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The amount of waste the United States makes in one year is sickening. United States residences waste around 4.7 pounds of trash each day. There are 326 million people in the United States. If you multiply 4.7 by 326 million, it will equal 1.53 billion pounds of trash. We may not think that we waste that much but if we do the math then we simply use too much. We consume too many natural resources when we don’t need to. My guiding question is how can we reduce trash in America and just be a little bit more aware of what we’re doing. We need to know what is and what is not recyclable and how we get all of our recyclables to be recycled. Some of the many recyclables are all seven types of plastics, aluminium cans, glass bottles and jars, clean milk cartons, paper coffee cups that are clean, tin cans, cardboard boxes, paper, magazines, clothes hangers. There are a lot of plastic and paper products. A good portion of plastic is single-use plastic. (Meaning it will only be used once)
The process of recycling is once the recyclables are collected from that blue bin outside of your door, they are taken to a single stream recycling facility. The recyclables are separated by type. They are compressed into big bales and loaded onto a truck and transferred to a manufacturing plant where they are used to make new products. Single stream recycling is when all recyclable materials are thrown into the same recycling bin and transported and separated later. Plastic is a nightmare in some recycling plants. A recycling plant in San Francisco named Recology, plastic bags would get stuck in aluminium and paper separators. They would shut down two times a day to cut the bags out of the system. The benefits of recycling are it reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators. It conserves natural resources such as timber, water and minerals. Did you know we use 20% of the world’s natural resources and our population is only 5% of the worlds?
How it works
Recycling saves energy, it increases economic security by tapping a domestic source of materials. It helps creates jobs for people. 10,000 tons of waste creates one job while landfilling the same amount creates six jobs. Recycling 10000 tons creates thirty-six jobs. A major benefit on the economy Recycling has created a total of 1.1 million jobs. 236 billion in gross annual sales and another thirty-seven million in payroll per year. Recycling benefits the environment because nearly 95% of the resources used by the United States are non-renewable, in just forty-five years the amount has gone from 59% up to 88%. Recycling saves that amount. If we don’t recycle paper, 80% more paper will need to be cut down and made into paper to meet paper demands. Did you know it takes 95% less energy to reuse aluminium than it does to make aluminium? We all need to do a better job on recycling because we are setting up the future for the next generation. We are setting up the world for our children and we don’t want them living in a world littered in trash.
In 2013 only 40% of things that could be recycled were. On average, 25% of the items we would like to recycle are way too contaminated to go into recycling and are forced to trash the items. ten years ago, it was 7%. That number is going to keep on going up. To make sure this doesn’t happen, you should rinse everything with food in it. If you don’t do this and the food or liquid gets on other things in the bin and it is harder to recycle. “Paper makes up a majority of the residential recycling stream per tonnage.” Bernie Lee a commodities research analyst with the institute of scrap recycling industries. Did you know we throw away two billion plastic bottles every year?
If we don’t recycle you may wonder how long some items will take to break down. A banana peel takes three to four weeks to break down. A newspaper takes around forty-five days. An apple core takes two months to break down. An orange peel takes six months to break down. If you don’t recycle a milk carton, it takes five years to break down. A cigarette butt takes ten to twelve years. A plastic cup takes fifty years to break down. A plastic bottle takes 450 years to break down. Every diaper that we ever used is still breaking down. It takes six-hundred years to dispose of diapers. A plastic bag takes one-thousand years to dispose of. 14 billion plastic bags are used every year. Just by the way, not all of those are recycled. We also use 80 billion aluminium cans every year. Aluminium is one of the easiest items to recycle. You can melt the aluminium and put it back into a can. Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour. To make the Sunday papers around America, five-hundred thousand trees have to be cut in order to do that. Each American uses seven-hundred pounds of paper every year. In addition to that, the amount of wood and paper we throw away annually is enough heat for fifty million homes for twenty years. That does not count towards recycling. Each year an estimated eight million tons of plastic bags, straws, cups and bottles end up in the ocean. In the ocean, they can harm and kill marine life.
A lot of animals get trapped in plastic netting, others get plastic in their system. The things that get into their system are called microplastics. They form when pollutants of chemicals react the salt water and the sunlight. Cities in America are cracking down on this. Last November, the city council of Boston, agreed to a plastic bag ban. In September, Seattle approved a plastic straw and plastic utensils ban. China manufactures a lot of our goods out of recycling. We essentially use their products and we ship the trash back to them and they reuse it and turn it into more items. China recently changed their rules about recycling. “All of a sudden, material being collected on the street doesn’t have a place to go,” said Pete Keller.
This rule change has really affected us because even if you try your absolute hardest to recycle everything that you can, you don’t fully know if it’s all being recycled. Their stricter rules also mean that the load will be more likely to be considered contaminated. That means the load that is considered contaminated is going to go into the landfill. The rule that China has implemented has had a very large ripple effect. Americans roughly recycle 66 million tons of material each year. The majority of that going to China. Now that the rule is there, we don’t know what will happen to the items.
Exports to China has dropped 35% in two months. In Eugene, Oregon, they are very focused on recycling and they have been doing a very good job. This new rule in China has really hurt them. Eugene being right on the Pacific coast, they would ship their recyclables to China. They can no longer do that and don’t know what to do. We need to be more aware of what we consume and what we do with it after. If we keep throwing away items that we can reuse then eventually our world will be littered with trash. Our beautiful environment may not look the same in ten years.
Our beaches will be more polluted, Our streets will have more trash in them. The animals around us will live with plastic in their homes. It is not that difficult to think about recycling a little bit more. When you’re going to recycle a bottle with some juice in it, take the extra 30 seconds to rinse it out. It will be worth it in the future. By just knowing where to put things in our bins we will be saving millions of animals, we will be producing a better world in the future for our children, we will also be saving the beautiful environment we have right now.
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