A Serious Question: Why Don’t People Recycle?

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By now, it’s no secret that recycling is one of the most important steps in conserving what’s left of our planet. Everyone who has ever used the internet or watched TV has seen at least one alarming statistic about polluted oceans/scarcity of natural resources/cutting down trees/etc. But despite the fact that recycling is 95% only benefits, why don’t people recycle? Why should everyone recycle, you ask?

Why People Don’t Recycle?

Woman holding plastic bottles in pebbles background

By now, the benefits of recycling are pretty obvious to everyone. However, there are few people who recycle and even those who do it only do it sometimes. There is actually a psychological explanation behind this type of behavior.

Since throwing out the trash is something that you do every day, recycling needs to become a habit. And habits are something that requires training and practice. For example, if you suddenly decide that you want to eat healthily, then it’s going to take a little bit of practice and a shift inhabit in order for you to swap unhealthy food with a healthy one.

The truth of the matter is recycling, is a process that does not give an immediate response. If humans do not actively witness the consequences of not recycling their trash, then it’s very hard for them to make associations between this particular habit and its consequences.
The most important step in getting people to recycle is to determine what prevents them from doing so in the first place. Researchers have revealed that about 25% of the people who refuse to recycle do so due to the lack of accessibility in the region where they live.

Others have stated that they don’t recycle because they either forget, or they believe it’s too expensive and too time-consuming. There are also people that blame the lack of information, claiming they are not sure which products can be recycled and which of them can’t. There are also people who believe the recycling isn’t important, or feel like they couldn’t make a difference if they participated in the process.

Why Recycling Is Important?

Recylce arrows with words inside in white background

If people somehow managed to overcome the cost and time barrier, recycling is something that brings only benefits.

  • First of all, failure to recycle has a global impact which means it doesn’t affect a single country, but rather the entire world.  What should happen in the event we run out of locations to bury synthetic waste?
  • Recycling can help conserve natural resources. That’s because every new product that’s being made inside a factory most likely consumes natural resources which are not renewable or take a very long time to grow (such as trees that are cut down to make paper).
  • When you consider the fact that recycling is a process that revolves around an entire industry, it’s easy to see that the more people recycle, the more jobs are created. Recycling plants and proper infrastructure requires employees to make it all happen.
  • Trash ends up in landfills, and landfills overflowing with garbage can affect the quality of groundwater. This happens because a lot of landfill management businesses refuse to treat their landfills, because of time/cost reasons. They literally dig a hole and throw the trash inside it. When these landfills bury products that are not biodegradable or eco-friendly, these contaminants can reach the groundwater supply.
  • Recycling also helps save energy. It’s because the use of recycled materials in the production process doesn’t consume as much energy as manufacturing something from raw materials.

Interesting Recycling Facts

Earth with recycling arrows symbol in green background

The recycling industry is broad and fascinating, and can help Earth survive for a longer time… if only people would recycle. While there are really cases where the city’s infrastructure and organization get in the way of recycling (in the sense that it becomes very difficult for citizens to dispose of their recycled trash), there are also people who believe that recycling won’t make a difference. To them, we say:

  •    It takes 390 gallons of oil to make a ton of paper.
  •    A ton of resources is saved for every ton of recycled glass.
  •    One single recycled glass bottle can save the energy needed for 25 minutes of computer use.
  •    People should recycle because, on average, each one of us produces around 4.7 lbs of daily waste.
  •    You can recycle more than 60% of your trash.
  •    Every 30 minutes, there are more than 2.5 million plastic bottles used in the USA alone.
  •    By recycling paper, plants reduce air pollution by 70%.
  •    It takes 24 trees to make a ton of newspapers.
  •    One recycled aluminum can save the energy needed to run a TV for about three hours.
  • To make a single computer, 539 pounds of fossil fuel, 48 pounds of chemicals, and 1.5 tons of water are needed.

Recycling Tips

Woman holding a plastic bottle putting it to the green bag in wooden background

Recycling does not have to be a nuisance, and it can quickly become a habit if you practice it every day. Turning a chore into an automatism is not that difficult. You can also choose to follow some of these tips, to become super-efficient in terms of recycling:

  • Throwing away cardboard boxes is easier if you flatten them before putting them in the container.
  • Most of the metal objects you use around the kitchen can be recycled.
  • Place recycling bins and cans in as many corners of the house as you can. While having trash cans in just every room of the house is displeasing, you could place paper bins in the bathroom or next to your desk. Even if most people keep their bins in the kitchen/yard/garage, you can add more of them throughout the house, for your maximum comfort.
  • There are literally apps that you can download which can keep you informed on recycling. Some of them will even show you which items you can recycle, how, and what are the rules for recycling in your area.
  • Believe it or not, water can be recycled as well. You can use that leftover clean coffee water to water the plants, for instance.

Bottom Line

In many ways, recycling is pretty much like voting: an effort you have to make constantly to ensure a better future for yourself and your children. A lot of people don’t vote because they think their vote doesn’t matter. So, what would happen if everyone adopted the same attitude? Would nobody vote? Would nobody recycle?

While it’s true that recycling does have some implications of cost and time, the efforts are completely worth it. It just takes a few minutes to sort your trash every day, so you have to wonder: are these free minutes best spent on something else rather than the future of my planet?

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