Why Is Recycling Important?solid wastes

Recycling as we know it today came about as a result of the environmental movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Since that time the national recycling rate has increased from 7.3% to over 30%. Unfortunately, despite the ‘go green’ mantra of the 2000’s our national recycling rate has remained static at 33.8% over the last two decades.

But why should we be concerned with increasing our recycling rates? Why is recycling important? Here are the top four reasons why we should recycle.

Recycling reduces air and water pollution and reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions which contribute to global warming.

Recycling one ton of paper conserves:

  • 17 trees
  • 7,000 gallons of water
  • 2 barrels of oil
  • 4100 kilowatts of energy
  • 2 cubic yards of landfill space

In addition, it prevents 60 pounds of air pollution.

Recycling is a gateway activity into other pro-environmental behaviors.

Recycling is a relatively easy activity to engage in, and allows people to feel that they are making a difference without requiring major lifestyle changes. Once people see that ‘going green’ isn’t a major hardship they are more willing to make other small changes in their lives, such as using energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs, spending less on heating and air-conditioning or composting yard and food wastes.

Recycling conserves landfill space.

Landfill space is dwindling and many states are forced to export their waste. Today Americans produce approximately 4 pounds of garbage per person per day. This figure must be reduced to ensure future sustainability. Landfills are also unpopular with residents. Homes sited near a landfill experience a 5 to 10% reduction in property values versus comparable homes sited further away.

Recycling creates jobs.

Sorting and processing recyclables sustains ten times more jobs per ton than landfilling. 10,000 tons of waste will sustain only one landfill job. 10,000 tons of compost sustains 4 jobs. 10,000 tons of recyclables collected sustains 10 jobs at a material recovery facility. The news gets better in the manufacturing industry. That same 10,000 tons of recycled material sustains 18 jobs in the paper industry, 26 jobs in the glass industry and 93 jobs in the plastics industry. In computer reuse it sustains a whopping 296 jobs! In addition, manufacturing jobs average $47,700 per year, versus about half that in the landfill industry.


Recycling reduces our dependence on landfills, conserves resources, reduces pollution and stimulates the job market. Our future sustainability in terms of both environment and economy depend on these factors. For these reasons and more, governments must find ways to increase participation in local programs and in turn boost the national recycling rate.

For more information on recycling and job creation visit http://www.ilsr.org.

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