Over the past few decades, we’ve increasingly adopted a disposable lifestyle and consequently accumulated a lot of trash. To deal with the mass of waste, we’ve seen the development of incinerators and landfills. Incinerating waste releases harmful gases such as dioxins and fine particles while landfills produce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. In order to resolve these problems, many cities are taking measures like banning plastic bags. But how do we fix the core issue – overconsumption?
To begin, we need to learn how to shop smarter (aka. more sustainably) and buy less. However, we should also be recycling more, and here are the top four reasons why.
1) Recycling saves energy.
The process of manufacturing new products from raw materials takes far more energy than making them from recycled materials.
2) Recycling helps the environment by reducing pollution.
The recycling process helps with three things: it reduces the need to extract virgin materials from the earth, reduces harmful emissions associated with new product production from entering the atmosphere, and mitigates landfill waste.
3) Recycling creates jobs and benefits the economy.
As of 2017, the recycling industry generated $117 billion in revenue and employed 156,000 people. Take into account the growing investments big businesses have made in recent years to create recycled packaging and those figures are sure to soar.
4) Recyclables can be used to create new products.
Recyclables can have a second life! Manufacturers are increasingly making use of recycled plastics to create new products or replace virgin materials in packaging. One example is the plastic bottle to t-shirt process which involves turning the plastic into textiles to make clothing.
However, recycling is not a perfect solution
Recycling rates vary from country to country, and while materials like aluminum and glass can be infinitely recycled, plastics cannot. In fact, only 9% of all plastic every made has been recycled. Recycling can sometimes be more expensive than producing items with virgin materials, which is why big businesses have historically defaulted to using virgin materials.
How to Start Making a Difference
Buy less. Waste less. The less we buy and waste, the less natural resources we use and the less pollution we create. It is not too uncommon that people think of pollution as an unavoidable consequence. Although it is true that some pollution cannot be completely avoided – at least not yet – such as emissions from vehicles and factories, we, as consumers, can reduce pollution and natural resource extraction by buying less, reducing our consumption of products in plastic packaging, and recycling more. The next time you pick up an item to purchase, ask yourself three questions, “do I really need this?, “is this sustainable?” and “can this be recycled?”
Check out how to start a zero-waste lifestyle in this article Zero-Waste for Beginners
You can also click here subscribe to our newsletter for access to our free e-book on a zero waste lifestyle and get exclusive access to our zero waste calculator. This article contains links to purchase Zero Waste and Eco Friendly products that pay a commission when you make a purchase. Supporting us helps save the environment.