30 September 2019
When I was in elementary school I learned very crucial life lessons for instance; don’t smoke, don’t cheat, be nice, and get a good night’s sleep. I learned several others, but my point is I barely ever heard a word about the environment. For very brief points throughout my life I was taught about climate change and to Reduce Reuse Recycle and yet it was never something we were too concerned about. In third grade, I learned how to recycle in class and why we should, since then I’ve heard next to nothing. The problem is that we as a society barely recycle at all and I truly believe it is because we are not educated enough on the importance of it.
About 80% of products, trash, that are buried in American landfills are actually recyclable. Landfills are also one of the biggest contributors to soil pollution and have been found to emit dangerous gases. We are uneducated about what can be recycled and why it should be. For instance, did you know recycling plastic saves twice as much energy as it takes to burn it. It not only conserves energy but also helps lower air pollution.
9 out of 10 people said they would recycle if it was easier. Recycling being difficult and not knowing what is recyclable are the two main reasons used from people who don’t do it. Recycling could be easier in ways such as more accessible trash cans and stations, with that said recycling is not very hard. Maybe once in awhile we may have to go out of our way to recycle a plastic water bottle. It may seem tedious and not worth it, especially to a person who is uneducated on the subject but taking a step back and seeing the effects it has on our ecosystems should open our eyes. Maybe if it was known that plastics cause more than 80% of the negative effects on animals associated with ocean trash then people wouldn’t find it so difficult to recycle and actually be motivated to do so.
Another big problem is that our plastics bottles and cans are contaminated and thus many times being unable to use after recycling. This was a new one for me and yet seemed so obvious after learning it. We are supposed to rinse out our products before disposing them into the recycling bin. If there is food or a liquid in it, it can spill onto everything else and contaminate all of it. This can lead to once recyclable goods to now just trash destined for a landfill. If I was educated on this, I would’ve been doing this for a very long time instead of most likely wasting a lot of my recyclable products. Another problem in contamination that many of us are guilty of is putting non-recyclable items into the recycling bin. This has been called wish recycling, items like a greasy pizza box, dirty diapers, and disposable cups should actually be thrown out into the garbage. Many disposable cups are lined with polyethylene which means they cannot be reprocessed. Knowing little things like this can reduce waste, contamination, and help save recycling companies time and resources.
So what can we recycle? The main things we need to recycle are plastic containers and bottles, metals including aluminum, glass, paper, and cardboard. Motor oil never wears out so it can also be recyclable as well as many clothes and shoes.Over 11 million tons of recyclable clothing, shoes, and textiles make their way into landfills each year. That in itself is a huge problem that almost nobody knows about. We must also learn how this affects our environment. A single recycled plastic bottle saves enough energy to run a 100-watt bulb for 4 hours. It also creates 20% less air pollution and 50% less water pollution than would be created when making a new bottle.
Education can fix most of these everyday problems. It was helpful to learn about recycling in third grade but to be honest, I don’t remember it that much. Many of us forget what we can recycle and do not know the importance of it and the role it plays in our environment. I know that if recycling was taught and encouraged every year throughout elementary, middle, and high school as well as outside of the classroom, instead of only recycling 30% of what’s possible we could go to nearly 100%. How can we make this into a reality? Make it apart of the class curriculum. If I was powerful enough I would make it mandatory for schools to teach about it and encourage it. There are little ways to do that such as putting a few facts about it over trash cans, also clearly separating the trash bin from the recycling bin, and even designating days or moments in class to recycling. Kids learn when they have fun so turn it into a game, competition, or activities. Although kids are the future, students are not the only ones who should recycle. Adults need to as well and I think a good way to promote it would be in workplaces, do the same things as schools. Take a day to learn about how and why we should through games or conferences. Commercials are also a great way to promote it as well as signs at local parks that can be an easy way to make a change.
We need to recycle. We must better our nation, our children, and ourselves to help ecosystems grow. Recycling along with reducing and reusing greatly impacts our environment that surrounds us. It also helps the economy grow and greatly reduces waste that goes to landfills. Recycling is very important and rewarding, and the best way to show people that is through education. If we learn about it then we are more likely to participate in it. Education is always the key to success.
Schumaker, Erin. “The Psychology Behind Why People Don’t Recycle .” Huffpost, 3 Aug. 2016, http://www.huffpost.com/entry/psychology-of-why-people-dont-recycle_n_57697a7be4b087b70be605b3.
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Hopewell, Jefferson, et al. “Plastics Recycling: Challenges and Opportunities.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol. 364, no. 1526, 27 July 2009, pp. 2115–2126., doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0311.
Bell, Brent. “The Battle Against Recycling Contamination Is Everyone’s Battle.” Waste Management, 4 Apr. 2018, mediaroom.wm.com/the-battle-against-recycling-contamination-is-everyones-battle/
Simmons, Deborah, and Ron Widmar. “Motivations and Barriers to Recycling: Toward a Strategy for Public Education.” The Journal of Environmental Education, vol. 22, no. 1, 1990, pp. 13–18., doi:10.1080/00958964.1990.9943041.