When we think about what we are grateful for during the holiday season, we typically think of things we are personally grateful for including our families, homes, and great food. But we should also take some time to reflect on the things that make our lives better on a societal level. At the Campaign for Recycling Awareness, we are grateful to have a recycling system that helps keep our planet clean. Here are five reasons you should be thankful for recycling, too.
1. Recycling Reduces Waste
Americans can generate a lot of waste each year — especially around the holidays. Wine bottles, soda cans, water bottles, and cardboard boxes are all products that can live another life thanks to recycling. While it may seem like no big deal, it actually makes a big difference for our planet. Instead of clogging landfills or polluting rivers, recycling our used products can keep the planet clean in more ways than one.
2. Recycling Reduces Emissions
Recycling can greatly reduce the total greenhouse gas emissions produced throughout the lifecycle of a container. Glass production, for example, generates immense amounts of harmful greenhouse gases. One study found that replacing all plastic bottles with glass bottles would generate enough additional emissions to power 22 large coal-fired power plants. But communities that have access to glass recycling can greatly reduce their carbon footprint by getting every bottle in the blue bin.
Recycling reduces the carbon footprint of glass bottles, plastic bottles, and aluminum cans, according to a study by the Danish Environmental Agency. The only packaging that does not yield a net reduction of carbon emissions by being recycled is cartons. Cartons are difficult to recycle because they have layers of plastic, paper, and aluminum. Talk to your local recycling program before recycling cartons.
3. Recycling Reduces Harmful Mining
Aluminum only comes from two places: dirty bauxite mines or recycling facilities. Aluminum is made from a harmful process of strip mining bauxite. Communities near bauxite strip mines are coated in a toxic red dust. The red dust kills nearby vegetation and can cause lasting health consequences for those living nearby. But when that can is recycled, less bauxite needs to be harvested and the harmful consequences of aluminum production can be mitigated.
4. Recycling Saves Trees
We use a lot of paper and cardboard in the United States and the production of paper and cardboard requires a lot of trees to be harvested. Beyond providing habitats for many animals, trees play an important role in filtering out carbon dioxide from our atmosphere.
Luckily, paper and cardboard are the most frequently recycled materials in the United States. Roughly 46 million tons of paper and paperboard were recycled in 2018, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. And it is estimated that each ton of recycled paper saves 17 trees. That means there are 782 million trees standing today because Americans chose to recycle.
5. Recycling Gives Products a New Life
When a plastic bottle is tossed in the trash, it will only ever be trash. But when a bottle is recycled, its opportunities are endless. Recycled plastic is becoming more versatile every day. Today, Americans can buy shoes, playground equipment, lawn furniture, and new plastic bottles that are all made from recycled plastic. Americans can drive on roads paved with recycled plastic while students in Indonesia can attend school in earthquake-resistant buildings made from recycled plastic bricks.