Recycling Stalled

Recycling is an important part of the strategy for keeping planet Earth livable for future generations—not to mention making lives more enjoyable today. After all, no one wants to end up neck deep in garbage. Most recycling revolves around paper, metal, plastic, and glass. However, recycling efforts are starting to stall in America and other countries for various reasons. A common theme is that recycling doesn’t generate enough money to make it practical as a for profit effort. The companies tasked with obtaining, recycling, and selling the materials don’t make enough money to remain viable.

Of course, theories abound as to why this problem occurs, but the bottom line is that recycling must increase. Most countries recycle less than 50 percent of the waste that people generate (34 percent in America according to a number of sources), which means that the landfills still fill at a prodigious rate. I know that some people point to ancient civilizations that survived just fine without recycling, but the earth’s population also continues to grow and we will end up neck deep in garbage sooner than later at the current rate of use. A few people have embraced a radically new idea of simply moving to another planet once this one is used up, but barring some major advance in space travel, I don’t think that particular idea will work.

A major problem is that some companies have a hard time finding profitable venues for selling the recycled goods they make. You can find sites online that discuss all the innovative uses for recycled materials, but the fact is that the companies actually doing the work still say that profits are low and customers continually get more picky about the materials they’ll accept. In order to make sorting the materials easier and to ensure customers will actually buy the recycled materials, it’s up to individuals to ensure they do their part. For example, rather than stick an entire packing carton in the big blue bin, make sure you separate the materials to remove the materials that a company can’t recycle (such as Styrofoam) from those that it can. Sloppy consumer habits have actually resulted in the disappearance of some public recycling bins, such as those in shopping centers like Walmart.

Keeping some materials out of the garbage can in the first place can help you as well as the company responsible for performing the recycling. For example, composting materials (such as food) to create soil for items you can grow yourself saves money in the long run and makes it a lot easier to recycle the glass and other materials that currently end up creating a huge mess at the recycling company. In addition, ensuring you actually sort the materials according to the conventions for your local community will help.

The point is that recycling will continue to stall until everyone does their part. Ultimately, this effort may require that governments step in and provide financial incentives to keep recycling going (although, it would be better if they didn’t have to). Let me know your thoughts on why you feel recycling is stalling at