There are multiple ways that we can reduce the amount of waste we produce. Recycling is reusing materials such as paper, glass, plastic, and metals that have been thrown away to make new products, which in turn reduces the amount of raw materials that need to be harvested to make these commodities. Composting is another popular waste-prevention method, but differs from recycling in that it involves the collection of organic waste (leftover food, yard waste, etc.) and reusing these materials in the form of a natural fertilizer. In addition, source reduction is the design of products that enable constant reuse, which will reduce the amount of waste created.
According to Duke University’s Center for Sustainability and Commerce, the average person in the United States generates 4.3 pounds of waste per day, 1.6 pounds more than the maximum amount produced back in 1960. Where does this waste all go? Research indicates that 66% of the waste generated annually by Americans ends up in a landfill. Consequently, these landfills have grown to become the second-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the US. According to the EPA, the U.S. recycling and composting efforts prevented 87.2 million tons of material from being disposed in 2013. This saved more than 186 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions, comparable to removing the emissions from over 39 million passenger vehicles from the road in one year. This means that recycling is a critical solution to tackling climate change. Currently, the consumption of the US is 9.6 hectares, while the world average is 2.2 hectares. If everyone in the world consumed as much as we did, it would take 5 earths to provide all the necessary resources, with nothing set aside for nature or natural areas.1 Businesses should seek to keep waste low because disposal is only becoming more expensive as more waste is incurred.
Recycling, composting and reuse are also valuable tools for creating green jobs and strengthening local economies. Recycling supports more than 470,000 jobs in the U.S. and generates more than $105 billion in economic impact.5 Recycling creates an average of ten times more jobs than landfilling and offers strong job growth and opportunities for low-skilled and mid-level workers.
The philosophy of “Zero Waste” emphasizes reuse and recirculation of materials, which means not sending anything to landfills or incinerators. This means investing in recycling and composting programs in every community, as well as redesigning products to last longer and use fewer toxic substances In order to reduce the impact of consumption on our environment and public health, scientists and researchers alike vehemently encourage recycling, composting, and the “Zero Waste” philosophy. About two-thirds of waste generated by households can be composted, and in addition, many local gardens are now accepting compost. In addition, when shopping, the simplest and most-cost effective measure can be bringing a reusable bag with you. More recently, many communities now require grocery stores as well as shops and boutiques have been charging consumers a plastic or paper bag tax to encourage waste reduction.
PROGRAMS AND ORGANIZATIONS
Recycle Across America:
Recycle Across America(R); (RAA) and Recycle Across the World(R); (RAW) are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to expediting environmental progress by creating the world’s first and only society-wide standardized labeling system for recycling bins to make it easier for people to begin to recycle right, wherever they might be. Additionally, Recycle Across America is helping people understand the importance of recycling right, with the introduction of the first celebrity-led solution-driven PSA campaign — called “Let’s recycle right!”) a.k.a. “Let’s”.