Americans recycle only 35% of their trash according to a 2018 EPA report. That means 65% of that trash ends up in landfills – totaling more than 262 million tons each year. Although many factors contribute to this phenomenon, the biggest problem is that many Americans ask, “Why bother recycling?”
- Only 50% of US adults recycle daily.
Common reasons for not recycling include: too much effort, confusion about recycling procedures and recycling effects little impact on the environment. Said another way, “Why bother recycling?”
- Recycling collections are often contaminated.
Tossing non-recyclable items (e.g., plastic bags) into a recycling bin makes the collection unusable. Therefore, these collections find their ways to the landfills.
- Community resources seem limited or unavailable.
Some communities have few resources to fund recycling programs such as curbside pickup. Even when communities offer such programs, residents may not know about them. So, promoting community awareness of environmental resources remains a top priority for local government officials.
Why Bother Recycling?
Although landfills are necessary, they create byproducts that cause air, water and soil pollution. Plus, they contribute to greenhouse gases which affect global warming. One alarming projection predicts that US landfills could reach capacity by 2036. As US landfills inch closer to these dire forecasts each year, we Americans need to ask more than ever, “Why Bother Recycling?” Get the picture?
Why Bother Reusing?
Single-use plastic bottles pose a particularly worrisome problem. Forbes reported a particularly alarming statistic in 2017, that 91 percent of plastic bottles never become recycled. Since this report preceded the China recycling ban in 2018, more plastic bottles end up in the ocean or in land fills.
Although recycling remains important, reuse becomes imperative. Imagine if local fast-food and coffee establishments supplied their beverages in reusable cups that could be refilled for a discount. This could dramatically decrease the problems associated with single-use beverage containers. Instead of tossing plastic bottles, think of creative ways to reuse them.
Maintaining an environmental consciousness does not have to be overly difficult. With a little practice and effort, we can all do our part to keep America beautiful.