Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repeat

Brooke Griffin, Staff Writer

By 2050, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish. Every day, countless single use products are being thrown away, causing landfills to overflow. According to National Geographic, “Because plastic wasn’t invented until the late 19th century, and production really only took off around 1950, we have a mere 9.2 billion tons of the stuff to deal with. Of that, more than 6.9 billion tons have become waste. And of that waste, staggering 6.3 billion tons never made it to a recycling bin—a figure that stunned the scientists who crunched the numbers in 2017.” The Earth’s population is growing, not shrinking, and each human adds significant waste to the planet over their lifetime.

Humans do a terrible job of making sure products are reused or otherwise disposed of. About a third of all plastics produced escape collection systems, only to wind up floating in the sea or in the stomach of some unsuspecting bird. That amounts to about eight million metric tons a year. The average American produces 4.4 pounds of trash every single day. In a nation of nearly 324 million people, that amounts to more than 700,000 tons of garbage produced every day. That’s enough to fill around 60,000 garbage trucks.

Simple changes can help eliminate everyday waste. Eliminate paper waste, read the newspaper and magazines online. Take notes electronically, avoid using a notebook if possible, don’t buy beverages in single use cans or bottles, or use a reusable water bottle and carry it around. Quit buying plastic water bottles, and instead purchase a Brita water pitcher. This helps saves money and the environment. Always carry a reusable straw, as plastic ones are too lightweight to make it through the mechanical recycling sorter, making them more difficult to recycle. Bring a reusable coffee mug or tumbler when getting coffee. Bring reusable shopping bags when going grocery shopping. Buy in bulk to reduce the amount of packaging being used. When eating out, politely ask the server to take away any paper or plastic napkins, placemats, straws, cups and single-serving containers. Use a rag that can be washed and stop using paper towels. Purchase wooden toothbrushes from now on instead of plastic ones. There are recycling bins placed around campus. Take advantage of these and always recycle any old papers or plastic bottles.

Recycling is good for the environment because old products are converted back to the same new products. This saves material and energy. Since it is saving resources and sending less trash to the landfills, it helps in reducing air and water pollution. This can also result in the products costing less money in the end because it doesn’t take as many funds to produce them.

When materials are recycled, it saves energy used at the facilities of production. For example, for every single ton of aluminum, it requires four tons of bauxite ore, which must be mined, transported, processed, smelted (requiring high temperatures), mixed with caustic soda, and then heated and separated from impurities. Only then can the aluminum be used to make products. Recycling one aluminum can save enough energy to run a TV for around three hours. This will depend on the energy consumption of the TV, but it gives a great idea as to just how much energy can be saved during the process of recycling products.

Reducing and reusing has many benefits. It prevents pollution caused by reducing the need to harvest new raw materials. It saves energy tremendously. A huge benefit is that it reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change. More benefits include helping sustain the environment for future generations, saving money, reducing the amount of waste that will need to be recycled or sent to landfills and incinerators, and allowing products to be used to their fullest extent. Start now by encouraging each other to reduce, reuse, and recycle. The future depends on it.