The Truth About Recycling

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As a freshman coming to college, I had always heard about recycling and how it helped the environment, but I never looked too much into it or even understood the point. Because of the courses I am taking this semester, I have learned the reason it is so important: recycling saves energy and ultimately reduces global warming. Reprocessing and reusing recyclable trash requires less energy than continuing to make more of the same products over and over again. In a perfect world, recycling could be the answer to many of society's problems, but unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world. 

The truth is, not everything put into the recycling bin ends up being recycled. When people take the time to sort out recyclables versus landfill, they expect it to be recycled, but that isn’t always the case. After all of the collecting and processing is said and done, the recycling establishments need other companies to buy the recycled items, but too often, the material isn’t being purchased, and the extra ends up in landfills anyway. This issue primarily involves plastic. Low quality plastics can contaminate food and other things the plastic is being used for, and companies would rather use more energy to make more plastic than potentially contaminate their customers’ food. 

Not only do some of the recycled items fail to be purchased but also others aren’t even considered for the cleaning process. Recycled trash that contains too much food contamination is tossed immediately into landfills. The reason being the cost of cleaning the item with a slight chance of reusability is much more than the landfill option. It costs $300 more to process one ton of recycling in New York City than it would cost to take those same materials to a landfill. This number doesn’t even include the added costs of transportation, which also requires more energy, adding to the global warming issue. The expenses of materials ideal for recycling are often high and companies can’t afford it, and they often can’t even find enough of the material to mass-produce the product in question. They usually end up with less expensive material that can’t be recycled as easily because of the issues listed above. 

Recycling can help the environment to some extent, but other more efficient actions should also be taken into consideration. If you have a great deal of paper at the end of the school year that needs to be thrown away, then, yes, recycling is a good option. However, the best way to reduce waste is to be conservative. Instead of drinking out of a different plastic water bottle every day, use a metal washable one. Try to purchase products with small amounts of packaging, so there isn’t as much to be thrown away after being opened. Pay attention to the amount of trash you go through and set a goal to reduce it a little bit each week. As long as you aren’t oblivious to the obvious problem in the world, then you are helping in some way. 

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Edited by Sydney Keener