The Impact Recycling Has on the Environment
1. Recycling Reduces Landfill Waste
- 33 million tons were incinerated to produce energy
- 89 million tons of waste were recovered, of which 66 million tons were recycled and 23 million composted
- 136 million tons ended in the landfill
With increased recycling, some of the waste destined to be dumped on landfill sites can be considerably reduced, therefore minimizing the amount of harmful gases released into the environment.
2. Conserves Natural Resources
Manufacturing industries need virgin sources of renewable wood and non-renewable fossil fuels. According to the National Institutes of Health Environmental Management System, 94 percent of natural resources utilized by Americans are not renewable. The total amount of these resources, such as mineral ore and fossil fuels, are limited. At the current rate of use, the world is destined to run out of these precious resources. It is thus important to save them for future generations. Once natural resources are extracted from the ground, they are lost from humanity forever.
3. Saves Natural Habitats and Forests
Trees are cut to make paper. Paper pulp accounts for over 40 percent of the world’s timber use. In the tropics, cutting of trees for paper destroys more trees than palm oil cultivation and mining. Besides reducing the total number of trees, deforestation affects the associated fauna whose habitats are destroyed.
Additionally, most precious metals like copper, gold, metal ores and diamonds are found in the rainforest regions. For this reason, most forests are degraded due to mining activities, construction of roads through the forests, and the formation of settlements. Moreover, the settlers might reduce animal populations by hunting.
In 2007, NBC reported that recycling activities in China caused a considerable arrest of deforestation worldwide, include Europe and the U.S. China resorted into importing wastepaper, the imports alongside fiber from its own clothes and wastepaper, accounted for close to 60 percent of its pulp sources.
4. Reduces Energy Consumption
A lot of energy is needed to mine raw materials and transport them across the world. A significant amount of this energy can be saved if products such as metals, paper, and plastics are properly recycled. The total amount of energy saved depends on the material recycled, with metals saving the most energy.
According to the American Geoscience Institute, recycling metals like lead, iron, and steel reduces energy usage by 75 percent, 72 percent, and 50 percent respectively. Also, aluminum production consumes the most energy. However, recycling aluminum can save close to 94 percent of this energy.
5. Inefficient Waste Management
Due to the chemical composition of different wastes, there are many different gases that are released once trash is left on landfills. The gases escape into the environment and cause harm by polluting the air, soils, or water catchment areas leading to health problems for people and irreversible damage to the nearby flora. Floods are often caused by garbage clogging the drains, and the rivers might be poisoned by toxic discharge from landfill sites.
6. Reduces Global Warming
Recycling reduces climate change. The EPA reports that 42 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the US are caused by transport, production, processing, and disposal of waste products. These processes are made possible by the use of fossil fuels, one of the biggest sources of greenhouse emissions in the United States. The EPA goes ahead to report that in 2014, greenhouse emissions were reduced by close to 181 million tons as a result of recycling.