When we hear the word “recycling,” we might think of a well-oiled machine that takes our trash, repurposes it and makes new products. Recycling may seem like a mundane process, but it’s not without its challenges. This is particularly true in communities and workplaces that haven’t established a strong foundation for practicing good recycling habits. It’s important to remember that recycling is not a magic bullet; it’s only as effective as our efforts are. This is why it’s crucial to learn more about how to recycle correctly, to make sure you’re getting the most out of your community’s recycling programs.
One of the biggest reasons why recycling is so vital is that it reduces the need to grow, harvest or extract new raw materials from the Earth. This helps to conserve natural habitats, which are home to many species of plants and animals that play a key role in regulating the planet’s climate and weather. It also prevents the waste we create from harming these animals or spilling chemicals into our air, water and soil.
In addition to protecting our environment, recycling can also benefit communities in developing countries that need it the most. The creation of landfill sites and natural resource extraction projects often disproportionately affect low-income communities. By recycling more, we can help to lift these communities out of poverty and enable them to build a sustainable future for themselves and their families.
The process of recycling can also save energy compared to creating new products from raw materials. Producing new aluminum from recycled cans, for example, uses 95% less energy than mining and processing raw aluminum from the Earth. Making a new steel product from scrap metal uses about 70% less energy than raw material production. Combined, these savings mean that we can reduce our consumption of energy resources and protect the planet from deforestation.
Practicing good recycling habits is not difficult, but it can be challenging to know what is and isn’t recyclable. Start by finding out if your school, workplace or neighborhood has a designated recycling program in place. If not, consider joining forces with your local community to establish a program that works for everyone. Then, make sure you are combining only the correct items into your recycling bin, and keeping it free of contaminants such as food, paper towels and dirty laundry. Also be sure to remove any packing materials such as packing peanuts, plastic bags and bubble wrap.
To help make it even easier to recycle, use an app or website that identifies the contents of your bin and shows you where to find nearby recycling centers. Finally, to help you stay on track, keep two containers in your home or office: one for recycling and the other for trash. It’s a simple way to help your community and our planet..