From Garbage to Gold
The word “recycling” usually invokes images of cardboard and plastic-bottle recycling bins, accompanied by some cliché slogan such as “Recycle. Reduce. Reuse.” However, recycling has a far greater impact on humanity than any slogan can ever imply. If one were to view the history of life on Earth as a single, 24-hour day, humans would appear just over a second before midnight! Earth is approximately 4.6 billion years old and according to scientists, modern humans did not exist until approximately 200,000 years ago. During this brief “flash-in-the-pan” of existence, they have managed to dominate the Earth in a way that no species has ever done before. This is due to the fact that as the human race expands, it demands an ever-growing amount of fuel, water, land, food, shelter, technology, and the energy necessary to produce, deliver, and operate these goods and services. Recycling not only reduces the burden that modern society places on the planet when population numbers grow, but also provides many benefits, such as: reducing or eliminating municipal, industrial and commercial waste; reducing litter; reducing energy consumption by limiting the need for mining, transporting, and converting of raw materials into goods; limiting pollution via lower energy consumption, less waste, reduced emissions, and the conservation of precious, natural resources; and stimulating the economy with new jobs, increased savings, and higher profit margins for commercial, industrial, and agricultural production.
All forms of production require large amounts of electricity and the mining of raw materials from the Earth for new products and services. As the population grows, companies must keep up with demand for their products and services; however, more energy and raw materials are required for the production of these new products and services, which results in needless waste of the natural resources and electricity that were used in the creation of existing products. These industries are driven by higher profits that result from this increased demand; as a consequence, emphasis is placed on speed of production rather than responsibility for the devastating effects that these wasteful practices have on the environment (Brennan). Mandatory recycling laws would ensure that these industries utilize these natural resources in environmentally-conscious ways, rather than leaving their finished products wasting away in landfills, and potentially harming the environment and shortening humanity’s future.
Recycling laws would also limit pollution. The population disposes of 210 million tons of municipal waste every year. Combine residential and business garbage with the truckloads of industrial waste produced in the U.S. and we have an annual pile of trash weighing 12 billion tons (Martin 1). In 2003, Americans disposed of over 83 million tons of paper products. According to the EPA, by recycling only half of that, we could save 705 million trees and 290...