There's Hope for Recycling

There's hope for recycling

Are you ready for some good news? There is hope for recycling! That’s a little bit of a backhanded compliment—sorry, recycling—but it’s super important. 

For background, only about 10 percent of plastics in the US are recycled, and our national recycling rate for all materials is only 32 percent. Womp womp. 

BUT, even though that’s fairly bleak, especially when paired with facts like there are microplastics everywhere, literally raining from the sky—I told you, this is a backhanded compliment—there is so much that can be done to improve our crippling waste problem, and that includes, you guessed it, recycling.

In a well-informed OpEd for the New York Times, Oliver Franklin-Wallis, author of Wasteland: The Secret World of Waste and the Urgent Search for a Cleaner Future, lays out concrete steps that can be taken to improve our recycling efforts and reduce our waste. He also includes some re-invigorating stats on the tangible benefits of recycling. 

For example, did you know that recycling steel saves 72 percent of the energy of producing new steel and cuts water use by 40 percent? What about that recycling aluminum takes only 5 percent of the energy as it does to produce it new, and prevents nearly 9 tons of bauxite from being mined? Or, how about that recycling aluminum, scrap metals, and textiles results in “substantial” reductions in greenhouse gas emissions? Cool, right? Recycling also creates an estimated 50 jobs for every 1 generated by sending trash to the landfill. 

So what can we do to make this better?

  1. We need to phase out products that can’t be recycled and design more products that are easier to recycle and reuse. WAIT, WHAT? You mean by, like, eliminating unnecessary packaging (cough, cough, Balmies), or ditching plastic all-together?? Yes, we’re proud of our efforts in this department.
  2. Ask your lawmakers to pass new laws, like Seattle and San Francisco have done, to drive investment in the recycling sector and increase recycling rates.
  3. Ask your representatives to ban or restrict problematic plastics, as with non-essential plastic food packaging.
  4. Keep trying to buy less and reuse more. 

All to say, there are a LOT of problems with recycling, but giving up on it too soon would be even worse. How’s that for a silver lining.

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