Recycling Recycling, Making a Difference To recycle or not to recycle that is an important question that we all need to ask ourselves. As the population continues to grow and the earth gets more and more crowded with people and their waste it becomes a major issue of whether there will be enough space on the planet earth for future generations and their waste (trash) too. When first beginning to collect trash and and counting the trash my attitude was – what influence could my family make? But as I began to research recycling and how some wastes pollute the environment my attitude took a change. The attitude turned more toward concern than what or how much my waste contributed to the big picture. Below is a chart reflecting the amount of trash that was counted and weighted during a four-week period beginning the week of Monday, April 24, 2000 and ending on Sunday, May 21, 2000. These weights were rounded up to the nearest pound.
Week Aluminum Other Metals Glass Plastics Newspaper White Paper Other Paper Food Prducts and Lftovrs 1- Apr 24-30 10 5 4 5 2- May 1-7 3- May 8-14 4- May 15-21 Totals The Orrs household consists of my wife and three children, ages 9, 5 and 2 (3 boys and 2 girls). During the first week of my collection the oldest child was visiting her grandparents, which I thought would have made a difference in the amount of trash that the Orrs would accumulate. There was a major surprise to the household of how much food waste accumulated over a week, and how the numbers of plastic and glass were almost equivalent. The food waste can probably be attributed to the fact that Mrs. Orr still cooks for five people and the children never really eat all their food.
When raising three children you get into a pattern and it has been hard for my wife to change that pattern as far as the amount of food that is bought and the amount of food she cooks at any one time. The newspaper was not a great surprise because each week the household receives the same number of papers, the O’Fallon journal daily, the Sunday Post Dispatch, two journals and some weeks the papers varied in size. Depending on the media. The large amount of other paper came as a major shock, This consisted of some color paper and disposable diapers that the youngest child uses. A lot of this was various bits of junk mail that is received weekly that was not be counted as white paper or in the newspaper catogory.
Paper napkins and towels also added to the grand total, as well. There was a lot of white paper that was collected, but this was during the time when the computer was being used a lot due to the youngest daughter and her book report and most of the mail was in the form of junk. The first week I weighed two pounds of plastic. This pound consisted of two Pepsi bottles and water bottles. After the first couple of days, it became more aware of how much water that was being used and the solution to this was reusing the same bottles instead of throwing the empty ones out, which also saved money. The researching period of recycling and learning what all the waste is doing to the our Planet, was when the biggest concerns became aware of the amount of other trash that was counted.
Because this is the type of trash that cannot be recycled easily. The disposable diapers and the sanitary products are a major concern because this type of waste goes directly into a landfill. When further research on the disposable diapers, it was surprising to find that the disposal of the diapers is not causing the controversy, that it did several years ago. “According to one study it was found that disposable diapers cause more trash but cloth diapers use more energy .. ” (Samuelson 143 – 144). This would mean that no matter what you use that you are still causing some damage to the environment in one way or another (The Orr family goes throught about four diapers a day).
You could apply this same thought for the sanitary products that they would be just as hazardous to the dumpsites as the disposable diaper would be. “Even though today there are many things in a landfill that are more dangerous than the disposable diaper they are still causing problems because of the plastic liners .. ” (Lee 37). But because of the new landfills that are being built today this is becoming less of a problem. The waste is unable to reach the ground water or the surrounding soil, “Because of the different types of waste that humans produce and because each requires a little bit different type of disposal it is often confusing and expensive to recycle ..
” (Bay 6). In the United States more waste is produced than in any other country in the world. The statistics vary from publication to publication. American’s throw out 16 billion disposable pens, 240 million tires, 2 billion disposable razors and about 18 billion disposable diapers .. (6). In addition to this we could rebuild the commercial airplanes every three months with all the aluminum that is discarded annually (6).
