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Can I Recycle This?

Updated on June 2, 2013

A Landfill Needlessly Full of Recyclable


Fact: It’s easier to carry groceries bagged in these reusable totes compared to regular plastic or paper bags.


The Ethics of Trash

It's trash day. All of the neighbors have wheeled out their bins, each one sealed shut, the trash inside further protected by a thick black bag. Hidden behind these layers of disguise is trash: the items that make up the story of a week. Some anthropologists have dedicated their lives to digging through trash, a look at a societies trash-habits can be more telling than much else. Handwritten or even verbally-recited accounts of life and culture tend to leave out secrets and habits unnoticed or taken for granted. Trash on the other hand, hides absolutely nothing.

In America, our trash speaks volumes about our culture. The one billion shopping bags we blow through each year tells of waste. And either we are unaware or uncaring towards the problems our trash-habits are creating. Of course, there is no clean escape, trash being a nasty habit of humanity. It’s the amount of trash we collect that has gotten out of hand, yet can so easily be controlled.

Blame it on sheer disconnect. Living in an everyday world of Target Superstores- shiny and bright with an endless supply of paper notebooks. It’s here, in these stores that seem so nice, we forget how a notebook ends up on a shelf. If that notebook could talk, it would tell a story of once being a tree, of forests green and lush now leveled. It would warn us that oxygen levels are decreasing and animals are quickly losing their lives... only the notebook doesn't speak. It can't. Once pressed into the pages of a notebook, that once living tree is dead. And the dead take years to be heard.

Meanwhile, Americans are using a 100-foot tall Douglas Fir Tree each year in paper products. If you’re forty… that’s four-thousand feet of Trees! Think about it, trees aren't just exploited in our journals or on our hot printers; we use them to bag up groceries, build big fancy homes, and even wipe our bums! The fact is, we use paper all over the place and it has to stop. No longer can our planet sustain this height of paper-dependency.

If paper towels are not recyclable... what is?

Non Recyclable
Paper Towels
Light Bulbs
Aluminum (soda can)
Aluminum Foil
Steel Can (food, paint)
Plastic Grocery Bags
Styrofoam (meat trays/egg cartons)
Tissue Paper
Does not include all recyclable or non recyclable items. Rules and recycling-regulations vary by location, check with your local city or state website for details on your specific recycling rules.

2/3 of America’s Trash is Recyclable


Someone Else Will Do It

Many of us decide not to recycle or do the ‘green’ thing simply because we assume everyone else is doing it. Besides, what will your tiny little life to do ruin this planet? Think again. Even airline companies, who we trust to fly us through the sky, are only recycling 20% of their total paper-products used during flights by passengers. And of the 7 billion pounds of PVC used this year, only 18 million pounds will be recycled.

Regardless if everyone you see is recycling, tossing your can in the trash does contribute to the problem. It could be your can that kills an animal. Also, you’re not the only one thinking this way: collectively 13% of America never recycles. That’s well over one million individuals in only one country, the damages are immense.

Recycling and landfills are Band-Aids barley covering our trash problems. Of course, as said before, trash is impossible to get around, making this ‘Band-Aid’ near vital. Still, recycling and landfills create their own set of problems while doing nothing to curb the tons of trash each family accumulates.

First off, recycling is expensive. To recycle one ton of plastic bags is $4,000. The resale value of these same bags? Only $32. Take a look at financially crippled California, spending 25 million dollars a year putting plastic bags into a landfill, on top of another 8.5 million dollars removing trash bags from the streets. In fact, San Francisco has factored the cost of each discarded plastic bag at around 17 cents. Americans are disposing of 300,000 tons of plastic bags each year!

While recycling is costly, landfills are disgusting and dangerous. In 2008 more than 82% of landfills had a leak, these ‘leaks’ are toxic and get into ground water, streams, and soil causing deadly damage. Not to mention, 41% of these toxic leaks spread larger than one square mile. For some, it’s a choice to live far away from a risky landfill, but for others it’s another cost of being poor. Those that live near landfills are more likely to develop cancer and other diseases.

Recycling is a must but even more important is learning to conserve in an over-indulgent world.

Map Detailing Hazardous Waste Landfills Across the US.


Without any trees, the barren hillsides in Uganda turn into muddy, deadly, slopes in the rain.


Deforestation Kills 24 in Africa

In Uganda, a landslide killed 24 in Bulambuli district. Due to heavy rains the muddy hillside came crashing down during the night on multiple villages, leaving the village of Namwidisi completely submerged in mud. The rains wouldn't have brought the hillside down if trees had not been over-farmed here in recent years, leaving the hills bare, dry, cracked, and fragile. A landslide of this magnitude is not uncommon. As populations expand and the demand for paper products increase, trees disappear and the land becomes unsteady. Not only does earth need trees to sustain a foundation, so do we humans. Trees filter the air into the oxygen we need to survive. Without trees, we're history!


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