Why Recycle?

Recycling just plain feels good.

How can you not feel good when you can create jobs, boost the economy, save energy and protect wildlife habitat all by simply recycling your waste?

Recycling is a big part of our economy. According to the National Recycling Coalition, recycling in the United States is a $236 billion a year industry employing more than 1.1 million people nationwide! According to government statistics, recycling creates tens jobs for every one created through landfills or incineration. Many of American businesses depend on recycled materials to make their products. In fact, paper recycling keeps American paper manufactures viable with their global competitors.

The average American produces over seven pounds of garbage every day. That’s a lot of trash. It’s also a lot of landfill space. Over 200 million tons of solid waste move into our landfills every year. Recycling diverts a significant amount of waste from our nation’s over-extended landfills and back into the raw materials stream. By some estimates, recycling can divert 20-50% of the trash that would otherwise end up in the landfill.

Keeping all that junk out of the landfill also helps protect the water and air you depend on. Ordinary municipal landfills are a major source of many chemical substances entering local groundwater and aquifers, contaminating the soil along the way. Most often, these contaminations occur after the landfill is closed and “reclaimed.” Liners used in construction of the landfills can assist in delaying groundwater contamination but they do nothing to prevent it.

Gases emanating from landfills can lead to major health and security problems. These gasses result from chemical reactions and natural microbial action on buried wastes. As the gas is produced in the landfill, pressure often increases within the landfill forcing even more of the gas into the air and, at times, causing destructive explosions. Off gassing of methane gas from decaying organic wastes is another harmful pollutant. Not only can methane harm those living downwind of a landfill but methane is also a powerful greenhouse gas. Speaking of greenhouse gasses, landfills also release literally millions of tons of carbon into the air.

Recycling also saves natural resources and protects critical wildlife habitat by cutting down the drive to exploit virgin materials. Fewer trees will be cut and fewer minerals pulled destructively from the soil.

Recycling is also patriotic. It’s a national security issue. The more you care about this nation, the more you will recycle. Think about it. the more we recycle, the less we have to depend on unstable foreign governments for raw materials. Think about motor oil. The stuff never really wears out. It just gets dirty. If we re-refined it and put it back to work we could help reduce our nation’s reliance on imported oil.

The same goes with energy – another national security issue. Recycling significantly increases energy savings over manufacturing with raw materials. For example, manufacturing with recycled aluminum cans uses 95% less energy than manufacturing with virgin materials.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PDEP) tells us that recycling paper cuts energy usage in half and that “every pound of steel recycled saves 5,450 BTUs of energy, enough to light a 60-watt bulb for over 26 hours.” That’s a lot of energy saved. PDEP also points out that “recycling a ton of glass saves the equivalent of nine gallons of fuel oil.” Another national security reason to recycle.

Recycling is a double win. It promotes economic growth, energy conservation, cleaner air and water and national security! Just by tossing those used bottles into the recycling bin.


Recycling just plain feels good. Try it. You’ll see!

Recycling and Environmental Facts

  • Recycling 1 ton of paper saves 17 trees, 2 barrels of oil (enough to run the average car for 1,260 miles), 4,100 kilowatts of energy (enough power for the average home for 6 months), 3.2 cubic yards of landfill space, and 60 pounds of air pollution. (source: Trash to Cash)
  • Americans throw away enough aluminum to rebuild our entire commercial fleet of airplanes every 3 months. (source: Environmental Defense Fund)
  • About 80% of what Americans throw away is recyclable, yet our recycling rate is just 28%. (source: Environmental Protection Agency)
  • Over ½ million trees are saved each year by recycling paper in Boulder County. (source:
  • There are more roads in our National Forests than the entire U.S. Interstate Highway system. (source: National Forest Protection Alliance)
  • Recycling creates 6 times as many jobs as landfilling. (source: Colorado Recycles)
  • Recycling glass instead of making it from silica sand reduces mining waste by 70%, water use by 50%, and air pollution by 20%. (source: Environmental Defense Fund)
  • Recycling just one aluminum can saves enough energy to operate a TV for 3 hours. (source: Eco-Cycle)
  • If we recycled all of the newspapers printed in the U.S. on a typical Sunday, we would save 550,000 trees–or about 26 million trees per year. (source: California Department of Conservation)
  • The energy saved each year by steel recycling is equal to the electrical power used by 18 million homes each year – or enough energy to last Los Angeles residents for eight years. (source: Steel Recycling Institute)
  • If every household in the U.S. replaced just one roll of 1,000 sheet virgin fiber bathroom tissues with 100% recycled ones, we could save: 373,000 trees, 1.48 million cubic feet of landfill space, and 155 million gallons of water. (source: Seventh Generation Co.) If they added solar panel systems or equipment to collect rainwater, it could make an even bigger difference.
  • The U.S. is 5% of the world’s population but uses 25% of its natural resources. (source: Environmental Protection Agency)

Economic Benefits of Recycling:

Several studies have shown that recycling related businesses have substantial economic development benefits.

A study of 10 states in the Northeast region found that more than 100,000 people are employed in firms that process recyclables or use them in manufacturing. The study also estimates that more than $7.2 billion in value is added to recyclables in the Northeast through processing and manufacturing.

A similar study of 13 states and territories in the Southeast found that nearly 140,000 people are employed by firms that process recyclables or use them in manufacturing. The value added to recyclables for that region was estimated at $18.5 billion.

North Carolina found in a 1995 study that businesses which collect, process and manufacture recyclables have nearly $1 billion in total estimated sales and 9,000 employees – that’s in North Carolina alone.

A recent study by the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission found that recycling added about $18.5 billion in value to the economies of 12 Southern states and Puerto Rico in 1995.

Source: Explore Recycle City (with kid friendly graphics)
How to coordinate your recycling efforts with OneClimate.net
Discover the many Benefits of Recycling
Economic Growth through Recycling – a Case Study in Montana

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