“According to another source over a year’s time the amount of trash discarded by weight is 40.2% paper; 7% glass; 8.6% metal; 8.1 % plastics; 8.3% rubber, leather, cloth, and wood; 6.8% food waste, 17.7% yard waste; 3.2% miscellaneous .. (Foster 6). The graph below shows how my collections coincide with the averages – paper is the highest with a combined total of newspapers (50 pounds), other paper (37 pounds) and white paper (an average of .025 pounds) for a grand total of 87.025 pounds. One of the biggest reasons that the accumulation of waste in the United States has gotten out of hand is the growing number of people residing in this country. “Even if the amount of trash remained the same amount per capita, the amount of trash would still increase just because of the population increases .. ” (Lee 14).
Another reason for this is the lifestyle that Americans have become accustomed to living. The American people have just abused the surroundings and taken so much for granted. We have become a nation hooked on the convenience of disposable items (14). The waste problems that we are facing today began during the economic boom following World War II. “With more money to spend Americans were more than happy to spend some of it on convenience .. ” (Enger, Smith 359).
Not only are the products that we are using and throwing away a problem but also the packaging that these products come in adds to the accumulation. Everything out there comes in a package, be it plastic, cardboard, paper bag, or Styrofoam carton; jars and glass bottles and even metal containers (Lee 14). Even though this packaging is needed to keep the product clean and in good condition, some of it is not necessarily needed or it could be used in a way to keep the waste at a minimum (I 5). “Waste is expensive – it costs time, energy, and space, as well as money .. ” (James 15).
Waste is a natural part of nature’s recycling system. When plants and animals die they decay and decompose and become part of the earth after worms, maggots, fungi and bacteria break it down. Waste streams turn into many different forms; “it can become part of the soil or maybe a river, where it is used again by growing plants and animals. This is a natural process and it is a never-ending cycle .. ” (James 6).
A good example of this process of death, decay, new life, and growing would be compost heap. Compost heaps are valuable because they rot down garden waste, as well as vegetable peelings and waste food and produce humus (6). The humus is then worked back into the soil where it helps with new growth and improves the texture of the soil (6). You can easily reduce the volume of material a household sends to a landfill by half if you would if one would use a compost heap (The Consumer Recycling Guide 7). Because nature deals with waste efficiently it becomes a resource because it is used over and over again.
People on the other hand can be very inefficient at handling waste. Even though the Earth can handle some waste that humans produce, the large amounts that humans throw away is causing an overload on the entire system. The problem is exaggerated because much of what humans produce is not biodegradable and it does not decompose very easy. “When products made of glass or tin do not decompose or sometimes taking years to decompose they can cause pollution to the environment .. ” (James 8).
What do these pollutants do to the Earth’s environment? The definition of pollution is the changing of a natural environment, either by natural or artificial means, so that the environment becomes harmful to the living things normally found in it Pollution also stops the Earth’s natural cycle of breaking things down into reusable elements (9). So by adding to landfills or dumping waste into the oceans or rivers we are changing the composition of the Earth’s natural ability to change the waste matter into something useable (9). There are many different types of waste on Earth in addition to the trash and garbage from our homes. There is industrial waste from factories, as well as sewage that comes from many different sources. There is waste that is produced on farms from the use of fertilizers and pesticides that are used to help in the production of the foods that are ate. The chemicals used are to help in the yield of a better crop but they also cause pollution.
When these chemicals in the form of fertilizers and pesticides are sprayed the wind and rain can carry the chemicals into the air and waterways. Fertilizers contain nitrates, which have been known to cause a very wide range of health problems. The waste from the farm animals is another concern because of the great amounts being produced today does not decompose fast enough and is washed into the rivers and streams or underground into the water supplies. “When the pollution enters the water the process of eutrophication can occur. This process is caused when large quantities of water plants like algae die and decay and the oxygen that keeps the fish and other living things alive are used up ..
” (Becklake 15). Solid waste can be disposed of in many different ways. The most common would be that of a landfill. A landfill is where garbage is disposed of into holes in the ground in order to take up as little space as possible (Becklake 11). Although landfills are one of the rnost common and lowest cost alternatives to dispose garbage there are some drawbacks to this method. One of the main drawbacks is that if the garbage is not treated before it is dumped it can encourage the spread o …