Recycling is important. Everybody knows that. It’s everywhere! Recycle your cans, cartons, cardboard and collection of easily degradable objects. But not everyone talks about why recycling is important. I mean, of course it’s good for the environment and its good for society but it’s harder to go into real details about waste and consumption. We, as a society, waste a lot and it is up to us to make the change.
With Global Recycling Day fast approaching, here’s a few facts on some common landfill items that could easily be reduced, reused or recycled.
1. Aluminium Cans
Aluminium cans are one of the easiest things to recycle. Aluminium can be recycled indefinitely and it takes less energy and resources to recycle an aluminum can than to make a brand new one. Unfortunately, only 120,000 aluminium cans are recycled in America per day. This may seem high but over 80 billion aluminum cans are used every year. That equates to only half of the cans per day being recycled and the rest going to the landfill. Aluminium cans can take more than 500 years to decompose.
2. Disposable Diapers
Moving on to a stinky topic, more than 18 billion disposable diapers are thrown away in the US. This is almost 2.4 million tons of waste! Babies tend to use 6,000 disposable diapers before they are toilet trained which is over 2 tons of waste added to a landfill. Disposable diapers take up to 500 years to decompose. The good news is there are alternatives - reusable diapers are an option - but with advances in recycling technology, disposable diapers are slowly being able to go through a recycling process. This step is a long way off though and still in its new trial phases in select locations across the world.
3. Plastic Containers
Plastic is one of the most common materials in our lives. It’s easy and cheap to produce and is fairly hardy for household purposes. However, plastic is one of the world’s worst pollutants, especially in our oceans. Plastic items can take up to 1,000 years to decompose. Plastic bottles, which have a recycling rate of only 13% in America, take over 450 years to decompose. Plastic containers also have the added cost of slowing the decomposition of other items in the landfill. Food inside containers will break down far slower than exposed to the elements. Additionally, many types of plastic containers cannot be recycled through normal methods. Certain types of plastic cannot be recycled at all.
4. Glass Bottles
Glass, like aluminium cans, is incredibly easy to recycle and can be recycled indefinitely. Unfortunately, the US alone throws away enough glass to fill a 1,350 ft building every week! Glass can take 1 million years to decompose but some claim that glass never decomposes! Like plastic, glass slows the decomposition of other garbage in landfills. However, recycling glass takes less energy and resources than creating new glass.
5. Food Waste
Food waste is a huge issue for all of us. It’s the highest waste in landfills based on weight. Food waste is such a broad and encompassing label as it all decomposes at different speeds. Something like an orange peel takes almost 6 months to decompose but a banana peel only takes about 1 month. On top of that, if the food is encased in a large plastic garbage back it will take even longer to break down and, as gross as it is, without bugs and oxygen exposure, the decomposition time is increased exponentially.
6. Leather Shoes
This one’s a little odd from the rest of the list but it sets a good example of how even something small that will only get thrown out on a few occasions can still have a huge impact. Leather shoes aren’t exactly the most common item that you throw away but it’s important to note that leather shoes can take up to 40 years to decompose in a landfill. Many charity organisations will accept old clothes as donations and many landfills will accept leather shoes to be recycled with other textiles.
7. Paper Waste
Paper waste is another huge issue. Paper is a very easy and common thing that can be recycled. But, based on volume, paper is the largest waste in US landfills. It can take up to six weeks to decompose, which doesn’t sound too bad but the sheer volume makes it a huge burden on space. Recycling paper uses less energy and resources than creating new paper. And it also protects forests and our lumber.
Batteries are a common and necessary household item in today’s modern life. It is estimated that in the US at least 3 billion batteries every year! Batteries contain highly toxic chemicals that affect the landfill tremendously. They take up to 100 years to decompose and their chemicals can continue on once the item has broken down. Many environmental agencies urge consumers to turn to rechargeable batteries which are 1,000 times more efficient and highly recyclable.
Global recycling day is on March 18th this year. Check out your local community board for events and see how you can participate this year.