Reduce Your Carbon Footprint - Recycle
Approximately 87% of Americans have access to recycling programs, but the million dollar question is: is recycling worth it? Unfortunately, there’s no neat cost-benefit analysis or obvious ethical standard that can give us a clear-cut answer to a surprisingly puzzling question. All we can do is fully understand the debate, so we can have a well-informed personal opinion on the debate.
One of the most compelling reasons backing recycling is a tremendous amount of energy is saved when resources like aluminum, PET (plastic-bottle material), glass, pig iron, and paper are recycled. Basically, the materials only have to be collected and then re-processed if they are recycled as opposed to having to be mined or extracted, transported as crude material, refined, processed, and distributed before consumption.
As a result, you are reducing your carbon footprint by recycling because there is less transportation and processing of the materials, and you are also saving more resources from being extracted.
Overall, recycling aluminum is most beneficial, saves the most energy, but recycling these other materials also has benefits, like the huge energy savings that result. However, I am not sure it is wise to consume more aluminum Coke cans than plastic water bottles just so you can be more “green” after consumption. Another reason favoring recycling is that its a source for local employment.
A third reason supporting recycling is it keeps our earth more trash-free. Remember that recycling programs keep trash out of public lands and waterways, making them more healthier environments for wildlife. Further, these landscapes may have recreational or eco-tourism value. Isn’t there value in having more attractive and more usable landscapes? Additionally, recycling programs may emphasize to the public the importance of being ecologically conscious. These programs may remind the public of the beautiful natural environment both beyond and linked to society and civilization. Can this reinforce to Americans of all generations to be eco-minded in general? Also, can the simple act of recycling inspire a 6-year old child to be an environmental scientist or waste management expert someday? At any rate, there are two, if not several, sides to every argument. Recycling critics claim that this process is too expensive.
In New York City, it costs around $240 per ton to recycle glass, metal, and plastic, which is almost double what it costs just to throw it away. Not to mention the cost of hiring workers to collect and sort the trash, when this money can be used for other vital services, like hiring more teachers or policemen. However, the cost of recycling varies between cities according to many factors like distance to landfills, labor costs, method of recycling and real estate costs.
Perhaps some recycling programs are economically acceptable, and others are not. Critics also say we are not really running out of many resources. They ask; will we ever run out of sand to make glass? Can’t we always grow commercial tree farms to provide more paper? Last, but not least, critics say we have enough space for landfills. They claim that all of the next millennium’s trash would only fill a 35-square mile landfill that is 100 yards deep. That means a lot fewer football fields, but this is still not that much space in the grand scheme of things. Plus many municipalities incinerate the trash, having closed their landfills years ago.
Everything you throw away goes up in smoke, except that which is placed in the recycling stream
Now, after hearing both sides of the debate, do you think we should can recycling? Don’t make your decision just yet; we have only just opened the can. Expect more discussion in future posts.