Most of us are aware that recycling helps reduce the impact of human waste on the environment. Trash on the side of the roads is not an unusual site in most areas of the world, and in the past few decades, students have been informed of the danger that landfill waste can have on the land.
No one wants to see a bird caught in the plastic rings of a six-pack of soda cans or a fish wrapped up in a plastic grocery bag that has made its way out into the ocean, but the amount of “disposable” material both produced and utilized in the United State is still a point of major concern for environmentalists.
The Environmental Protection Agency cites a low number of plastic materials actually being recycled, a staggeringly small 8.4% of all plastic generated. Recycling more of these plastic products can obviously cut down on the amount of materials being sent to landfills around the world.
However, recycling in itself is not the answer to dealing with the problem of American overconsumption and the disconnect many people have with their consumerism and the impact it has on other humans and their environments. While buying a bottle of water and then tossing it in the nearest recycling bin can help you feel like you are doing your part for the environment, the problem does not simply start there.
Recycling can be expensive and some cities have begun pulling their recycling programs due to the rising costs for running programs. Philadelphia, for example, has turned to incinerating about half of its waste rather than actually recycling it. The issue of this rising expense has highlighted the real issue – Americans are simply producing too much waste.
If we aren’t able to recycle things like water bottles or cardboard boxes, then what is the solution? Rather than bury our heads in the sand, the most effective thing that we can do protect our environment is to consume less of these plastics. Bring a refillable water bottle with you everywhere that you go. You can use this bottle for years rather than buying a plastic one every time you need water. You will save money, and you will be eliminating a huge amount of both recycling material (which is potentially not recycled in the first place) and also preventing the material from ending up in a landfill.
We can also make more use of “zero waste stores” which are popping up around the country. These stores are ones you can bring your own packing materials into, so you can eliminate the flimsy single-use plastic tubs that are often impossible to recycle in the best of circumstances. You can bring reusable boxes or bags to carry your own materials in so that much of your waste is cut down on your shopping trip.
Being more conscious of our shopping habits can help to reduce the environmental impact of our lifestyle choices while also helping us save money in the long run.