Recycling Really Make a Difference?
You Bet it Does !!!
By Leah Thorpe; Naturalist; Stubbs Island Whale Watching;
recycle our waste products rather than throw them all in the garbage we save
room in landfills, reduce energy required to manufacture new products and reduce
the fossil fuels extracted and greenhouse gases being burned off into the
atmosphere. These are just a few of the many reasons why recycling can help us
take an enormous step towards the preservation of our environment.
Need More Convincing?
just a few examples of the benefits of recycling and of why each individual
person really can make a difference.
We can save more space in our landfills by
recycling paper products than any other materials and each piece of paper can be
recycled up to five times before the fibres become too weak . 1
44 million newspapers are thrown away every
day in the United States. This is like throwing 500 000 trees into a landfill
each week. 2
Each ton of recycled paper can save 17
trees, 380 gallons of oil and 7000 gallons of water! 3
If each person were to reuse a paper
shopping bag for just one trip to the store, we would save 60 000 trees. 4
Imagine how many trees would be saved if we all used reusable cloth grocery bags
It takes about 95% less energy to make
aluminium from recycled aluminium than to make it from raw materials. 1
Recycling a single aluminium can saves
enough energy to power your television for three hours or to run a 100-watt
light bulb for almost four hours. 1
Imagine how much energy you alone could save if you recycled every aluminium can
you used in a year!
Aluminium dumped into our landfills today
will remain there for over 200 years. 1
Plastic bags made from recycled polythene
rather than virgin materials save two thirds of the energy required for
production and reduce the water used by almost 90%. 5
It is still difficult to recycle plastic
containers and make them into new containers for food and beverages because the
separation process for the various different types and colors of plastics is
labour intensive and not cost efficient. 6
The best option is to reduce plastic wastes by purchasing items that have less
Recycling is still important however,
because there are many items that can be made from recycled plastics. These
items include garbage cans, picnic tables, fibre-fill for vests and jackets,
traffic cones and many others. 5
Purchasing items such as these that are made from recycled materials will help
to further support this industry.
Glass is 100% recyclable and can go from
the recycling bin to a store shelf in as little as 30 days! 7
Approximately 80% of recycled glass
containers are made into new glass bottles and glass can be reused an infinite
number of times. 7
Recycling one ton of glass saves the
equivalent of nine gallons of fuel oil and one sixth of a ton of carbon dioxide!
Making a glass container from a recycled
container creates about 20% less air pollution, 50% less water pollution and
uses only about half the energy of making it from virgin materials. Recycling a
single glass bottle can save enough energy to light a 100-watt light bulb for 4
Yard trimmings and food wastes make up
approximately 23% of municipal solid waste in the United States. 8
This type of waste is biodegradable but
often these food items sit in landfills for long periods of time unable to be
broken down through the plastic garbage bags they are stored in. We could keep
many of these items out of our landfills and allow them to be broken down
naturally by composting.
Composting enriches and regenerates poor
soils which can also provide many other environmental benefits such as helping
to suppress plant diseases, reducing or eliminating the need for chemical
fertilizers, promoting higher crop yields, and facilitating the restoration of
forests, wetlands and other important habitats. 8
Batteries contain heavy metals such as
mercury, nickel, lead and cadmium, which can leak into the ground and
contaminate the environment if improperly disposed of. 9
Cadmium can be toxic to aquatic
invertebrates and can bioaccumulate in fish. 9
This will in turn build up in animals which feed on fish such as humans and
terrestrial or marine mammals.
Contact the battery manufacturer, the
appliance manufacturer or your local council to find out how to properly dispose
of batteries in your area or better yet use appliances that derive power from
other sources such as the sun whenever possible.
Another good option for appliances that
require batteries is to use rechargeable ones. Each rechargeable battery may
substitute for hundreds of single use batteries. 9
Imagine the heavy metals we could keep out of our landfills if we all switched
many of the materials that we use on a daily basis are recyclable, there are
some products that cannot be recycled or that the process is too inefficient to
make it worthwhile. By avoiding the use of these products whenever possible, we
can help promote the use of more environmentally responsible products in their
Recycling of Styrofoam is difficult and the
technology for it is not nearly as advanced as for many other products such as
Each year Americans throw away 25 trillion
Styrofoam cups. This is enough to circle the earth 436 times. 4
Imagine how much Styrofoam we could keep out of our environment if we all
carried travel mugs to use when purchasing hot beverages.
Harmful chemicals are released into the
atmosphere during the production of Styrofoam. These chemicals have been shown
to degrade the Earth’s ozone layer. 10
Styrofoam is also a popular product for
packaging up leftover food in restaurants so that customers can take it home.
Next time you go out for dinner remember to bring your own Tupperware so you can
bring your leftovers home without adding to the Styrofoam in our landfills.
Waxed cardboard cannot be recycled. It can
only be recycled as mixed paper and many recycling plants will not even accept
it meaning that it will end up in the trash. 11
Waxed cardboard can however be reused so if
you cannot avoid using it altogether try to think of alternative uses when you
are finished with it.
you have seen, recycling can help us take an enormous step towards conserving
our world’s resources and energy supplies as well as limiting the amount of
greenhouse gasses and other pollutants released into the atmosphere. Although it
may seem like we are just tiny parts of this vast planet, each one of us really
can make a significant difference by making these small and simple changes in
our day-to-day activities and in the disposal of our waste products.
Anchorage Recycling Center. 2005. Aluminum Recycling.
University of Colorado at boulder. 2005. Recycling Facts.
Resourceful Schools Project. 2005. Resources for Recycling
4. Oberlin College Recycling Program. 2005. Oberlin
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. 2005. The
Benefits of Recycling.
6. Richard S. Stein. 1992. Polymer
Recycling: Opportunities and
Limitations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the
United States of America. 89 (3): pp. 835-838.
Packaging Institute. 2005. Glass Recycling and the Environment.
States Environmental Protection Agency. 2004. Composting.
Online. 2004. Battery Recycling Information Sheet.
A. Wells, Jr; Neil McCubbin; Red Cavaney; Bonnie Camo; M. B.
Hocking. 1991. Paper
Versus Polystyrene: Environmental Impact.
Science. 252 (5011): pp. 1361-1363.
Department of Public Works, Berkely California, 2005. Commercial