Not surprisingly, Nature has developed, over billions of years of practice, a way to reuse literally everything it produces. The feces from a bear helps to fertilize a berry bush. Fish poop helps grow marine plants which helps feed water-dwelling animals. A dead tree falls to the ground to become food for the plethora of bacteria, worms and insects living in the soil. The worms produce nutrient rich soil from their excrement which helps support almost every living plant on Earth. It truly is a beautiful thing when you think about it. Nature produces no waste. Humans on the other hand, are producing an astronomical and steadily increasing amount of waste per year and this is why we should care about recycling.
In 2013, Americans produced approximately 254 million tons of trash, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Of that, only 34.3% was recycled, approximately 87 million tons. On the bright side, this number increased quite a bit since 1985 when only 10.1% was being recycled. (see chart below) (citation) Considering the environmental and economic impact recycling has, it's a wonder why more of us aren't doing it. (image courtesy of the EPA website)
One example of a successful recycling "loop" so to speak is the aluminum can, as explained by Waste Management. "Americans currently discard about 2.7 million tons of aluminum each year...On average, Americans drink one beverage from an aluminum can every day. But we recycle just over 49% of the cans we use. Since the cans are 100% recyclable, we could drastically reduce the energy needed to produce brand new cans simply by recycling our empties. An aluminum can is able to be returned to the shelf, as a new can, as quickly as 60 days after it's put into your recycling container. Coast-to-coast, there are about 10,000 locations that buy aluminum, making it easy for Americans to redeem their used beverage cans for cash. In fact, recycling aluminum cans is a $1 billion/year industry in this country. Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a television for three hours." How cool is that...from pop cans!
There are many ways that waste can be recycled or reused to extend the materials life and to reduce the rate to which the landfill fills up. I recently watched a video that highlighted the movement towards using shredded plastic, as an alternative to oil, to pave roadways. Remarkably, India has been utilizing this technology for over 15 years and has laid over 21,000 miles of plastic road thus far with very little sign of wear and tear even years later. “The plastic tar roads have not developed any potholes, rutting, raveling or edge flaw, even though these roads are more than four years of age,” observed an early performance report by India’s Central Pollution Control Board.
We all have a social responsibility to do our part in reducing our waste consumption, finding ways to reuse items instead of discarding them and recycling. The beautiful thing is that by taking part in a global effort to reduce environmental pollution and waste, we create a lasting, positive effect for our future generations. When we work together to keep our original Mother clean, we ensure that our children's children's children can enjoy her. Reduce, reuse, recycle, it's all up to you!
Here at Cedarwood Housing Cooperative, we offer complimentary recycling service so our members have the opportunity to do their part. A recycling bin is provided for every co-op home and we encourage our member-owners to use them. Recycling is conveniently picked up once per week just outside of the home and costs the members nothing extra (our low maintenance fees cover all trash/recycling services).
With that said, some of us might not know how or what we can recycle. Fortunately for us, the Village of Park Forest has provided us with a great outline on what we can and cannot recycle on their website. Click here to find out what you can recycle now!
To find ways to reuse old household items, read this article by One Green Planet.