Is Recycling Worth It?

Do These Facts Suggest Recycling is a Waste of Time?

Plus, 20 Things That do NOT Belong in Your Recycle Bin

Does recycling pay off for the planet, or is it a waste of time? The facts may surprise you.

Do These Facts Suggest Recycling is a Waste of Time?

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Did you know, that 262 million tons of trash are produced each year by people in the United States. That is a whopping 4.48 pounds per person, per day!


By contrast, a mere 67 million tons of trash are recycled. That is only one and a half pounds per person per day. So it begs the question, why is the amount of garbage we trash vs recycle so skewed?

Advantages of Recycling

There are plenty of good reasons to recycle items instead of trashing them. First, recycling uses less energy than making something new. Plastic uses 33% less energy. Paper uses 60% less energy. Steel and tin uses 60% less energy. And Aluminum cans us a massive 95% less energy.

Great right? Well There is more.

Producing recycled paper puts 74% less pollution into the air. And. 35% less into the water. All that energy that is saved translates into energy that can be used for other things. Recycling one aluminum can for example could power:

  • A TV for two hours
  • A computer for three hours
  • A 100 watt light bulb for 4 hours
  • A 14 watt CFL light bulb for 20 hours

At the end of the day, when you add it all up, it could equal enough energy to power almost 20 million households in the United States. and save green house gases equal to over 38 million cars!

Now….The Cons

Recycling can be expensive. That’s right. It costs a lot of mula to reuse old stuff. For example, a single stream recycling facility can cost up to $10 million to build. In New York City it costs an extra $300 per ton of garbage to recycle it verses putting it in a land fill. And, it can cost $4,000 to recycle $32 worth of plastic bags.

Not only can it cost a lot to recycle, it isn’t always efficient. The carbon footprint of recycling 40,000 plastic bottles is the same as one round trip ticket from NYC to London. And Recycling one ton of glass only saves one ton of carbon dioxide.

Not only that, but 25% of what is recycled gets contaminated. May as well not recycle in the first place. Especially if you consider that 90% of green house benefits come from recycling just three things!

  • Aluminum
  • Paper
  • Cardboard

5 Tips for Smarter Recycling

  1. Know your local recycling program’s rules and regulations
  2. Avoid contamination by rinsing dirty recyclables
  3. Shred sensitive documents before recycling
  4. Prioritize reducing your household’s waste
  5. Buy recycled materials to grow market demand

20 Things that SHOULD be in Your Recycle Bin

  1. Paper
  2. Plastic
  3. Batteries
  4. Styrofoam
  5. Lightbulbs
  6. K-Cups
  7. CDs
  8. Glass
  9. Aluminum cans
  10. Aluminum foil
  11. Cardboard
  12. Plastic bags
  13. Wood
  14. Books
  15. Metal
  16. Plastic bottles
  17. TV
  18. Cell phones
  19. Clothes
  20. Yard trimmings

20 Things That Should NOT be Recycled

  1. Plastic bags
  2. Plastic wrap
  3. Wires and electric cords
  4. Aerosol cans
  5. Hazardous waste
  6. Medical waste (like syringes)
  7. Batteries
  8. Electronics
  9. Pizza boxes and takeout containers
  10. Disposable drinking cups
  11. Napkins and paper towels
  12. Popsicle sticks
  13. Propane cylinders
  14. Rigid plastics (like lawn furniture)
  15. Shipping envelopes
  16. Clothes hangers
  17. Ceramics
  18. Lightbulbs
  19. Tires
  20. Wet paper

© Education Connection 2023. All Rights Reserved.


Sources for school statistics is the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

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