There are many reasons to recycle, but here are some highlights:
- Recycling protects and expands U.S. manufacturing jobs and increases U.S. competitiveness.
- Recycling reduces the need for landfilling and incineration.
- Recycling prevents pollution caused by the manufacturing of products from virgin materials.
- Recycling saves energy.
- Recycling decreases emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change.
- Recycling conserves natural resources such as timber, water, and minerals.
- Recycling helps sustain the environment for future generations.
Community and Societal Benefits
The economic and environmental benefits of recycling have positive societal impacts both today and in the future. Job creation, pollution reduction, and energy conservation all serve to improve the quality of life in our communities. If we do not recycle, the repercussions will fall on future generations. Our children and grandchildren will inherit the legacy of virgin production and throwaway consumption. Instead of leaving future generations a depleted natural resource base and more waste in landfills—landfills that incur ongoing costs for monitoring and maintenance—we can leave a stronger economy, greater biodiversity, and less global warming by recognizing the value of recycling and passing this knowledge on to our children.
Recycling generates significant economic benefits for communities. In fact, the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive estimates that recycling and remanufacturing industries account for approximately one million manufacturing jobs and more than $100 billion in revenue. Recycling employs low-, medium-, and highly-skilled workers in a variety of jobs—from materials handling and processing to high-quality product manufacturing. The drive for efficient handling and use of recycled materials spurs innovation, a key to long-term economic growth. Investments in recycling equipment and the companies themselves also filter through the economy and contribute to economic growth.
- UNC-Chapel Hill fills enough trash dumpsters to line Cameron Avenue, Chapel Hill, every 106 days. Source: RE3
- North Carolinians recycle 85.4 pounds of materials a second.That’s impressive! But we throw away over 752 pounds of trash a second. That’s almost nine times what we recycle. Source: NC DWM
- N.C. throws away enough glass each year to fill up over 11,800 tractor-trailers. If you put those tractor-trailers end to end they’d stretch from Asheville to Greensboro. Source: NC DWM
- Recycling one ton of aluminum cans saves the equivalent of 1,665 gallons of gasoline. Source: EPA
- By producing a ton of paper from recycled materials, energy consumption is cut in half and 17 trees are saved. Source: Purdue University
- The average plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to dissolve in the environment, and Americans throw away approximately 200 million every year. Source: CBC NEWS
- If everyone in the United States tied their annual consumption of plastic bags together in a giant chain, the chain would reach around the Earth’s equator 776 times. Source: U.S. International Trade Commission
- The average American uses approximately one 100-foot-tall Douglas fir tree in paper and wood products per year. Source: Oregon Department of Environmental Policy
- Only 7 percent of the total plastic waste generated in 2009 was recovered for recycling. Source: EPA