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What is Recycling?

7 Benefits of Recycling

By Michael Arms

Pacebutler Corporation
Edmond, Oklahoma
What is Recycling - 7 Benefits of Recycling

What is Recycling - 7 Benefits of Recycling

What is recycling? As we begin this blog, I thought I might start with the
basics and begin with a working personal definition of recycling. Recycling
as a word has become so ingrained into our language and to a certain
extent, in the very fabric of our multi-cultural society. Today, 110 years
after the first materials recovery plant was established in New York, it is
extremely encouraging to note the steady increase of solid waste recycling
in the US, over the last 4 decades.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates our average

(across different products and industries) recycling rate to be 32.5%.

What happens to the remaining unrecycled waste?

The EPA explains that 12.5% are burned in incineration facilities (spewing
hazardous emissions to the atmosphere) while the remaining 55% (well
over half of the estimated 251 million tons of solid waste we produce in a
year) are deposited in the landfills throughout the country.

Quite clearly, there is a huge room for recycling to grow in this country.
What is recycling? Why recycle?

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What is Recycling - 7 Benefits of Recycling

What is recycling?

"Reduce, reuse, recycle" is the mantra we often hear everytime there's a

discussion about recycling .

Reducing waste - means not only to reduce the volume of waste that goes
to the landfills, but it also means decreasing the amount of dangerous
chemicals that seep into the soil and pollute the air due to improper waste

Reuse - is basically extending the usage of most of the items we have in

the house by reusing or donating these items to others in a free recycle
group, for example.

To complete the cycle, we must do it as part of our lifestyle to purchase and

use products made from recycled materials.

Recycling is a process

At its core recycling is a process. It's a series of activities within a loop, a

cycle if you will, that includes, according to the US Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA):

· the separation and collection of materials that otherwise would be

considered waste

· the processing and remanufacturing of these items into new


· and the use of the recycled products to complete the cycle.

Landfills are not the answer

We cannot sustain our consumerist lifestyle without getting inundated by

garbage and exhausting the earth's resources. The products that we use are
wrapped in several layers of packaging material that are perfectly recyclable
– plastic, aluminum, paper, tin, wood, etc. Solid waste disposal experts
engage in an uphill struggle to contain this virtual avalanche of garbage we
produce everyday. It is apparent that digging a hole, a landfill, is clearly not
the answer. Sooner or later, the waste becomes uncontainable and will spill
into our farming areas, forests, and water sources.

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What is Recycling - 7 Benefits of Recycling

What are the benefits of recycling?

1. Financial Benefit

There is money in recycling. On a personal level, one of the benefits of

recycling is financial income. There are many things lying around the house
that we no longer want or need that might just end up in a dump site
somewhere. Stuff like used cell phones, PDAs, ink cartridges, etc. can be
recycled or sold for cash. At PaceButler, for instance, a cell phone sent in for
recycling could net the owner as much as $100.

Communities that recycle also enjoy financial benefits by way of reduced

costs of waste management, hauling of garbage, and landfilling.

You think recycling is expensive? Consider these recycling facts: aluminum

cans are the most valuable item in your bin. Aluminum can recycling helps
fund the entire curbside collection. It’s the only packaging material that
more than covers the cost of collection and reprocessing for itself.

2. Recycling helps conserve limited resources

Throwing away a single aluminum can, versus recycling it, is like pouring
out six ounces of gasoline. Last year, Americans recycled enough aluminum
cans to conserve the energy equivalent of more than15 million barrels of

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental

Protection, by recycling over 1 million tons of steel in 2004,
Pennsylvanians saved:

· 1.3 million tons of iron ore

· 718,000 tons of coal
· 62,000 tons of limestone.

By recycling newsprint, office paper, and mixed paper, they saved over 8.2
million trees.

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What is Recycling - 7 Benefits of Recycling

3. Recycling saves energy

On a larger scale, recycling could translate into huge reductions in our

energy costs. Consider these facts: It costs more energy to manufacture a
brand new aluminum can than it does to recycle 20 aluminum cans.

20 cans can be made from recycled material using the same energy it takes
to make one new can.

4) Recycling builds community

In almost all communities in the country today, there is a growing concern

for recycling and the environment. People are working together in curbside
recycling programs, lobbies, and free recycle organizations to help promote
recycling. We will be featuring these groups in our upcoming posts and link
with the various networks to help you locate the nearest recycling center or
free recycle group nearest your location.

5) Recycling creates jobs

· Incinerating 10,000 tons of waste creates one job

· Landfilling 10,000 tons of waste creates six jobs
· Recycling 10,000 tons of waste creates 36 jobs.

6) Recycling builds a strong economy

Done on a nationwide scale, like what we're doing here in the US, recycling
has a huge impact in our economy in terms of jobs, energy cost reduction,
resources conservation. Lately, as the price of oil hits close to $120 a barrel,
people have become more aware of the huge impact of recycling,
particularly in conserving plastic material (made from petroleum) coming
from the bottled water and beverage industry.

7) Recycling is Earth-friendly

No matter how safe and efficient our landfills are being billed to be, the
possibility of dangerous chemicals and heavy metals in the solid waste
contaminating our underground water systems is always present.
Combustion or incineration of our solid waste is effective and
energy-generating, but we pay the price in increased air pollution.

On the other hand, recycling just 35 percent of our trash reduces toxic
emissions equivalent to taking 36 million cars off the road. In 2006,

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What is Recycling - 7 Benefits of Recycling

according to the EPA, the national recycling rate of 32.5 percent (82 million
tons recycled) "prevented the release of approximately 49.7 million metric
tons of carbon into the air--roughly the amount emitted annually by 39
million cars, or 1,300 trillion BTUs, saving energy equivalent to 10 billion
gallons of gasoline."

Recycling is a choice

Recycling for each of us is a matter of choice. Remember the recycling

model reduce, reuse, recycle? America today has one of the highest rates of
recycling anywhere in the world. And yet if we consider the amount of trash
that ends up in our dump sites, I'm amazed at this vastly untapped
opportunity for us - there is still so much amount of good that we can do.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that we can recycle as

much as 85% of our total waste if more and more people become aware of
the benefits of recycling and take action.

Statistics courtesy of Environmental Protection Agency Showing Composition

of Solid Waste in the US

There's plenty that we can recycle here. But the paper scrap, or the plastic
bottle won't recycle itself. It's up to you and me to make that conscious
choice to recycle.

Recycling works best if everyone contributes his or her share in the

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What is Recycling - 7 Benefits of Recycling

recycling effort. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that we can

recycle as much as 85% of our total solid waste. If you or I make that
decision and choose recycling, it shouldn't be because politicians passed a
legislation compelling us to do it. It's because out of free will, we choose to,
knowing that recycling is the right thing to do.

Recycling is a way of life

Recycling is a way of life. Once we have made that choice to implement all
the steps of recycling in our daily lives, and stick to that choice every single
day, recycling becomes second nature to us. Sure there will be lapses, it's
not easy for us creatures of habit. But no matter, we press on. Every small
contribution to the recycling movement and the initiative to protect our
environment adds up to how our present society eventually shapes our
nation's and the Earth's future.

What is recycling to you?

About this article:

What is Recycling - 7 Benefits of Recycling was originally published as a

blog post at the Pacebutler Recycling and Environment blog. Please visit the
site for the MP3, video, and Powerpoint versions of this article.


· Recycling Facts

· Recycling Symbols

· EPA: Municipal Solid Waste Basic Information

· The History of Waste

· Pennsylvania DEP: Recycling Saves Resources

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