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There is an increased demand for electronic devices all over the world, especially for those desiring to make life simpler and safer. These devices have many positive effects on human life, but they also take a major toll on the environment, contributing to major pollution and waste. Since the 20th century, the increase in production of human waste has stimulated quick steps to be taken in developing different methods of recycling products. The increasing disposal of products being consumed, like electronics and plastic, are filling up landfills all around the world. This creates health hazards in the areas they inhabit. Recycling has many benefits because it largely reduces the amount of pollution that is excreted, it reduces the need of large landfill sites used to dispose of waste, it conserves energy and scarce resources, and creates all types of different jobs. Recycling is in no way a new concept and was a practice in existence thousands of years ago.
Originally, the beginning efforts for recycling were minimal. Initial attempts were usually individuals who went around and collected trash from households to sell for profit, who were called the rag-and-bone men (“Recycling” [Global Issues]). Decades later in the mid-nineteenth century, the Industrial Revolution was taking place. This revolution was the start of a colossal pollution and refuse problem because of the surplus of metals and textiles, so people could start throwing things away because they could just buy new ones (“Recycling” [Global Issues]). But when World War II took place in the 1930-40’s, the aftermath involved a major economic depression. Items were no longer in a surplus due to all the money and resources being drained in the war effort, meaning that it was essential for items to be reused. This post World War II effort saw how everyday household objects and plastic were being produced in large-scale factories (“Recycling” [Global Issues]).
How it works
This made it so industries saved a lot more money to dispose of used materials rather than reusing them, so people called it the “throwaway society”. On April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day was marked and it changed the majority of the population’s view on recycling (“Recycling” [Global Issues]). In the future years following the start of Earth Day, new recycling requirement schemes started to show on bottles and paper. To this day, there are still more efficient ways being considered for recycling. Giving used materials the opportunity to be reused and put back on the market for profit requires a lot of preparation. These materials first need to be collected from businesses and homes, then transported to a materials recycling facility. Once at the facility, workers then process all the materials in order to increase their value. They separate all the material into different sections, such as glass separated by its color, plastics being transported and organized into separate pallets, and paper being baled (“Recycling” [Environmental Encyclopedia]). The materials that are about to be recycled, called PCMs, are mixed material that may be contaminated with toxic or nontoxic residue (“Recycling” [Environmental Encyclopedia]).
While all types of recycling facilities may have different technology, the materials may be cleaned and reduced in large groups, or put in smaller groups, taking more time. Once all of the items are processed and properly cleansed of all impurities, they are then cleared to be reused and sold back into the market for profit. The increase of waste in landfills throughout the world is causing major environmental issues. For more than a century, many countries are disposing of people’s unwanted waste in landfills. 136 million tons of solid waste, which is about 2.3 pounds per person a day, was sent to landfills in the United States in 2014 (“Recycling” [Opposing Viewpoints]). The majority of these sites are “sanitary” landfills, and they are equipped with the most modern environmental protection and gas collection systems (Jones).
Thanks to the modern equipment that these sites are equipped with, most of the “sanitary” landfill sites avoid emitting environmental pollution and releasing harmful greenhouse gas. But what about the “unsanitary” landfill sites? Unlike the sanitary sites, these sites do not have any protection sequences for the environment. Therefore, they can cause various environmental problems from the pollution of health, soil, and water (Jones). By recycling used materials, it helps avoid putting these environmental and health hazards into our landfills, assisting the environment in becoming a healthy and sanitary place for people all around the world. In the current day, energy is being consumed at an extraordinary rate. Since more countries are being introduced to the wonders of technology and are also becoming more modernized, the demand for energy is increasing daily. Recycling conserves this essential energy because the products that are going to be recycled usually require less processing in order to turn them back into usable materials.
Although there is energy saved every time something is recycled, the amount that is saved depends on the material. For example, recycled aluminum saves more energy than recycled glass. Since aluminum is produced from aluminum ore, it involves a huge process that involves an enormous amount of heat and electricity to make (“How does recycling save energy?”). Most cans that are made from Coke, Mountain Dew, or Pepsi are made from aluminum, but this differs since the processing that is done on the aluminum from the ore is not needed because the cans can simply be re-cleaned and re-melted. Aluminum is a resource that is predicted to be in a deficit in upcoming years, so recycling it is a huge boost in saving it as a resource. In 2017, 3.7 million tons of aluminum were produced by recycling in the United States, which saved enough energy to provide electricity for 7.7 million homes (“How does recycling save energy?”).
Glass does not nearly use the amount of energy required to produce aluminum because the only real energy-intensive action being done is getting the heat to melt the mineral mixture. Creating glass still uses energy but only a small amount, and in return, glass does not come close to saving as much energy as producing aluminum (“How does recycling save energy?”). While there may be minuscule amounts of energy being saved depending on which product is being recycled, there is nonetheless still energy that is being conserved, contributing to the fight against pollution and the diminishment of resources. Other than positively helping the environment, recycling can also boost the economy by creating all types of different jobs worldwide.
A study conducted in 2016 showed that the recycling activities the United States accounted for attributed to the creation of 757,00 jobs and $36.6 billion in wages (“Recycling Basics”). Many businesses and industries that operate locally, nationally, and at international levels depend on recyclable materials to make a profit. One job that has been created by industries is the collection, processing, and preparing of recyclable materials (Bailey). Individuals who work in these jobs are involved in picking up the trash to bring to the recyclable centers. Another job is in the manufacturing process, which involves creating new products from the previously collected and processed items (Bailey). These jobs don’t require high education and can help unemployed middle and lower class individuals find stable jobs. The need for recycling has become more evident over time. Acts from past generations and historic events of long-term damage have made the push for recycling more urgent.
Previously, the impact of waste and landfills was not proven. Today, it is now understood that dumping waste has been causing detrimental effects to the environment. It is from these past experiences that the concept of recycling was created. Changing our trash into something useful has been proven to be one way to protect our environment. There have been more increased efforts through recycling to stop future damage. Although our society is still exploring options to improve efficiency and improve old items, many more organizations are now involved in correcting the problem. Over time, it is anticipated that more aggressive efforts will be discovered to make an even bigger impact. It will be the responsibility of every able individual to support these efforts and make their own changes.
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