Recycling has been a part of our lives for generations. Between 1990 and 2003, the United States more than doubled its recycling rate of paper and cardboard products. The total amount of municipal solid waste (MSW) generated in the country has increased 184 percent, from 88.1 million tons of MSW generated in 1960 to 250.4 million tons of MSW generated in 2011. Although MSW rates—the trash and garbage we throw out—have risen, the percentage of MSW recycled since 1960 has dramatically increased. In 1960, 5.6 million tons of MSW, or 6.4 percent of all MSW, was recycled; by 2011 Americans were recycling 86.9 million tons of MSW, 34.7 percent of the trash and garbage produced.
Recycling is defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as “the recovery of useful materials, such as paper, glass, plastic, and metals, from the trash to use to make new products, reducing the amount of virgin raw materials needed.” The Earth Day movement, founded in 1970 by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, led to a greater awareness of the impact we have on the earth and our responsibility to become better stewards of the planet.
Environmental Benefits of Recycling
One of the most noticeable benefits of recycling is the reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. According to the EPA, recycling efforts in 2011 resulted in 86.9 million tons of MSW not being disposed. That’s 21 percent higher than the amount of MSW diverted from disposal through recycling in 1980. This prevented the release of 183 million metric tons of CO2—the equivalent of 34 million fewer cars on the road in a year.
Economic Benefits of Recycling
The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), a Washington, D.C., industry association for businesses involved in recycling, reported that the industry generated $87 billion in revenues in a recent economic impact study the group released. This revenue is a significant contribution that recycling has made to the U.S. economy and a strong argument for continuing recycling efforts in communities across the country.
Recycling efforts lead to the reduction of MSW production (as discussed previously). This reduction in MSW means less land that local communities have to commit to landfill space. A reduction in MSW production through recycling efforts means a reduction in CO2 emissions, enough to displace the effect of carbon dioxide emissions from motorists and industrial factories. According to the Recycling Economic Information study, recycling generates a total of $236 billion in revenues and created 1.1 million jobs and generated an annual payroll of $37 billion.
Recycling Creates Jobs and Industry
In addition to the amount of economic activity generated by recycling, the scrap recycling industry alone has created more than half a million jobs in the United States. Direct industry jobs created by scrap recycling include nearly 140,000 jobs that pay on average $69,475 a year (including wages and benefits). The industry contributes $4 billion in revenues to local and state governments and $6.3 billion in tax revenue to the Federal government. The industry is responsible for 0.55 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, which is comparable to the economic output of the milk, cosmetics, and aircraft engine industries. Recycling benefits the environment and the economy by reducing waste and creating good paying jobs and a sustainable industry.
This article was contributed by Sheldon Armstrong, a regular contributor here at INFOtainment News. He writes this on behalf of 1-800-RECYCLING.com, your number one choice when in need of the best recycling finder service. Check out their website today and see how they can help you stay green!