Beyond the landfill: Recycling reduces pollution, saves energy, creates jobs
Nov. 15 is the 15th annual “America Recycles Day.” The day, founded in 1997, was the idea of the non-profit group Keep America Beautiful to encourage people to dump less trash in landfills.
The good news is that recycling has increased in the USA – from around 8 percent of the total waste stream in 1960 to 17 percent in 1990 and about 33 percent currently, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. However, a lot more can be done, as most waste that goes to the landfill can be recycled, reused or composted.
So, why is it so important to recycle? What difference does it make anyway? According to a report issued by the Tellus Institute last year entitled "More Jobs, Less Pollution," not only would more robust recycling practices create jobs (nearly 1.5 million jobs by 2030), it would help to reduce pollution.
The report estimates that by diverting 75 percent of the nation’s waste, we would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 276 million metric tons by 2030. This is the equivalent of eliminating emissions from 72 coal-fired power plants or taking 50 million cars off the road.
Greenhouse gas emissions are reduced because products made from recycled materials take significantly less energy than products made from virgin materials. For example, recycling aluminum requires only about 5 percent of the energy of making a can from virgin materials. Recycled plastic only takes 10 percent of the energy and recycled paper/cardboard takes 60 percent of the energy. An added benefit of recycling paper/cardboard is that it saves trees which help to clean the air of pollutants.
The full "More Jobs, Less Pollution" report can be viewed online at: nrdc.org/business/guides/recyclingreport.asp.
Though most people separate their trash and recycle, the EPA cites additional steps they can take, including these six:
1. Buy recycled products. When you buy recycled products, you create a market for recyclable materials to be collected, manufactured and sold as new products.
2. Purchase durable, long lasting goods.
3. Reuse items by donating them to charity and community groups or selling them.
4. Use a product more than once, either for the same or for a different purpose. This is even better than recycling because the item does not need to be reprocessed before it can be used again.
5. Reduce your use of packaging: Buy bulk or concentrated products when you can. Take your own bags to the store.
6. Compost your organic matter (yard and food waste). Composting is nature's way of recycling organic wastes into new soil used in vegetable and flower gardens, landscaping and many other applications.
Learn more about recycling!
Come to a FREE seminar on Thursday, Nov. 15, from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Community Room located in the Bay Village Police Department building, 28000 Wolf Rd. Presenters include Kathleen Rocco, education specialist from the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District, and Brenda O’Reilly, co-chair of the Bay Village Green Team. The seminar will cover what happens when your recyclable materials leave your curbside and tips for how to become a “near zero waste” household. Please register by calling Warren Remein at 440-724-1578 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Co-Chair of the Bay Village Green Team