RECYCLING: TREND OR NECESSITY?
Recycling and sustainability — these have become hot issues over the last few years as individuals and governments step up their efforts to fight against climate change.
But does recycling really help prevent climate change from worsening? Yes, it does, though only if the system works properly and we all do our part.
Fighting Climate Change With Recycling
As environmental awareness and the effects of global warming become more evident, people are taking accountability. Many do so by embracing sustainability philosophies and being more active recyclers.
Recycling is one of the simplest ways we can reduce our carbon footprint and prevent the worsening of global warming.
Here are three key benefits of recycling for fighting climate change:
Reduce the need to produce new materials
Reduce carbon emissions from manufacturing facilities
Reduce methane and carbon dioxide emissions from landfills
The State of Recycling Around the World
The global recycling industry has greatly improved over the years. Continually developing technology has allowed us to boost recycling efficiency and environmental safety. As a result, recycling rates have steadily gone up.
However, the global recycling industry still faces several challenges. One major challenge is contamination and how it can severely decrease recycling efficiency.
Contamination happens when recyclables are mixed together and get dirty. Unfortunately, many recycling facilities cannot process materials contaminated by food and other organic waste. This is why segregating waste is crucial for recycling.
Recycling in America: The Good and The Bad
Overall, waste recycling in the U.S. has increased five-fold in the past six decades. Today, almost 35% of the country’s waste is recycled or diverted, compared to only 7% in the ’60s.
However, U.S. recycling rates also went down in 2018.
This came after China’s 2018 “National Sword” policy, wherein they banned the import of certain plastic waste and other recyclables. Contaminated recyclables caused millions of tons of material to pollute China’s countryside and find its way into the oceans.
The ban turned the U.S. recycling industry upside down as it was unequipped to handle the surplus waste. This resulted in higher recycling costs. Due to the higher costs, many individuals and communities chose to discard their waste rather than recycle.
What We Can Learn From Other Countries
European countries are the current leaders of the recycling industry. The European Union was the first to introduce policies promoting waste segregation.
Sweden, in particular, is a model country for waste management and separation. Proper and consistent sorting allowed the country to efficiently convert recyclables into new materials. Less than one percent of Swedish household wastes are taken to landfills.
Sweden then burns its non-recyclables in waste-to-energy facilities. Thanks to their recycling efficiency, though, the waste they produce is no longer enough to power their plants.
Imported waste from neighboring countries, including the U.K., allows Sweden to continue generating sustainable energy and keep its power plants operational.
Recycling greatly helps in minimizing the effects of global warming and climate change. However, we still have a long way to go to improve our recycling efficiency.
Changing our habits and values as a society is crucial. We need to hold everyone accountable and work together to properly and consistently recycle waste.