In Washington, DC, a conscious effort has been underway to provide every trash bin on the street with a recycle bin next to it, but the process is still ongoing. On my college campus alone at George Washington University, there is a program in place known as “Sustainable GW” which is derived from the positive impact of recycling and sustainability. The purpose of the program is to further emphasize the environmental impact that students have, as well as the small changes they can make that have a huge impact on reducing waste and carbon emissions.

It is a government mandate that recyclable materials be sorted and pulled from garbage waste, and this job is time-consuming and expensive. If a stronger effort consciously is put in to recycling, the positive effects it will have on our environment, health and economy will all continue to grow, indefinitely.

It takes 95% less energy to process recycled aluminum as compared to making it from scratch. The numbers are similarly as efficient for other popular resources such as plastic (70%), steel (60%), paper (40%) and glass (30%). The math is easy: recycling these five basic resource staples our society depends on can save a total of 295% of toxins emitted in to the atmosphere, emissions that contribute to global warming, smog, acid rain, and water contamination.

Furthermore, in 2005 the EPA reported that recycling in the United States reduced carbon emissions by enough to fill 10.5 million Olympic size swimming pools, which is a staggering number.

In 2007, The Economist released a series of articles related to the benefits of recycling. It was reported that, at that time, the United States recycled around 32% of its consumer waste. While that number has likely increased over the course of the past four years, it is still far from where it needs to be. Major urban centers, all the way down to small rural communities, need to adopt policies of increased recycling by installing recycle bins next to every trash bin, and promote the expansive list of optimistic outcomes for recycling to further encourage it.

 This probably won’t come as a surprise to most, that recycling is environmentally friendly. The point of this piece isn’t to inform on the positive effects of recycling – it is to promote recycling to occur more often, to promote more recycle bins to be installed in countrywide, and to promote the extra step to be taken to find a recycle bin when one isn’t readily available next to a trash bin.


Matthew is a youth blogger at Greenpeace, USA.
Image by Karuna Ang.