment and to the economy. Recycling greatly reduces the use of water and energy, as well as the amount of pollutants that are released into the air. Also, millions of tons of material are prevented from entering landfills or from being incinerated. By recycling, you are helping to minimize your carbon footprint. Companies utilizing a well-maintained recycling program will save money by instilling good waste management practices amongst employees. In addition, more recycling jobs are created when companies work toward zero waste. One of the many “Fast Fact Sheets” states, “Incinerating 10,000 tonnes [sic] of waste creates 1 job, landfilling the same waste would create 6 jobs, but recycling creates 36 jobs.”

Our natural resources are conserved when we recycle.

Glass: The average glass bottle contains 25% recycled content — green bottles as much as 90%. A computer could be powered for 25 minutes with the energy saved by recycling just one glass bottle.

Aluminum: All aluminum can be recycled almost infinitely. It would save energy to recycle and reuse instead of manufacture new products.

Paper: In Britain, approximately 5 million trees each year would not be cut down if everyone recycled an extra 10% of their paper. Recycled paper products create 73% less air pollution than those manufactured from raw materials.

Plastics:  Fiberfill for sleeping bags, jackets and stuffed toys can be made from recycling PET plastics. Also, only half the energy is consumed by not burning plastic in an incinerator. Up to 2,000 gallons of gasoline can be saved by recycling one ton of this material.

recycling-binsAlthough many fast food/drive-through restaurants have recycling containers, they are rarely used properly. Even clear instructions and images do not appear to have much impact. Staff do not have the time to remove recyclables from the garbage or to pick out food and greasy napkins from the plastic/paper recycling bins. This has to change if we are going to raise our awareness to the next level. Along with promoting recycling with fact sheets and visual instructions, I would like to see governments and corporate sponsors create jobs by hiring people to be present at public events, fast food outlets, parks and even on the city sidewalks to offer hands-on demonstrations. In New York City, for example, one sees recycling and garbage bins side by side, yet the recycling bins look no different from the garbage bins. In the same city, Disney characters and other popular cartoon personalities on Broadway entertain the public with street photos. Instead, why not have them join the recycling revolution by guiding people to source-separate correctly.

With climate change, recycling correctly becomes even more essential. Also, with your power of purchase, look for information indicating that items are “made from post-consumer’’ materials. As recycling technology continues to evolve, so must the mainstream public.

Related Links:


Recycling facts and figures « Recycling Guide

recycle-more,Top Facts

40 Facts About Recycling – Conserve Energy Future

Larraine authors the Pee Wee at Castle Compost adventure series at www.castlecompost.com

About Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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One comment

  1. You know that this has long been a source of interest to me. I can truly understand how busy parents of young children can start to throw everything in the garbage rather than recycle.
    But I think your points on better guides, education, maybe simple events can teach how to set up a recycling center in your own home. As the children grow, they will be part of the family system.
    I had a question, tho, on why fast food places have plastic straws. One night, I suddenly remembered that as a kid, we had paper straws. What happened to paper straws? Surely recycled paper could be used to make new paper straws. (I remember my mom saying that I shouldn’t keep the straw in my mouth or it would melt on me.)
    We need to find ways to get across that this is a seriously important subject and practice. I haven’t seen a festival on recycling, like we do with Monarch butterflies, or on energy conservation.
    Maybe we need a separate department in each city that is dedicated to recycling, and make concerted efforts to organize and distribute recycling information for each area. They could have annual Festivals of Trash, with information on recycling and physical models on why it’s important.

    We don’t have enough info out here, so I watch people just “throw it away.” They don’t realize that there is no “away.” That trash has to go someplace, and we are running out of space. (How arrogant that we throw so much away that we are running out of space for landfills.)

    Thanks for this piece. Will share it and at least start another conversation on recycling.

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