Did you learn the “three Rs of recycling: reduce, reuse, recycle” in school? If you went to elementary school in the early 90s, then you remember this catchy mantra.
Today, the year is 2023. We’re just around the corner of 2024. And sadly, today, our world is being overrun by more trash than ever before. We have a serious problem of pollution right here in our local communities. But we have a powerful solution that many are locking arms to enforce to clean up our act so we can enjoy the beauty of our world for ages to come.
Why The Three Rs of Recycling Are Critical in 2024
Before we get to the solution, let’s define the problem.
Did you know that in 2015 alone, about 262 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) were produced here in the U.S.? That’s what a report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed.
A related news report by CBS shared that 14 million tons of plastic packaging is produced every year. And again, we’re just talking about what’s produced here in the U.S.
But the real kicker is that about 40% of that plastic is used just once. Even worse, less than one-tenth of it is recycled.
Do you often go on a walk or jog on an otherwise beautiful nature trail in Plano, Texas?
Miles and miles of trees, prairies, lakes, parks, and creeks, several pristine bridges to cross. It’s a weekly ‘garden of Eden’ retreat from the hustle and bustle of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
It would almost be perfect were it not for all the trash that’s washed up on the creek shores. After a recent hard rain, even more trash has washed up and now clutters the banks of the creeks that meander through the nature preserve.
Seeing all that ugly trash in such a naturally beautiful setting, the point hits home. It hurts.
Another alarming fact comes from NASA. They reported that the summer of 2023 is the world’s hottest on record. Could this mean we just lived to see the hottest summer ever? Either way, it was H-O-T in north Texas, and we have to wonder how our manufacturing production may be contributing to the trend of hotter climates all over the world.
The Bigger Problem of Pollution
But that’s just a couple of pain points of pollution that we experience when out enjoying nature. Let’s zoom out a bit to address the bigger picture. Pollution is a big problem that hurts all of us in six key areas.
- Air Pollution: Industrial processes and vehicle emissions, can lead to respiratory problems and other health issues.
- Water Pollution: Industrial waste, chemicals, and untreated sewage can contaminate water sources, polluting our safe and clean drinking water.
- Soil Contamination: Contaminated soil affects crop growth and impacts the quality of food produced.
- Marine Pollution: Ocean animals eat and get entangled in pollutants, which has a domino effect on the entire marine ecosystem.
- Climate Change: Greenhouse gas emissions, caused by pollution, impacts climate change and causes more frequent and more severe weather events.
- Loss of Biodiversity: Ecosystem disruption is caused by pollution and destroys habitats, which threatens various plant and animal species.
As it stands, we should not be shocked when we see our creek and river shores littered with trash while we’re out walking, cycling, and trying to enjoy nature.
We should expect our lakes, oceans, and their otherwise beautiful shores to be glutted with garbage when we’re out fishing, swimming, or soaking up nature.
It’s no wonder why otherwise beautiful parks, nature preserves, woods, and other natural environments are polluted with waste.
Three R’s of Recycling: Reduce, Recycle, Reuse
The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way. We can change it. We can cure our own disease. We can stop these gloomy trends because we’re the ones causing them. We have the power to save our planet and ourselves because we’re suffering self-inflicted wounds.
The solution is quite simple.
It starts with the three r’s of recycling. The recycling process involves collecting, sorting, processing, and converting used materials into new products.
This conversion process is the manufacturing (melting, breaking down, repurposing) of paper, plastic, glass, and metal. Once this is done, these items are distributed to various companies that will reuse the recycled products.
The Three Rs of recycling are reduce, reuse, recycle. Individuals and companies must implement the three Rs of recycling. In other words, we must reduce waste, reuse waste, and recycle waste. Plain and simple. Let’s look at each “R” a little closer.
Recycling Step 1: Reduce Waste
Reducing waste is the first and arguably most impactful step in the Three Rs of recycling.
This involves minimizing the amount of waste we generate in the first place. For instance, you can stop using so much paper and plastic products to eat. Use washable dishes instead. You can also choose products with minimal packaging, buy in bulk to reduce packaging waste, and say “no” to single-use plastics.
We offer recycling programs for companies and we tell clients all the time:
- Recycling one ton of cardboard saves 682.5 gallons of oil, 7,000 gallons of water, or 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space.
- Every ton of recycled cardboard saves about 17 trees.
You see how simple actions, performed by each of us, significantly reduce our overall waste footprint and create a more sustainable world?
Recycling Step 2: Reuse Waste Creatively
The second step in the three Rs of recycling is to reuse waste in creative and innovative ways.
Every one of us can embrace the concept of reusing by exploring DIY projects, upcycling, and refurbishing items instead of discarding them. Old furniture can be given a new lease on life with a fresh coat of paint, and containers can be repurposed for storage.
By thinking creatively about how to extend the life of products, you and I can reuse waste. We can contribute to the reduction of waste. We can conserve our vital natural resources.
Discover how Evergreen and Sunbright can help your company recycle waste responsibly and make money doing it!
When you partner with Evergreen, you are ensuring that your plastics have the best chance of being recycled. Sorting recyclables, with improper sorting being the most common reason batches of plastic recycling are rejected, is all handled for you. We ensure that your plastics are cleaned, dried, and sorted with other waste of the same kind. When recyclables arrive at the recycling plant, whether it be domestic or overseas, there is no reason that the lot should be rejected.
Recycling Step 3: Recycle Waste Responsibly
Individuals can contribute to responsible recycling by familiarizing themselves with local recycling guidelines.
Once waste has been created, the final step in the three Rs of recycling is responsible recycling. Sorting materials correctly and ensuring that recyclables are clean and uncontaminated are crucial steps. Many communities have recycling centers or curbside pickup services, making it convenient for individuals to participate in recycling initiatives. Use the available recycling bins.
Throw paper, plastic, and metal trash in recycling bins. Easy. But the simple action of recycling waste is one thing everybody can and should do, daily. It makes a big impact. For one, it reduces the size and number of landfills.
Landfills are the ugly reality of pollution. But they are more than the eye sore of our littered planet. They contaminate the soil and water. They stink to the high heavens. They pour greenhouse gas emissions into the air. They leak more pollutants into the environment and neighboring communities around them.
And, as a result, they plummet property values. We must do our part to stop the growth and expansion of them.
Picture taking a leisurely Saturday, late-morning bike ride. Are you motivated by pleasant memories of the natural beauty of the trail, the prairies, rolling hills, lakes, creeks, and trees? However, when pedaling through this scene, you feel serene until you reach the creek shores. They are lined with litter. Plastic bottles, glass bottles, cardboard, you name it.
It’s an ever-present reminder of the work we must do to install the three Rs of recycling “reduce, recycle, reuse” into our daily lives. 2024 can be the year we change our world!