Skill Introduction – Recycle
In 2013, it was reported that 21% of waste in Japan was recycled while 34% of waste in the United States made it to the recycle bin (1). Austria won grand prize with 63% of generated trash being recycled (1). While recycle rates vary around the globe, wouldn’t you agree, we can do better?
As our planet becomes increasingly inhabited and wealthier, we are using more natural resources to create raw materials. At the same time, we are creating more waste. Waste that is not recycled lives in landfills where bacteria continuously decompose it, releasing harmful chemicals and greenhouse gasses such as ammonia, sulfides, methane and carbon dioxide. Greenhouse gasses contribute to global warming and reduce soil and air quality, making our soil and air less clean and less healthy for the human tribe and our co-inhabitants.
- Approximately 80 percent of what Americans trash can be recycled, but we only recycle 28-34 percent (2,1)
- It costs about $30 per ton to recycle trash, $50 to send it to the landfill and $65 to $75 to destroy it (3)
- Americans use 2,500,000 plastic bottles every hour, most of which are thrown away (3)
- The energy saved by recycling one plastic bottle can power a computer for 25 minutes (4)
- Energy used in plastic production is reduced by 84 percent for every pound of recycled PET plastic used instead of raw material (3)
- The energy saved from recycling one aluminum can is equivalent to the energy needed to run a TV for three hours (2)
- The average household throws away 13,000 pieces of paper every year. Most of this paper is packaging and junk mail, which could all be recycled (3)
Recycling requires less financial expenditure than using raw materials to make new products. It also preserves natural resources and takes less space in landfills, decreasing harmful chemicals and greenhouse gas emissions. Recycling is cheaper on the economy and healthier for the planet and everyone and everything living on it. Let’s get going!
To help you succeed in this skill, the Zero 2 Healthy Human challenges will guide you and your tribe step-by-step from finding a recycling center, setting up recycle bins, deciding what to recycle and, finally, becoming a recycling master.
Dig deeper and check out these resources:
- Coalition of brands who have joined together to create a standardized labeling system: http://how2recycle.info.
- Smartphone app that gives suggested recycling locations for various materials based on your location: iRecycle.
- Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste by Bea Johnson.
- Global Stewards Sustainable Living Tips, Green Eco Tips for Sustainable Living, globalstewards.org/ecotips.htm.
- Environmental Protection Agency’s Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Webpage: https://www.epa.gov/recycle
- Santa Barbara County’s Resource Recovery & Waste Management Division. While some of the information is specific to Santa Barbara County, it is a great resource for learning about recycling: http://www.lessismore.org.
- Another great resource by the Guides Network: http://www.recycling-guide.org.uk/importance.html.
- Environmental Claims: Summary of the Green Guides https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/environmental-claims-summary-green-guides.
- Planet Aid 2015, Recycling rates around the world, Accessed October 26th, 2018, <http://files.www.planetaid.org/blog/recycling-rates-around-the-world/recycling_rates_around_the_world_Full_Size.jpg>.
- Wayne State University, Sustainability facts, Accessed October 26th, 2018, <https://livinggreen.wayne.edu/recycling/facts>.
- BYU Idaho University Operations, Recycling statistics, Accessed October 26th, 2018 <https://www.byui.edu/university-operations/facilities-management/recycling-and-sustainability/recycling-statistics>.
- Guide Network, Recycling facts and figures, Accessed October 26th, 2018, <http://www.recycling-guide.org.uk/facts.html>.