How Does Recycling Help

Why Recycle?

Recycling is a daily activity for more than 100 million Americans and a great way to protect our environment and stimulate our economy. Recycling saves resources, prevents pollution, supports public health, and creates jobs. It saves money, avoids landfills, and best of all, it’s easy.

To understand the value of recycling, we must look at the entire lifecycle of a product ― from the extraction and processing of raw materials, to the manufacture of the product, to its final disposal. Recycling creates a closed-loop system where unwanted products are returned back to manufacturers for use in new products. This prevents the pollution and destruction that occurs when virgin materials –like trees and precious metals– are extracted from the earth.

By recycling about 30% of our waste every year, Americans save the equivalent of 11.9 billion gallons of gasoline and reduce the greenhouse gas equivalent of taking 25 million cars off the road

Land-filling is not a sustainable planning approach.

Landfills are the largest source of human-caused methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. The EPA admits all landfill liners will eventually leak and their toxic leachate, or garbage juice, can seep into and contaminate soil and groundwater supplies. Roughly 20% of the sites on the Superfund list (the nation’s most hazardous sites) are solid waste landfills 

Recycling conserves resources

The demand for raw materials used to make plastics, glass, papers, and metals is reduced when we collect recyclables and convert them into new products. Less demand for petroleum distillates, minerals, and trees helps to reduce the pressures of oil refining, mining, and logging on the environment. 

Recycling saves energy

Using recycled materials in the manufacturing process uses considerably less energy than that required for producing new products from raw materials – even when comparing all associated costs, like transport. 

  • Cigarette Butts: 10-12 years
  • Monofilament Fishing Line: 600 years
  • Rubber-Boot Sole: 50-80 years
  • Foamed Plastic Cups: 50 years
  • Leather shoes: 25-40 years
  • Milk Cartons: 5 years
  • Plywood: 1-3 years
  • Painted board: 13 years
  • Cotton Glove: 3 months
  • Cardboard: 2 months
  • Styrofoam: Does not biodegrade
  • Nylon Fabric: 30-40 years
  • Tin can: 50 years
  • Ropes: 3-14 months
  • Waxed milk carton: 3 months
  • Aluminum cans: 200-250 years
  • Train tickets: two weeks
  • Canvas products: 1 year
  • Batteries: 100 years
  • Lumber: 10-15 years
  • Sanitary Pads: 500-800 years
  • Wool Clothing: 1-5 years
  • Tinfoil: Does not biodegrade
Different sources have different information on the actual time various waste items take to decompose in landfills.