Most Americans dispose of their household waste, or garbage,
by putting it in a bag, then taking it out to the curb
for the garbage man to pick up. The waste is then hauled
away to a landfill and left to decompose (break down into
ecologically usable materials). However, much of the garbage
deposited in our nations landfills will never decompose.
We are a throw-away society, meaning that
we tend to make products that are not reusable. Our landfills
are filling up at a very fast rate.
Some of the garbage in our landfills is actually poisonous,
or toxic, such as chemicals, batteries and engine oil.
Health problems for nearby communities can appear when
too much of these toxic materials are in one landfill.
If you have to throw away large amounts of chemicals or
oil, find out where they can safely be disposed of. Landfills
also produce a gas called methane, which is one of the
most potent of the greenhouse gases that contribute to
The answer to our landfill problem is recycling and reusing.
Recycling means breaking down materials and reforming
them into usable products. Many things that we throw away
can actually be recycled. Recyclable material includes
paper, glass, plastic, rubber, engine oil, batteries,
metal, aluminum, and printer cartridges.
Here are some recycling facts: Making paper from waste
paper produces 73% less air pollution, uses 61% less water
and requires up to 70% less energy than when paper is
made from virgin fiber. Every one ton of recycled paper
saves the equal amount of energy as 53.2 million BTUs
or 380 gallons of oil. Every four tons of recycled paper
saves the same amount of energy needed to heat an average-sized
home in New York State for an entire year. The production
of a ton of paper requires 17 mature trees, 7,000 gallons
of water and more energy per ton than glass or steel.
Americans throw away enough office and writing paper per
year to build a wall 12 feet high stretching from Los
Angeles to New York. Every year more than 900 million
trees are cut down to provide raw materials for American
paper and pulp mills. One tree can filter up to 60 pounds
of pollutants from the air each year.
Recycling one aluminum can saves enough electricity to
power a TV or a 100-watt light bulb for three hours. You
can make 20 recycled aluminum cans with the energy it
takes to make one new one. American consumers and businesses
throw away enough aluminum in a year to rebuild the entire
U.S. commercial air fleet every three months. Recycled
glass generates 20% less air pollution and 50% less water
pollution, and saves 50% more energy. Recycling one glass
container saves enough energy to light a 100-watt light
bulb for 4 hours.
Reusing means finding another use for a product instead
of just throwing it away after its used once. Some
suggestions are: Save and reuse aluminum foil, plastic
baggies, paper lunch bags and glass jars. Donate books
to the library and old clothes to churches or Goodwill/Salvation
Army. Use large dog/cat food bags as garbage bags. Use
empty coffee cans as a piggy bank by cutting a slit in
the top. If you have to use them, wash and reuse plastic
cups and eating utensils lots of times.
When we buy products we should always look for the recycle
symbol, a triangle of arrows printed somewhere on the
outside. This means that either the product or the packaging
is produced from recycled material. Recycled material
can be made into many things that we can use. Whole houses
can be made from recycled materials. Boards, windows,
appliances, and furniture all can be made from recycled
Good reasons to recycle are: Recycling saves our valuable
natural resources, energy, and landfill space. Recycling
saves clean air and clean water, saves money and creates
jobs. All of us working together can change a societys
behavior, but even one person can start to make a difference
by recycling and telling his/her friends to recycle as
well. Teach your parents, brothers, sisters and other
family members about the importance of recycling and encourage
them to do it with you.