Recycling. Good or Bad?

Today, recycling, maintaining our sustainability and taking care of our environment is a big thing. While the best method is to reuse our wastes, this often cannot be done. Therefore, the only way to go seems to be to recycle, to use the same materials to make that same product again and again. While this seems to be a great idea, it is not always the case. I usually carry a water bottle in my bag. I drink bottled water not because I believe it is safer or cleaner than tap water; but rather merely out of convenience.

It allows me to have quick access to water when I’m not near a bubbler or a fast-food restaurant. I also refill my water bottle whenever possible. This is reusing waste products, and therefore the best way to sustain our environment. However, water bottles break. When it is broken, I throw it in the rubbish bins provided, NOT the recycling bin. Why? I think that recycling is somewhat a pointless exercise. It is not totally useless though. I recycle aluminium cans and such. The reason why I recycle aluminium cans and not plastics bottles will be discussed later.

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In the New York Times, John Tierney wrote an article called “Recycling is Garbage”. In that article, he declared that “Recycling may be the most wasteful activity in modern America: a waste of time and money, a waste of human and natural resources”. In the article, he points out many things. For instance, packaging saves resources, reducing food spoilage. Fast-food meals generate less trash per person than home-cooked meals. Also, the cheapest way to dispose of garbage is in a landfill. Recycling, however, costs a lot of money.

The time, effort and money spent on picking materials and sorting them out costs more than it would cost to dump it in landfill. Then it would have to be re-processed. Tierney figures that the value of the labour of recycling to be literally hundreds of dollars per ton more. People might say that landfills are taking too much space. However, it is a common myth. A. Clark Wiseman of Spokane’s Gonzaga University figures that, at the current rate, Americans could put all of the trash generated over the ext 1,000 years into a landfill 91 m high and 56 km square or dig a similar-size hole and plant grass on top after it was filled. America has an area of 9,631,418 square km. I doubt they will have trouble finding an area to dump their rubbish. Some people might be worried that this landfill is hazardous and potentially lethal to the environment. An easy solution to this is to shoot off the rubbish into space. All we need to do is provide that much space for rubbish and shoot it off to space once every a thousand years. People also say that we are going to run out of resources in the near future, they are wrong.

Resources on earth are not scarce at all. WorldWatch, a group which has constantly predicted the near future when humans will run out of resources, now acknowledges: “The question of scarcity may never been the most important one”. People think that recycling paper saves trees. This is wrong. Paper is made from trees which are specifically grown to be chopped down to be turned into paper. It has the same concept as a chicken farm. Australians eat 1 billion chickens every year. And yet, chicken is not an endangered species. This is because we farm chicken.

If we are to hunt chickens from the woods and still eat the same amount of chicken, chicken will be extinct in a matter of hours. The same goes for trees. We ‘farm’ trees the same way we farm chickens. Recycling paper doesn’t save trees. As a matter of fact, recycling paper does more harm to the environment than to just make paper freshly from trees. The process of transporting used paper, sorting different types of paper and many other processes involved in recycling paper produces a lot more pollution than just chopping down trees and turning them into paper.

The only real way to reduce paper consumption is to read the content of the paper over and over again. A fully-grown oak tree soaks in about 380 L of water a day. That is a lot of water. However, this oak tree does not only consume water, it also eats greenhouse gases and helps purify the air. On the contrary, if everybody stops using paper all of a sudden, we will eventually destroy those trees and use the area for something else. So in fact, throwing away paper saves trees.

More paper demand means more trees will be planted and therefore cleaner air. People also think that we are running out of water. But truthfully, water does not run out. Where would water go? We don’t shoot water off to space. The water that we use is contained inside earth’s gravitational pull. In fact, we have more water than the dinosaurs, since the icecaps are melting. The dinosaurs lived for 115 million years and they didn’t die out because they run out of water. Humans have only been around for 2 million years.

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