America currently has over three thousand active landfills. Much of this trash and waste within landfills actually retards bio-degradation, therefore defeating the intentions of the landfill.
An overhaul to landfill systems, biodegradable packaging, making producers and manufacturers responsible for the end-life of their products, and learning to adjust the way we consume as individuals are all important parts of the long-term solution to this problem.
It’s our responsibility to reduce, reuse, and recycle, and to become more educated as a society about the long-term consequences of landfills, and the endless benefits offered by recycling paper, plastic, glass, aluminum, scrap metal and fabric.
Here are some things to consider when you’re recycling.
Paper: When adequately exposed to the elements, paper totally decomposes in 3-5 months. But if thrown away as regular trash it can take much longer. Unfortunately, paper amounts to almost half of what we end up sending to landfills. However, if American citizens recycled just one tenth of their paper it would save 25 million trees a year.
The act of recycling paper decreases the demand for pulp, thereby reducing the devastation of our forests and the overall amount of air and water pollution created during the manufacture of paper.
Aluminum: Aluminum may be reused by simply re-melting the metal. That’s energy efficient and a lot less expensive than making new. It takes 500 plus years for an aluminum can to decay.
Plastic: In 1988 the American Society of the Plastics Industry developed the resin identification code that is used to indicate the most common polymer materials used in the manufacture of a product or in packaging to assist recyclers with sorting collected materials.
To check the recyclability of a plastic item, look to see if there’s a URS triangle –usually on the bottom. Next, look to see if there’s a number inside the triangle. The numbers are meant to give us a leg up on what kinds of resins were used. If there is no number, then the material is considered “generically recyclable”. Each number, from 1 to 7 indicates what type of polymer was used.
At the moment it’s only economically viable to recycle items with a URS triangle with the No. 1, which is PET or PETE or No. 2, which is HDPE. But scattered across our great nation, local recycling programs are stretching the range of plastics that might be recycled as the technology to do so becomes available.
Fabric: The best way to recycle fabric is to contribute your old clothes to a charitable organization. When you donate your unwanted, unraveling, or otherwise thread-worn garments to your favorite charity it will probably have a very green reincarnation through re-sale to individuals and textile recyclers.
Glass: Glass that finds its way into recycling systems is usually comprised of clear, green, and brown bottles and broken glassware and when recycled the process uses less energy and produces less carbon dioxide than manufacturing glass from scratch.
Scrap Metal: Instead of sending scrap to the dump consider a curbside scrap metal collection. When arranged in advance, pickup is often free and made on your regular recycling day.