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Around the world consumerism is on the rise, but so is our waste. According to the World Bank, 1.3 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste is generated in the world every year and this is expected to increase to 2.2 billion tonnes by 2025. With increased urbanisation more waste is generated due to surging consumption levels. With rising disposable incomes, more cheap and durable products are being bought and thrown away than ever before.
Currently, 79 percent of plastic trash is expected to be transported to landfills or the ocean, with just 9 percent recycled and 12 percent incinerated. These numbers clearly indicate that we need to recycle more, to protect our planet and preserve our precious natural resources.
So, why is recycling so important?
Recycling Saves Ecosystems
Recycling plays an essential part in conserving natural resources and makes a significant contribution to environmental development. Recycling old material and turning it into something new, reduces the need to extract raw natural resources such as wood and minerals via mining or forestry.
Forests cover 31% of the land area on our planet, providing a home to an estimated 6,700 animal species and 4,700 species of plants. Due to extraction of raw materials, animals are on the verge of going extinct and forests all over the world are depleting. According to the EPA, 17 trees are rescued for every ton of cardboard that is recycled.
Plastic waste remains a growing cause of trouble in our oceans,taking up to 400 years to decompose. Discarded plastic waste is a significant threat to marine ecosystems, killing 100 million marine animals per year. Decomposing plastic transforms into microplastics which can be ingested by animals in large quantities. These microplastics can make their way up the food chain, eventually posing a threat to us, poisoning humans who consume them.
Recycling Saves Land
Waste that is not recycled or reused has to go somewhere, and the vast majority ends up in landfill sites. Essentially a piece of land where waste is dumped directly into the ground, these remain a significant source of pollution. Every year the planet loses 24 billion tonnes of topsoil each year because of land pollution.
Decaying landfill waste releases weak acidic compounds, which combine with waste liquids to produce leachate and greenhouse gasses. Leachate is a highly hazardous liquid that can contaminate land, groundwater, and waterways. Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere and speed up the process of global warming.
Recycling Saves Money
It takes less energy and production to make things from recycled materials than it does to make them from fresh raw materials. For instance, producing recycled aluminium is 92 percent more energy efficient than making new aluminium from virgin materials. The cost of production may not seem so much at first, but it can add up to a considerable amount of money saved in a year.
You can also save money by repurposing old items into something new, preventing you from buying goods that will eventually end up as waste. There are many DIY instructions online to help you repurpose old items, like turning old textiles into ribbons.
Most electronic vendors like Apple have a recycling program in place, which allows you to get money back or a discount on your next phone. There are also services like Sellmymobile.com that will offer you cash for your old phone. In addition, online marketplaces like eBay enable you to sell waste that could be valuable to someone else.
Recycling is a sustainable solution to combat the severe climate problems we are facing today. By recycling, we can help the environment develop and create a future that we all want to live in. We need to change the way we produce our products, and we must recycle everything possible to build a circular economy.