Recycling: Is it Still Practical or Outdated?

Recycling has been around longer than most know. Plato had written about advocating the idea of recycling when materials were scarce during times of civil war. Modern history has proven that this form of salvage was used through our own wartime as well. But the recycling movement really took off during the 1970’s with the first Earth Day proclaiming a need to return to recycling and thus becoming one of the most successful programs in this century. Concerned groups and citizens fought for individuals and corporations’ rights to stand up and become involved in a large way. But there are those who believe that, with the 70s, recycling is an idea that is past its prime. Nowadays products are being made from reused materials and companies are voluntarily recycling so is it still important for the individual to continue to recycle?

Money makes for good recycling

The first reason for recycling is money; the money that we save and, in some cases, the money businesses make. Americans have stopped over 72 million tons of waste from landfills and incinerators. In the United States, 32.5% of all waste is recycled into new products. It just makes good sense for big business. The cost of creating new aluminum cans from recycled ones takes less energy and money than creating the product from scratch. Critics have debated the issue of whether this method saves money at all. It has also been verified that the cost of some new materials is less than the recycling process. Nevertheless, there is enough evidence to prove that this isn’t always true. Aside from the cost, the business of recycling has created jobs. In Pennsylvania, which has an 8.2% unemployment rate, over 52,000 jobs were created by recycling.

The Issue of Health

There is also the question of human health. The process of recycling cuts down on the pollution from incinerators and factories that create ‘virgin materials’ which produces great amounts of air pollution. There is the question of landfill rot going into the ground and into the water supply. For instance, a great many electronics that have heavy toxic metals are allowed to sit in landfills. This could leach into groundwater and become health problems.

Wasting the land

Finally, there is the damage to our environment. As organic wastes decompose in landfills, it creates methane gas, this contributes to global warming. Recycling is one way to prevent these types of emissions as well as incinerator emissions, saving of energy and trees so they can create carbon sequestration, a method in which carbon is absorbed in the wood of the trees and isn’t emitted into the atmosphere. Recycling also prevents waste before it is even created and the disposal of such waste. Even the process of using recycled paper to make ‘new’ paper cuts down the destruction of 78 million tree seedlings that would take ten years to grow.

Why do we recycle?

There are many reasons why we should recycle. We have used this planet and all of its resources for a long period that now those methods are straining to keep up. It is the time to repair the problems that we have created. People must begin to use methods such as composting, recycling and creating new ways to help decrease the effects of greenhouse gas emissions. Costs and immediate results should no longer be an issue. It may seem like a daunting task but when we look back at all of the damage we have done, it seems like the only sensible answer. The human race needs to heal our planet; not place another band-aid on it for the next generation to mend.

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