Many reports are released each year saying that we are recycling more and more materials, when in reality, we are only recycling more because we are using more. In this modern-era, companies use our growing consumption of materials (that destroy the environment) as an advertising ploy to claim they are eco-friendly. Although it is still a good idea to recycle some waste, it is not as helpful as people are led to believe.
Recycling isn’t always the best option. In fact, many of the plastic materials with the ‘recyclable’ sign on them are actually not recyclable. An example would be plastic bags. Less than one percent of these bags are ever recycled. One ton of plastic bags can be recycled for $4,000 (USD), yet one ton of plastic bags resells for $32. Because of this, 300,000 tons of plastic bags are left in landfills every year.
There are seven different types of plastic, and only two of those types of plastic can be properly recycled. Even when plastics aren’t a part of these five types, it doesn’t stop companies from putting recyclable signs on the product. Putting the wrong types of plastic into the recycling bin can waste resources, because before being put into a landfill, all of the plastics are collected, processed, and stored.
When recycling oil, many harmful chemicals are being released into the air. Most of the time, when oil is being recycled, a method called the acid-clay process is used. This process separates the dangerous chemicals and impurities from the oil, however, it leaves behind a toxic sludge. This sludge is usually burnt, creating air pollution.
Products that have impurities or dangerous toxins in them can often be recycled, without the removal of the toxins. An example of the horrible effects of this would be hundreds of the buildings in Taiwan. It was recently discovered that these buildings were made from a recycled steel, and that a chemical in the steel had been giving people gamma radiation poisoning for over 12 years.
Despite these downsides, recycling is still a good thing. It is just best to research to make sure an item is actually recyclable before throwing it away. What are your opinions on recycling? Do you think the downsides to recycling should be more commonly known, or do you think they should stay hidden so people continue to recycle? Leave a comment with your ideas.