7 Surprising Facts About Recycling

Recycling is truly an amazing process. Creating a new product from something that was considered old and useless shows the amazing talent of human ingenuity. It’s also a necessary process. About 30 years ago, in 1987 a tugboat, Mobro 4000, carrying a load of trash out of New York was refused in North Carolina where it had planned to unload. The boat then headed to Mexico and Belize in search of a landfill but was refused at every port. Finally, the boat made the journey back to New York where it was met with great fanfare by Greenpeace activists who greeted them with the sign “Next time try recycling.” Our relationship to waste and recycling has changed since then, but there’s much more ground to be covered. Discover some of the most interesting facts we’ve found about recycling below.

Recycling can be fast

The aluminum can you throw in the recycle bin today may be found on a store shelf in as little as 60 days! That’s a pretty fast turn around. Luckily, this useful metal can be recycled indefinitely and never becomes “too used” to recycle.

21.5 million tons of food waste is generated each year

In America, much of this waste ends up in landfills, giving off noxious greenhouse gases. However, there is a green alternative. If this amount of food were composted, it would reduce the same amount of greenhouse gas as removing 2 million cars off the road. Spread the word and get your compost pile started today.

According to the EPA an estimated 75% of American waste is recyclable, however, only about 30% of waste ends up in recycling centers

Lack of knowledge and unfortunately laziness prevent people from participating in recycling programs which are now widely available. Recycling centers can be found at most supermarkets, which provide an easy way to recycle cans and plastic bottles, as well as provide a small amount of monetary compensation.

Oregon was the first state to pass a bill intended to increase recycling rates and reduce litter through a financial incentive for recycling bottles

This was back in 1971. Consumers were, and continue to be compensated for recycling soft drink and beer containers instead of tossing them in the trash. Today, many states including California have instituted similar programs such as the California Refund Value that pays individuals for contributing certain items to recycling centers, as mentioned earlier.

Trash and recycling is a modern problem

One or two hundred years ago, most Americans and Europeans had habits of reusing and recycling due to the times and economy. As more items were manufactured at home and stores were fewer and harder to access. For example, in the Middle Ages, urine was collected by tanners and was also used to make gunpowder.

Throwing away aluminum cans is highly detrimental

It can take up to 500 years for them to break down. However, they can be recycled forever. Similarly, glass bottles may take over 4000 years to disintegrate, but can be recycled indefinitely.

About a third of most dumps and landfills are composed of packaging

This packaging may represent a dollar or more of your purchase. This ends up in the trash, and most likely could be recycled.

Through spreading the word and a bit more effort on our part, we can achieve higher recycling levels. Also remember to reduce your consumption and re-use what you can. Together, we can improve the state of the planet and invest in a better future.