- Recycling prevents pollution and resource destruction. Using recycled materials in place of virgin materials avoids the environmental damage caused by material extraction, like mining and logging. Using recycled cans instead of extracting ore to make aluminum cans produces 95% less air pollution and 97% less water pollution, and producing recycled white paper creates 74% less air pollution and 35% less water pollution than making paper from virgin fibers. By recycling 42 million tons of newsprint in 2005, Americans saved 714 million trees and 292,026 gallons of water (Recycle Indiana).
- Recycling saves energy. By recycling approximately 30% of our waste every year, Americans save the energy equivalent of 11.9 billion gallons of gasoline. Recycling plastic uses roughly 10% of the energy that it takes to make virgin plastic. Similarly, recycling glass uses only 2/3 of the energy needed to make it from raw materials, and recycling paper uses approximately 60% less energy than making it from scratch.
- Recycling creates jobs. For every job at a landfill, there are 20 recycling processing jobs and 25 recycling-based manufacturing jobs.
Recycling is mandatory for every resident, business and institution in the City of Pittsburgh under City Code 619. In 2012, the City recycled over 15,000 tons of waste! Recycling helps recover resources and save energy, generating revenue and decreasing landfill costs. For every ton of waste recycled - rather than paying a landfill fee of about $20 to $30 per ton - the City profits $25 per ton and gains as much as an additional $40 per ton while selling recycled material. Additionally, tonnage reported by private haulers, businesses and institutions helps the City attract valuable funding for purchasing equipment.
Waste reduction is simply the process of reducing the amount of waste produced by an individual, community, or society at large. Remember the 3Rs - REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE!
Reducing the amount of waste we produce is the most important step. The second best option is to reuse items. For example, if a food product comes in a glass jar, reusing the jar to store leftovers is a more sustainable option than recycling, because to recycling takes a lot of energy.
When reusing a waste product is not an option, recycling is a key part of waste management. Recycling means turning used materials into new products. Recycling not only keeps materials out of the landfill, but also avoids wasting useful materials and reduces the overall consumption of raw materials.
We are currently producing more waste than ever, thus placing more pressure on our landfills, our resources, and the environment. Everything that is thrown away has to go somewhere, and more often than not it is to a landfill. Not only does disposal of garbage create environmental risks, such as groundwater contamination, but also requires the use of heavy trucks and equipment to transport the material, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
Under Mayor Ravenstahl's direction, the City has begun to look into ways to not only recycle, but to create less waste in the first place. Addressing the amount of waste that you personally produce is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to improve your environmental footprint.