Recycling

All the human and animal manure which the world wastes, if returned to the land, instead of being thrown into the sea, would suffice to nourish the world - Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

Recycling

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Since our elementary school years we've always been taught to "reduce, recycle, reuse," with heavy emphasis on the recycle component of the triad. Schools set up multiple recycling bins as the destination for every type of recyclable product there is, and residential homes are provided a recycling container along with their garbage bin from their waste services company. People were, and still are, keen on recycling their garbage in order to save our planet.

In the recent years, as more and more people start recycling their used products, an important question has arisen: Is recycling worth it?

Some of the main points brought up by these articles are the cost of recycling, the amount of energy consumed when recycling, the fumes emitted into the atmosphere when recycling, and whether or not what gets recycled actually gets reused. Popular Mechanics raised two important questions in its article: "Is it good for the environment" and "Does it make economic sense?" The article then goes on to discuss the two issues in detail, providing many points for why recycling won't help the environment as much as we all thought and whether or not the costs of recycling outweigh the benefits. For example, Popular Mechanics describes the following:

            "Environmental Debate: all the garbage produced in the U.S. for the next 1000 years could fit into a landfill 100 yards deep and 35 miles across on each side--not that big; So the notion that we're running out of landfill space--the original impetus for the recycling boom--turns out to have been a red herring"

            "Economic Debate:  It's surprisingly difficult to get a clear picture of how much municipal recycling programs cost compared to landfilling or incineration, because of hidden subsidies and long-term price guarantees given to all types of waste disposal. But it's fair to say that, at this point, it generally costs a little more to recycle waste than it does to dump it."

When researching this topic and reading what legitimate sources had to say on the issue, it has raised some questions in me. It is hard to throw everything that I learned about recycling and saving the planet away; however, is it possible that recycling our wastes may not help as much as we thought? Maybe there are other things we should be focusing our time on that are more effective in assuring our planet will be the same for our children? What do you think?

Source: Jessica Lauren Schoen, Recycle or Not to Recycle, Science in Our World: Certainty & Controversy, November 26, 2011.

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Last Updated : Friday, March 9, 2018