Recycling processes should be improved

Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

Recycling has been taught to not only be helpful to the planet but morally correct. However, recycling might not be changing the world as much as people believe.

Many factors affect the outcome of whether an item is recycled, where the material goes, if it is affecting climate change as well as recycling’s effects on the economy.

Some may do their part by recycling a plastic bottle here and there, recycling material throughout their day or they might take the zero-waste approach. 

Whether one chooses to recycle or not, the impact of those efforts is important to know.

According to the EPA 2018 Fact Sheet, roughly 69 million tons of waste were recycled out of 292 million tons, accounting for 23.6 percent of total municipal solid waste.

The Environmental Protection Agency reports recycling and reuse activities accounted for hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions in tax revenues and wages. 

With these numbers, the impact of recycling seems positive. However, it is important to note the downsides.

Recycling can be costly because of the lack of demand for certain recycled products which can affect costs and can determine whether the materials end up incinerated or recycled. 

The cost of the different components of recycling from collection to the facility should not be overlooked either and can unfortunately cost more than incineration. 

The current recycling system is somewhat counterintuitive. If some communities find themselves having to pay more, or are losing money to recycle, it debatably isn’t financially sustainable for some. 

Recycling used to be a reliable way to give back to the environment, yet knowing that materials might not be recycled and might cost more money in the end is disheartening to say the least. 

For other means of disposal, like incineration, it can contribute to health concerns for those in nearby areas due to its dangerous byproducts. This also does not take into account the effects it might have on the environment. 

There are numerous problems affecting the U.S. recycling efforts with their own significant impacts. Recycling now seems more exhausting, yet it might be too soon to become discouraged.

Recycling and composting has increased since the 1960’s to around 32.1 percent in the year 2018, yet a large portion of waste is not recycled and ends up in landfills accounting for 50 percent of the roughly 292 million tons. 

However, the EPA reports in 2018, 193 million metric tons of carbon dioxide was spared from entering the atmosphere because of recycling and composting efforts. 

To push for recycling efforts, there should be a national campaign. It should be a public service announcement for companies, local municipalities and people to take into consideration the growing climate crisis and understand the value of recycling and recyclable materials. 

The numbers can be overwhelming, and it’s difficult at times to determine how effective recycling actually is. 

Interestingly, what one can recycle is quite shocking and can be an array of household items. 

The question of whether one should recycle is complicated. The short answer is yes because it does appear that the benefits outweigh the negatives. 

Additionally, checking one’s local recycling programs and becoming well-versed in the process will hopefully be more successful in recycling efforts.

Katherine Graves is a junior strategic communications major who can be reached at [email protected]

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