Image credit to EcoScrapes
By Mahenau Leghari
In elementary school, we were taught the importance of recycling and the consequences if we don’t. We are all guilty of not recycling from time to time, myself included, and seeing the empty green bins at the side of the hall makes us wonder if recycling even makes a difference – if the pros really do outweigh the cons. We wonder, “If nobody is really recycling, does it matter if I do or don’t?” Some people even believe that all garbage goes in the same place, regardless if it is put in a waste bin or in a recycling bin. So, does recycling really make a difference?
Recycling reduces the requirement for manufacturing new products, this ultimately reduces the fossil fuels needed for the energy to make them, as well as the greenhouse gases released into the air. Each piece of material that we throw away has its own properties and own benefits if and when it is recycled. Recycling has a significant positive impact on the environment.
Let’s take paper for example. Paper can be recycled up to five times before its fiber becomes too weak, and recycling it gives us more space in our landfills than any other material. In the United States, 44 million newspapers are getting thrown away every day, which is equivalent to discarding 500,000 trees into a landfill. Each ton of paper can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, and 7,000 gallons of water.
Although not many people are aware, glass is 100% recyclable, and can go from the recycling bin to a store shelf in just 30 days. 80% of glass containers are reused to make new bottles, and can be recycled infinite amounts of times. Recycling one ton of glass is equal to saving nine gallons of fuel oil and one sixth of a ton of carbon dioxide, which goes hand-in-hand with reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
What about plastic? Bags that are made from recycled polythene (a light, synthetic material) save two thirds more of the energy required to produce bags made of virgin materials, which are materials that have not yet been processed, like crude oil or a natural gas. It also reduces the water used in plastic bag production by around 90%.
However, it is difficult to recycle plastic most of the time, as it costs a lot and requires more labour, so the best thing to do for the environment is to look for alternatives to plastic. This includes using metal straws instead of plastic ones, or buying reusable bottles, plates, and containers. It’s also very easy to buy a reusable bag for grocery shopping rather than using the plastic ones, and much better for the environment.
After seeing the statistics and reading the information, a lot of the questions I had about recycling have been answered, along with one that a lot of people and I share: does recycling really make a difference? The answer is ‘yes’, it makes a great difference. Even though some people disregard recycling or think that it is pointless, the numbers do not lie. Recycling as much as you can, or even at all, can assist our efforts to preserve the environment. The pros do outweigh the cons.