Recycling has been around for a very long time dating back to possibly as early as 500 B.C. Fast forward to the industrial age where mass production was becoming mainstream and virtually all products relied on recycling in some form or fashion due to lower material costs. For centuries, recycling was for economic, cost conscious reasons and not for the environmental factors that we typically think of today. It wasn’t until the environmental movement in the 1970’s, when Earth Day was founded, that recycling became more than a savings incentive but rather a civic responsibility that individuals have for the planet.
As single-use plastics and goods became the cultural norm, landfills burgeoned and greenhouse gas emissions increased at a higher rate due to the trapped waste. In the 1980s, Americans sent almost 150 million tons (136.08 million metric tons) of garbage to landfills each year. Today, the U.S. still dumps more than 100 million tons (90.719 million metric tons) of trash into landfills annually [source: Hall]. When you recycle instead of placing items in landfills, you are actively reducing the amount of waste that goes into landfills and the harmful emissions that damage the ozone layer.
Today, recycling has become a fairly common practice in the modern household. Residencies in countries like the United States report that they recycle 34% of the waste they create, while other countries, like Germany, report much more successful recycling programs (for example, in 2015, Germany reported that households recycled 62% of the waste created). Despite these positive trends, civilization’s consumption continues to grow, requiring even more diligence in recycling efforts.
It is the process of converting waste materials into new materials or objects. A material’s recyclability depends on its ability to reacquire the properties it had in its original state. Recycling is an alternative to "conventional" waste disposal (e.g. landfills) that can save us from creating net-new materials, thus lowering greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing processes. It results in the reduction of energy usage, air pollution (from incineration), and water pollution (from landfilling).
Setting up a recycling system for your home does not have to be complicated to be effective. Recycling can seem daunting to some (memorizing recycling labels isn’t anyone’s favorite task), but it’s absolutely critical. Fortunately, Luxiders has outlined a simple process for you to get started with recycling.
Recycling is a way that we, as citizens of the planet, can take small steps to protect and preserve the environment. Good luck with your recycling and share what tips you’ve found to make recycling easier in the comment section below!
+ Words: Zelda Speight
Zelda Speight is a writer based in the United States whose work primarily focuses on sustainability and conscious consumerism. After studying Anthropology and Public Policy, Zelda became a management consultant where she partners with organizations during large-scale transformations. She leads communications teams for global energy companies and is a freelance writer for publications that share her passion for promoting a more conscious, sustainable lifestyle.
Find her on Instagram @bigsistercomplex